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

    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.

  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/05/23 Permalink
    Tags: , Fiction, first impressions are everything, , james baldwin, , virginia wolfe,   

    The Ideal First Novel for 10 “Must Read” Authors 

    The list of “must read” authors is long, and differs depending on who you ask. But usually, the authors on these lists are (or were) pretty prolific, and like a pool of frigid water, you may be nervous about diving into their backlists; better to dip your toe in first. Here are 10 ideal “starter novels” for authors guaranteed to be on many, if not most, lists of can’t miss writers.

    Author: William Faulkner. Start Here: The Reivers

    Experts will insist you must read The Sound and the Fury, a real bear of a book. A brilliant novel, sure, but also one that drops you into the deep end on page one and then proceeds to hold your head under water for 300 pages. Instead of tackling what can be a frustrating and difficult read, start with Faulkner’s final novel, The Reivers, which discards most of his heavier literary gambits to tell one of the most straightforward stories of his career, a lightly comedic picaresque about three unlikely car thieves in a small Mississippi town. That doesn’t mean it’s not a brilliant novel—it was award the Pulitzer Prize, after all—but it does mean you’ll get an intro to Faulkner’s sensibility and obsessions without having to parse his peculiarly Southern style.

    Author: William Shakespeare. Start Here: Much Ado About Nothing

    Just about everyone is assigned Shakespeare at some point in their high school or college careers, usually one of the major plays: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth. Aside from the challenge of reading works designed to be performed, his major works can be dense with allusion, reference, and, of course, wordplay (and in archaic language, no less). What makes Much Ado About Nothing a good choice for a first attempt at the Bard is its sense of fun—it’s a comedy, so the wordplay is less about historical and political references and more about, well, making off-color jokes. Even on the page, it’s hilarious and playful, which takes away some of the anxiety and difficulty.

    Author: Stephen King. Start here: Misery

    King might seem a surprising inclusion here, but as his career has gone on, his literary cred has gone up by orders of magnitude; it could be argued that anyone seeking an understanding of modern literary culture has to be familiar with the man once crowned the Master of Horror. The problem, of course, is that King’s best-known books (the ones most likely to be recommended to a newcomer) are long, and often dense with references to other works written in his uniquely wordy style. Instead of diving into the infinite pages of The Stand, start with Misery, one of the tightest, most-focused books King has ever written. It has the fluid prose and creeping dread of his longer, much-beloved books, minus the over-arching mythology that clutters much of his work, and the supernatural aspects that might turn some folks off.

    Author: Leo Tolstoy. Start Here: The Death of Ivan Ilyich

    The words “Russian novel,” with their connotations of length, complexity, and dour atmosphere, might scare you off of Tolstoy and his contemporaries altogether. Still, some of the greatest works of fiction come from this literary tradition, and Tolstoy’s name is always on the list of challenging must-read authors. Before dedicating a year of your life to War and Peace, pick up the relatively short and uncomplicated The Death of Ivan Ilyich. It’s a powerful story that touches on the themes and techniques the author uses to incredible effect in his major works, but it’s accessible in a way that those other novels aren’t—and deals in universal themes you can appreciate even if you’re not a Russian living in the 19th century. It’s the perfect introduction to Tolstoy’s genius.

    Author: Charles Dickens. Start Here: Great Expectations

    Dickens is one of those oddball literary greats who is also much maligned. Bring up Dickens, and half the room will complain that he was paid by the word and thus wrote sloppy, structureless stories merely designed to entertain, with no greater artistic merit. The other half will ask what, exactly, is the problem with that? Dickens had a way with words, and his storytelling techniques revolutionized literature, but his books are a bit lengthy, and they do get quite complicated. Start with Great Expectations; it’s the novel that would result if you poured all of Dickens’ other works into a computer and had it gin up a more concise, sharply-organized version of the ideal Dickens story.

    Author: Haruki Murakami. Start Here: A Wild Sheep Chase

    Murakami is another mainstay on the list of challenging contemporary authors, and it’s usually because people recommend his most famous works first—dense bricks like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle1Q84 or Kafka on the Shore. These books are brilliant, but they are also difficult to parse, unique in both style and structure, not to mention imagery. To ease into Murakami, start with A Wild Sheep Chase—it’s got all the trademark weirdness, but within a much more straightforward story. It will help you feel like you “get” Murakami, even the parts you don’t, so by the time you read one of his “must-read” books, your head (probably) won’t explode. Some might argue for Norwegian Wood, which has more in common with traditional Western literature, but that one is an outlier in his bibliography, and won’t prepare you for the epic strangeness of his major works.

    Author: Ernest Hemingway. Start Here: The Sun Also Rises

    Anyone seeking to pad out their reading resume will be eventually directed to Hemingway; love him or hate him, there’s no arguing that his style and approach to fiction—both very consciously honed and developed—changed everything. His influence is immense, so you simply have to read him, if only to decide for yourself if his reputation is deserved. You might be advised to start with The Old Man and the Sea because of its relative simplicity and slim page count, but don’t—it’s an outlier, his final major work, and doesn’t represent what made Hemingway Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises is the ideal starting point—the story is engaging in ways that some of his other novels aren’t, yet it also features the Hemingway “style” at its most controlled.

    Author: Virginia Woolf. Start Here: A Room of One’s Own

    Virginia Woolf’s contributions to modern literature are everywhere—subtle, often hidden or downplayed, but there nonetheless. But reading her major works of fiction if you’re not a student of literature can be daunting, so instead, start with her excellent, book-length essay, which implements a fictional narrator and story, and yet is nonetheless considered non-fiction. If you think it takes great talent to pull something like off, you’d be right. The benefit of starting here is that you’ll get a much clearer idea of Woolf’s literary sensibility and thematic focus before diving into her fiction.

    Author: Toni Morrison. Start Here: The Bluest Eye

    Morrison is one of the most important writers of the 20th century; her work is consistently beautiful and poetic. But you shouldn’t just dive into Beloved—as incredible as that book is, it is one of the densest popular literary novels ever written, a book in which Morrison’s prose resonates, where an unexpected structure and layered allusions to myth and history form something greater than the sum of its parts. Instead, dip your toe in with The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s first novel, and which shows the beginnings of her style while keeping the number of characters and the branches of the plot more limited than her later work, which will allow you to pay closer attention to the smart things Morrison is doing on the edges (and to listen to that prose sing).

    Author: James Baldwin. Start Here: Giovanni’s Room

    If you’re looking to master 20th century American literature, you’re going to have to tackle Baldwin at some point. His work is beautiful, but it also focuses on social commentary and criticism; Baldwin was a writer who was part of the world instead of removed from it. This can make his novels challenging, because they are all doing three things at once—telling a story, teaching a lesson, and shining a light on some of society’s worst aspects. Giovanni’s Room is an early novel that has all of that, but the central love story—concerning a man who falls in love with another man while on honeymoon with his new wife—is primal and tortured, compelling and universal. When you consider how ahead of its time this book is, it’s essential reading—and the perfect intro to Baldwin’s body of work.

    The post The Ideal First Novel for 10 “Must Read” Authors appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2018/05/14 Permalink
    Tags: achy obejas, , cristina garcía, cuba 15, dreaming in cuban, Fiction, lived experience, nancy osa, oscar hijuelos, ruins, silent city, the mambo kings play songs of love   

    5 Cuban American Novelists You Should be Reading 

    One of the most magical aspects of literature and art in general is that combination of attitudes and backgrounds that occurs in your head when you read something written by a member of another culture—which is even more powerful when the writer is combining different experiences themselves. The Cuban-American diaspora in America has influenced every aspect of our culture, from food, to music, to literature, birthing stories flavored with Cuban-specific experience that make their tales unique. The work of these five Cuban-American writers represents some of the best work coming out of that community today.

    Oscar Hijuelos
    Start with: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
    Born in New York City to Cuban parents, Hijuelos is perhaps the most famous Cuban-American writer. His 1990 novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into an award-winning film; and it stands as an ideal example of the writer’s style. He explores his status as a child of Cuban immigrants, eschewing the political to focus on the inner lives of his characters—their personal passions and tragedies. While his characters and settings are clearly informed by his own family’s experiences, his work is universal in theme and identity. His writing is profound and rhythmic without being pretentious or fussy. He wrote several other novels, all worth reading, before dying of a heart attack in 2013 at age 62.

    Alex Segura
    Start with: Silent City
    Segura, a Miami native, knows intimately the contradictions and challenges of being Cuban-American. His series of mystery-thrillers starring recovering alcoholic Pete Fernandez don’t necessarily deal directly with ex-pat themes , but the Cuban-American experience is soaked into their every lived-in word. Segura is so good at spinning a story it’s easy to forget that he’s also showing you aspects of Miami that outsiders might never be exposed to, capturing a Cuban subculture that has flourished at a remove from the country that gave birth to it all those decades ago. All of this vivid detail is skillfully folded into mysteries that also pay homage to the classic whodunnits of the past.

    Cristina García
    Start with: Dreaming in Cuban
    Formerly the Miami bureau chief for Time Magazine, García published her first novel in 1992. Her work possesses a singular point of view; while there are clear Cuban references and imagery, she has been clear about her desire to avoid being defined by her heritage. While her first three novels were more explicitly linked to the Cuban-American experience, in her later work she’s moved to a more general approach, rejecting the idea that everything she does must be informed by her ancestry and her connection to the Cuban diaspora,. Still, her work is infused with Cuban influences: her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban, is a complex tapestry about a Cuban family, tracing generations from before the revolution to their new life in America. Moving back and forth through time, the story concentrates on the experiences of three women from different generations of the family. Tellingly, one of the major themes is how politics, and the passions stirred by them, can create division, even between people who care very deeply about each other.

    Nancy Osa
    Start with: Cuba 15
    Nancy Osa’s love for the video game Minecraft (she’s even written several unofficial tie-in novels) just goes to show that people can be several things at once. Her debut YA novel, Cuban 15, tells the story of Violet Paz, a young girl disconnected from her Cuban heritage. Her father won’t discuss their homeland, and her life in America is typical of a young girl in high school—worrying over activities, friends, and her first boyfriend. Her grandmother decides to organize a quinceañera party for her, which leads to Violet learning about her heritage. Osa’s point-of-view is important, as a younger generation of Cuban-Americans balances their dual identity with a distance from the politics and violence that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations still remember clearly.

    Achy Obejas
    Start with: Ruins
    Obejas writes explicitly about Cuba, sexuality, and feminist issues with tight, clear prose, offering a unique perspective that combines several categories of exiles. Her novel Ruins is a perfect distillation of her themes; set in Cuba in 1994, it explores the world of Usnavy, who struggles to keep his family alive amidst the crushing poverty and ruin of a once-vibrant country. Usnavy would like to build an illegal sleeping area in their tiny room, but the ceiling is filled with the family’s one treasure: a massive, ornate chandelier that’s possibly a genuine Tiffany. While people around him literally build rafts to escape the country, Usnavy tries to protect his family and hold onto his political faith in Castro in this beautiful, affecting novel.

    The post 5 Cuban American Novelists You Should be Reading appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sam Reader 6:00 pm on 2018/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: different seasons, everything's eventual, Fiction, full dark no stars, , i know what you need, just after sunset, , nightmares and dreamscapes, , skeleton crew, ,   

    A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Short Story Collection 

    On May 22, Stephen King’s hotly anticipated new thriller The Outsider arrives to scare the pants off of us again. To keep ourselves busy while we wait, we’ve already ranked every one of the Master of Horror”s novels—but for the purposes of comparing apples to apples (presumably, apples with razorblades hidden inside them), our exhaustive list did not include King’s numerous short story collections. As King is one of America’s best and foremost short story writers, this is a matter that bears rectifying—after all, there are more than 100 stories spread across his 10 collections, and that’s a considerable body of work. Here, submitted for your approval, are the short story collections of Stephen King, ranked.

    Just After Sunset
    There’s nothing particularly wrong with Just After Sunset—it even includes one of King’s most ambitious publishing experiments in “N.,” a story first released as an online motion comic serial. At the same time, there’s nothing that stands out. The stories are consistently strong, but the concepts within them are ones he has either explored fully before, or improved upon in later works. In rereading the King collections for this article, I was surprised at how many of these stories I didn’t remember encountering before. And while “forgettable” isn’t necessarily a deadly sin, considering how memorable so many of King’s stories are, Just After Sunset must logically place low on this ranking, all things (and Kings) being relative.

    Four Past Midnight
    A collection of four novellas ranging from cosmic horror, to psychological horror, to dark fantasy, Four Past Midnight is, taken as a whole, distinct and interesting, but never truly cohesive. While all four novellas go some interesting places, none stand alone as singular works. Whether they take too long to build, telegraph their twists, or feel like a prologue to a later work, all four stories are memorable but not superlative. It’s a shame, because when these tales finally do get moving, they deliver on great concepts (particularly “The Library Policeman”), but they might have worked better trimmed to the length of short stories.

    Hearts in Atlantis
    It may seem like I’m being hard on King’s novella collections, but oh, is Hearts in Atlantis an uneven reading experience. The first novella, “Low Men in Yellow Coats” (later turned into a movie that shares the name of the collection but has nothing to do with the titular story) is incredibly powerful, mining a great deal of emotion and depth out of a story of a young boy’s unusual relationship with his mother’s new lodger, who turns out to be crucial to the fate of all existence. The story works even if you haven’t read King’s Dark Tower novels, to which it serves as a rather essential sort of footnote. It offers an excellent mix of nostalgia, paranoia, and fantasy, and offer a realistic look into the minds of its young protagonist. But after that, the ostensibly linked stories that fill out the collection grow increasingly disjointed, and are all over the place in terms of tone and setting—though the title tale, about a group of college friends who become obsessed with playing cards during a summer of political upheaval, is essential reading.

    The Bazaar of Bad Dreams 
    The most recent entry on the list, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a solid collection that hangs together on a general theme of mortality and morality, with stories including a seductive avatar of death, an execution in a small western town, and “Obits,” the Hugo-nominated tale of a journalist with the strange power to cause deaths based on the obituaries he writes. It’s one of the high points of King’s recent work, and hangs together a little better, both thematically and tonally, than some of the collections on this list. And yet, taken together, these stories aren’t quite as evocative or powerful as the books below—perhaps its damning him for maturing as a writer, but this one has none of the twisted pulp of Night Shift, or the unnerving gloom of Skeleton Crew, or the colorful weirdness of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It’s solid.

    Different Seasons
    Another collection of four novellas, this one based thematically around “seasons.” It was King’s attempt to try something in defiance of his 1980s-era reputation as a horror writer (though “The Breathing Method” and “Apt Pupil” might still qualify as such). As an experiment, it worked incredibly well, proving King didn’t need supernatural twists or pulp excess to grab readers and keep them. All four of these stories are excellent, though some elements of each do come across as excessive, unsubtle, or slightly out of place (“Apt Pupil” is a notable example; it’s a novella about the banality of evil, but the protagonist starts off by cheerfully rattling off concentration camp statistics and quickly graduates to serial-murdering hoboes). Also, by this point, most will have already come across Different Seasons through the film adaptations (only “The Breathing Method” has not been made for the screen), skewing perceptions of the originals. While the printed and filmed versions are two entirely different animals, it’s difficult to look at one without seeing glimpses of the other; thus while the stories are very good, they’ve lost some of their sheen.

    Nightmares and Dreamscapes
    The most appropriate adjective to describe Nightmares and Dreamscapes is “kaleidoscopic.” It has its good moments, it has its bad moments, but the latter definitely doesn’t outweigh the former, and it’s a volume filled to bursting with all of King’s considerable talents and quirks and particular obsessions—pastiches of authors he enjoys, stories transmuted into teleplays, and, in general, ideas spanning multiple genres and styles. It’s a bizarre funhouse of stories, bouncing from tone to tone and genre to genre with abandon, from a tale of killer joke teeth, to a story about the dark secret behind a bestselling author’s success. Even the weaker entries are just interesting, and worth at least one read. The constant juggling of tone and format can get exhausting, and fictional sprawl isn’t always a good thing, especially on a reread, putting this one lower in the rankings—but we’re already well into “must read” territory at this point.

    Full Dark, No Stars
    Four novellas centered around the concept of revenge, Full Dark No Stars is a series of slow-burning, dark tales, each building tension in its own way until something finally snaps and it all goes spiraling out of control. It’s clear from  the very beginning of each story that something is going to go wrong, it’s just a question of what and when—and how it will all play out in the end (hint: not all that well for most characters). There’s not much to pick at here; it’s just an excessively rough read, even for King—not because of gore or violence, but because each story works overtime to live up to the collection’s name, from the unrelentingly grim “1922,” about a man who conspires to kill his wife with the help of their son; to “Fair Extension,” a sort of social satire in which a man essentially destroys his friend’s life through a deal with the devil, and which is either a dark comedy or a horror novel from the perspective of the monsters, depending on your point of view. Either way, the unrelenting bleakness makes it something of a “sometimes” book.

    Everything’s Eventual
    Everything’s Eventual probably doesn’t feature many stories King’s fans would call favorites, but oh man, is it evocative. Beyond its best-known story, the nightmarish ride “1408” that pits one man against a hotel room in a battle for his life, King paints on indelible image and moment after another. These stories provoke reactions, offer odd glimpses into the real world. They stick with you. (In full disclosure, I have been known to writes lines from the stark, ambiguous “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” about a suicidal traveling salesman who collects bathroom graffiti, on bathroom stalls all over the country). It is, by all measures, a good collection. Possibly even a very good one. But that its power is found in moments more often than in whole stories, it doesn’t break into the top of the list.

    Night Shift
    To be blunt, King’s first collection, published in 1978, is pure nightmare fuel. Its blend of gothic horror, pulp, suburban fiction, EC Comics-level grotesquerie, modern horror, and genuine compassion for its characters is something many have tried to replicate, but few have managed quite so successfully. While this one might be known for its more gruesome offerings (the post-apocalyptic “Night Surf,” which opens in the wake of a global pandemic; “The Mangler,” which somehow manages to make a demon-possessed laundry press into a terrifying menace, despite how ridiculous that idea is), it also contains the wrenching “Last Rung on the Ladder,” about a man who can’t forgive himself for his sister’s suicide; and the darkly hilarious “Quitters, Inc.” a far more effective smoking deterrent than any Surgeon Generals’ warning. It’s a remarkably consistent collection from front to back, even if the stories are a bit raw, and lacking the polish that would characterize the author’s later work.

    Skeleton Crew
    If there is one book I would recommend to any Stephen King neophyte, it’s this one. While no story collection is flawless (not even one of Stephen King’s), it’s more unified in tone, and contains more heavy hitters, than any other horror collection I can name, and it handles both the gothic pulp and gore a steadier hand than Night Shift (Skeleton Crew hails from a bit later in King’s career—1985). It builds dread and atmosphere like nothing else. These are stories that linger, just at the corner of your eye—images like the thrashing tentacle from “The Mist,” about monsters invading the mundane world of a grocery store and exposing the madness just below the surface of the everyday; the final, haunting line of “The Jaunt,” both a cosmic joke and one of fiction’s darkest examples of curiosity killing the cat. It’s the best display of the breadth of King’s talent, without the macabre palette of Night Shift or the referential sprawl of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It’s every bit as evocative as Everything’s Eventual. It’s a tightly curated slab of darkness that invites readers into its parlor and bites them unawares, its venom turning them into lifelong addicts.Even better, it’s eminently accessible, allowing those who haven’t experienced King’s work to take their first steps with him into the dark.

    How does your King collections ranking compare? Don’t forget to also check out our ranking of King’s novels, as well as our list of authors who might one day inherit his throne.

    The Outsider will be published May 22.

    The post A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Short Story Collection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 4:00 pm on 2018/05/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , Fiction,   

    May’s Best New Fiction 

    Beach Read Queens, assemble! May brings us fresh fare from Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Kay Andrews, and Mary Alice Monroe, aka your go-to authors for sand, surf, love, and family drama. Danielle Steel’s newest depicts a work-based family behind the scenes at a TV show, Michael Ondaatje offers up a coming-of-age mystery, and Christopher Buckley provides unexpected laughs from 1664.

    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. 

    By Invitation Only, by Dorothea Benton Frank
    Wedding season is upon us, and who better to enjoy it with than Dorothea Benton Frank, the queen of Lowcountry beach reads? 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.

    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 together the descendants of Josephine’s best friends for a reunion that may prove either profitable or deadly.

    The Cast, by Danielle Steel
    Kate Whittier, a twice-divorced magazine columnist with a robust fan base, powers through her fears of intimacy after she finds the support she needs to create a TV show based on the life of her extraordinary grandmother. And when Kait’s own life implodes unexpectedly, it’s the tightknit cast of the show she turns to for the strength to carry on.

    Beach House Reunion, by Mary Alice Monroe
    In the fifth book of her popular, heartwarming Beach House series, which concerns several generations of the Rutledge family living in Lowcountry, we meet Cara’s niece Linnea, a recent college grad who feels uncertain about her future and burdened by her parents’ expectations. Perhaps a summer at the Isle of Palms, rife with dolphins and loggerhead sea turtles, is in order? At Primrose Cottage, she and Cara help one another put the past to rights. Although it can be read as a standalone, series readers will be delighted by the cameos from previous characters.

    The Judge Hunter, by Christopher Buckley
    In this comedic, historical mystery-thriller (how often do you see that genre?), expert satirist Buckley (Thank You For Smoking) scatters real-life figures amid his own creations. A young, utterly useless layabout, Balty St. Michael, sets off for the New World in 1664, commissioned by his cousin Samuel Pepys to locate two judges who disappeared after assisting in the murder of Charles I. Helping Balty is a competent former commander with motives of his own. Adventure and hijinks ensue on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as throughout the newborn colonies.

    Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje
    From the author of The English Patient and The Cat’s Table comes a bildungsroman set in London in the immediate aftermath of World War II, as well as fourteen years later, when protagonist Nathaniel attempts to make sense of his mother’s enigmatic and disturbing behavior. Immediately following the war’s conclusion, teenage Nathan and his sister Rachel were left behind for a year with two mysterious, possibly criminal guardians while their parents traveled to Singapore. (Or did they?) In the decades to come, now working for British intelligence services, Nathan tries to piece together his mother’s secrets. The buildup to the answers he’ll find promises to be exquisitely poetic.

    The High Season, by Judy Blundell
    In her first book for adults (she previously won the National Book Award for her YA noir, What I Saw and How I Lied), Blundell proves once again how skilled she is at peeling back the glossy exteriors of people’s lives. Middle-aged, divorced Ruthie and her fifteen-year-old daughter are forced to abandon their beach house each summer and rent it out in order to afford living there the rest of the year. To their consternation, and despite their location in North Fork, they’re not safe from the wealthy, greedy Hamptons crowd two ferry stops away; in fact, their latest boarder exemplifies that group and seems poised to scoop up and replace Ruthie herself, starting with staking a claim on Ruthie’s ex-husband.

    Adjustment Day, by Chuck Palahniuk
    This dystopian-horror satire flows straight out of 2018 America. Day blends revolution, dirty politics, the worst of the internet, widespread murder (journalists and elites from a publicly voted on list are targeted), and a “Declaration of Interdependence” that results in the country being carved up into sections with names like Blacktopia, Gaysia, and (medieval) Caucasia. Heaven help you if you don’t fit the theme within your new borders: better adjust or flee. Fight Club aficionados will love the allusions to Project Mayhem.

    A Shout in the Ruins, by Kevin Powers
    Moving back and forth in time from the Civil War to the recent past, Shout examines the effects of slavery, segregation, and endemic violence on people from all sides of it. In the 1950s, seventysomething George Seldom decides to retrace the steps of his life, uncovering the threads that bind him to the inhabitants of the Beauvais Plantation in Richmond, Virginia. He’s joined by a young waitress whose own story (and contemplation of the past) take center stage in the 1980s. A Virginia native, Powers is an army veteran whose debut, The Yellow Birds, won the PEN/Hemingway Award.

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

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