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  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2018/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: a line in the dark, a separation, , , andrew aciman, , , bad love, , call me by your name, caroline kepnes, celeste ng, , , , everything I never told you, , , graham green, greer hendricks, , , , , jacqueline carey, , , jessica knoll, katie kitamura, , , , , malinda lo, my husband’s wife, , , sharp objects, , , the immortalizes, , , the wife between us, , tiffany jackson, , white oleander, , you   

    Bah, Humbug: 25 Unhappy Books for Valentine’s Day 

    Love is in the air…but that doesn’t mean you have to drink the Kool-Aid. If you’re not feeling all the lovey-dovey stuff this year, that’s cool. Sometimes other people being happy is the worst. So here’s a list of tragedies, thrillers, and romances that do not end well for you to relish instead. Misery does love company, after all.

    The End of the Affair, by Graham Green
    This novel begins after an affair has already ended, but of course the question is why? Taking the reader back in time, this historical epic romance follows a vengeful man determined to bring down the woman who broke his heart…but when we learn the reason why she did, it will break ours instead.

    Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey
    Not a tragedy per se, but since this fantasy romance involves a special woman who feels pain as pleasure, it felt appropriate to include. Phedre has spent her life in the service of pleasure, but when she has an opportunity to use her talents for political gain, her entire world collapses and she must fight to rebuild a broken kingdom she leaves behind.

    The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
    Clare and Henry are in love, but timing is not their strong suit. Henry is a time-traveller, cursed to travel to different times in his life without warning. That’s how he met Clare, when she was a little girl…and how when, she grew up, they found one another again. In this lyrical, beautiful novel, what was the unique beginning of a love story soon becomes the unraveling of one.

    A Separation, by Katie Kitamura
    A Firestarter of a novel in which a woman’s ex-husband goes missing and she goes to search for him. The story of a marriage is never understood by anyone but the two within it…but the story of a separation is even more mired in mystery.

    Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn
    Gone Girl is where most people’s familiarity with Flynn begins and ends, but she wrote two earlier thrillers that are on the same level. Her debut, Sharp Objects, may in fact be her best, a taut psychological thriller about an unsteady reporter who returns to her hometown to write about a past tragedy there—and must face her own demons in the process.

    Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
    If you haven’t watched the TV series…I won’t blame you if you want to check that out first, it’s that good. But the book is just as intriguing; the story of a group of women in a community held atop pillars of class and status, and what happens when those pillars are shattered. What begins as a series of small untruths and deceptions grows beyond the scope of what they can handle, and someone ends up dead.

    Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
    A piercing portrait of a woman determined to outrun the shadows of her past, but forced to confront them. Ani FaNelli suffered a mysterious trauma during high-school and has successfully managed to reinvent herself as someone who would never be humiliated like that again. But all that effort is about to become undone when the opportunity to get even with the people who harmed her becomes too tempting to ignore.

    The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn
    A twisty thriller about a woman with agoraphobia (and a drinking problem) sees something in a neighboring house. She sees something devastating, something she should never have seen—and suddenly, her life is upended.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    One of the most tragic stories of sisterhood and first love involves a misunderstood moment which builds to a lie, and then a war comes along and lays waste to already ruined relationships. Briony is an observant child, always in the background—and when she sees what she thinks is a man assaulting her sister, she tells an adult. But is that what she saw? And is that why she told? The past and present intertwine in a moving portrait of what happens when jealousy gets in the way of love.

    We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
    A genre-defying story that is part thriller, part romance…and 100% captivating. A privileged family spends a summer on an exclusive island, uniting a group of friends. But secrets twist their friendships into something rotten, something dangerous…a lie that unless confronted, will leave them forever adrift.

    The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks
    A co-written tragedy about a wife, her ex-husband, and the new woman he loves…in which nothing is real, or true, and each page keeps you guessing.

    White Oleander, by Janet Fitch
    A mother and daughter’s tumultuous relationship is explored in this haunting novel about a woman jailed for murder and her daughter passed between foster homes in search of the happiness she never had at home.

    The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
    All’s well that ends well where magic is concerned…perhaps in books like Harry Potter. But this is not that story. When Quentin is suddenly spirited into a world of magic, validating a lifetime of believing he was different and special, he also finds himself at the center of a terrible battle for power that will take everything from him—including the love of magic he once had.

    Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
    A powerful novel about a Chinese family in the 1970’s, whose lives are ripped apart when their child is found dead. Each of them with their own perspectives, and their own secrets, the entire family is gripped by the need for the truth…and the desire to run from it.

    Call Me by Your Name, by Andre Aciman
    The Oscar-nominated movie should definitely be on your viewing list, but in the meantime, read the book it’s based on! This story of an unexpected romance between two young men during a hot Italian summer is as riveting as it is erotic.

    In a Dark, Dark, Wood, by Ruth Ware
    A night of revelry and excitement and old friends…that’s what was supposed to happen when Leonora shows up to celebrate an old—and estranged—friend’s impending marriage. But what happens is the exact opposite, and it leaves Leonora wondering what the truth is, and what she may have done to cover it up.

    In the Woods, by Tana French
    Mystery writer extraordinare French’s novel about a detective who returns to the town in which he himself was the survivor of a violent crime to investigate another. But the present is often a mirror of the past, and he finds himself growing unstable in the proximity of the case.

    Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
    A tragic origin story of one of the most captivating villains of all time: the Wicked Witch of the West. Meet Elphaba, who would grow up to face off with Dorothy…before the girl with the pigtails rode a tornado into Oz. An upbringing as an outsider, with magic she does not understand, Elphaba craves acceptance, and will eventually fight for it no matter the cost.

    You, by Caroline Kepnes
    A man becomes obsessed with a woman in New York City, following her on social media in order to orchestrate the perfect relationship…and if necessary, the perfect murder.

    The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware
    Here are the rules of the lying game: no lying to your friends and ditch the lie if you get caught. In this hypnotic and fascinating portrait of friendship, four girls used to play this game until they got the rulebook thrown at them and were expelled after the mysterious deaths of one of their fathers. Now, years later, that past is coming back to haunt them, but will they play the game again to survive?

    My Husband’s Wife, by Jane Corry
    Lily loves Ed, and wants nothing more than to be a wife and a lawyer.That is, until she meets Joe: a convicted murderer, and a man she finds herself drawn to. Carla is just a kid, but she knows a liar when she spots one. Years later, their paths collide, and nothing will be the same.

    Room, by Emma Donoghue
    The harrowing journey of a mother and son living in captivity thanks to a mysterious man who kidnapped her when she was a teenager. When she sees an opportunity to free them, she risks it all in order to give her son a chance in the real world beyond their room.

    The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
    The decision to hear a psychic tell them when they will die changes the lives of a group of siblings, all of whom pursue different paths—and are haunted by lives they could have lived—in this stirring tale of family and fate.

    A Line in the Dark, by Malinda Lo
    This YA psychological thriller puts two friends to the test when a third comes between them. Jess and Angie have always been best friends, but Margot’s spell takes Angie away. In a striking structural shift, the novel switches from the perspectives of the girls to court records and transcripts…when someone in their circle ends up dead.

    Allegedly, by Tiffany Jackson
    She only allegedly killed the baby. But then why did she confess? In this book that will make you forever distrust…well, practically everyone you know—Mary has been in group homes and institutions since she was convicted of murdering the baby her mother was charged with caring for. But now she is pregnant herself, and has decided to tell the truth before her own child is taken away.

    What Anti-Valentine’s Day novels would you recommend?

    The post Bah, Humbug: 25 Unhappy Books for Valentine’s Day appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Monique Alice 3:30 pm on 2015/04/16 Permalink
    Tags: detectives, elementary my dear watson, frank hayes, , , , , sharp objects, ,   

    6 Gritty Gumshoes: Our Favorite Hard-boiled Detectives are on the Case 

     Is there anything more satisfying than a stellar detective story? A good gumshoe is observant, hyper curious, and passionate about making the world a safer, more just place. The most interesting detectives also usually happen to be deeply flawed human beings. These tortured souls are often burdened with pasts so dark that only solving cases and catching criminals can lighten their psychic loads. Feeling a little weighed down by the monotony of your non-detective life? Not to worry! The modern-day Sherlocks below are the on the case.

    Jack Taylor (The Guards, by Ken Bruen)
    Jack Taylor is a usually drunk, always irritable, but nevertheless keen detective who has recently been sacked from the Irish police force. Caught midway between an impulse to crawl into a pint glass and a burning desire to become Ireland’s premier private detective, Taylor will have to prove his mettle to his Galway community and himself on his journey from roguedom to redemption. He will have a chance to do just that when a woman interrupts his boozy reverie with a case that demands all of his faculties. Despite his overly gruff demeanor and often terrible manners, Jack manages to win readers over with his do-gooder spirit and heart of gold.

    Myron Bolitar (Deal Breaker, by Harlan Coben)
    Although Myron Bolitar is a sports agent, his many past lives have included lawyer and FBI agent. So, you know, a little investigating isn’t going to scare him off. That’s a good thing, too, since Myron’s newly acquired career as an all-American star quarterbackis about to take a nosedive thanks to the mystery of an ex-girlfriend’s disappearance. That’s when his latent detective skills kick into action, exposing the seedy underbelly of the competitive sports industry, a world replete with lies, greed, and violence. Will Myron, with the help of his witty and lethal sidekick, Win, be able to take back the game with only seconds on the clock? One thing is for sure: readers will be rooting for him.

    Cassie Maddox (The Likeness, by Tana French)
    Detective Cassie Maddox is still reeling from the biggest murder investigation of her career when another killer of a case comes her way. When a fateful phone call summons Cassie to a murder scene, she is hardly prepared to find that the victim is her own spitting image. Stranger still, the victim is carrying identification that bears the name of Cassie’s former undercover alias. It quickly becomes clear that Cassie must assume the victim’s identity in order to catch her killer. This feat will require that she shed light on her own shadowy past in order to recognize the person staring back at her in the mirror. What follows is a psychological thriller that will keep even the most seasoned crime novel connoisseur guessing until the very end.

    Kurt Wallander (Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell)
    Written in the ‘90s and boasting several TV adaptations to its credit, the Wallander books can safely categorized as modern detective classics. As one delves into the mind and life of Swedish sleuth Kurt Wallander, one can easily see why. When an elderly farmer is slain on his property and his wife left for dead, Wallander is called upon to solve a case that seems to have every intention of going cold. Unlike many contemporary crime novels, this story eschews nitty-gritty forensic details in favor of good, old-fashioned detective work. Wallander is as dogged in his pursuit of the truth as he is haunted by the shambles that is his personal life. A divorce, a forbidden attraction, and an estranged relationship with his daughter provide the reader with a rich context for the sadness that permeates Wallander’s world, and the novel’s slow build works well with the austere, captivating backdrop of the Swedish landscape.

    Virgil Dalton (Death at the Black Bull, by Frank Hayes)
    Virgil Dalton has been the sheriff of Hayward, a sleepy Southwestern town, for about a dozen years. Like any small town, Hayward has its share of hidden dirt. From a conniving matriarch to a good ole’ boy up to no good, all the gears start grinding when Virgil discovers a dead body in the most unlikely of places. Throughout the novel, we get to know Virgil as a stoic, good-natured man of the people who is plagued with regret and a deep longing for times gone by. Virgil just barely manages to keep up with the body count in Hayward as this tiny town gets its first taste of big-city villainy. He must use all of  his shrewd policing skills to catch the killer, and along the way, he just might solve some of his own private mysteries. A vivid cast of characters, an ode to the sun-splashed mesas of the Southwest, and a shocker of an ending round out this impressive mystery.

    Camille Preaker (Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn)
    So, strictly speaking, Camille Preaker is not so much a detective as she is a frazzled reporter coming off of a recent stay at a mental institution. When her Missouri hometown is suddenly struck by one girl’s murder and another’s disappearance, Camille finds herself thrust back into the past with alarming force as she returns to cover the story. As Camille begins to identify more and more with the victims, her desire to unearth their fates is mirrored by her quest to understand her own history. This newshound-turned-bloodhound may be scarred, but she learns to wear her past wounds without shame in her fierce battle for what all detectives (and journalists) are after: the truth.

    Who are your favorite hard-boiled detectives?

  • Kelly Anderson 4:53 pm on 2015/03/24 Permalink
    Tags: alessandro baricco, an unnecessary woman, , fast women, , jennifer crusie, , reading rut, scott lynch, sharp objects, silk, the lies of locke lamora, the orientalist, tom reiss   

    5 Books To Break You Out of a Reading Rut 

    The dreaded reading rut: that awful, unthinkable moment when no book can please you for more than a few pages. Your favorite vampires no longer make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, your adored mysteries fail to intrigue you, and not even Proust’s prose can make you care about a single blade of grass along Swann’s Way.

    Fear not, fellow bibliophiles! I have been to this horrible place before, and I know the way out! Pick up one of these amazing books, each with different strengths that make them surefire rut-breakers, whatever kind of reader you are.

    The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
    If it’s a tale of action and adventure you need, look no further. Set in pseudo-Renaissance Venice, the novel unspools the Dickensian tale of Locke Lamora, an orphan street urchin and thief who rises through the ranks of the underworld to become head of a gang of conmen, robbing the city’s rich…and most certainly not giving it to the poor. Locke’s high-wire capers are interrupted when he and his gang stumble into a much larger game of politics and revenge, being played for much higher stakes. This book is as appealing for its deeply flawed, profane protagonist and memorable gang of sidekicks as it is for its fast-paced plot and the hilarity of the hijinks they try (and often fail) to pull off. Lynch’s novel is bursting with life, and its magnetic pull is difficult for even the deepest rut to resist.

    The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss
    If only “true life” stories can pull you out of your rut, this endlessly fascinating biography-cum-research mystery will do it. Tom Reiss was in Baku, a journalist reporting on an oil story, when he unexpectedly ran across the story of the mysterious Lev Nussimbaum, who lived in Baku just before the Russian Revolution. The son of a Jewish businessman, Lev wasn’t content to let that identity define him—and so, he created many more of them for himself, across decades. Reiss tracks Lev as he transforms himself into everything from a Bohemian student in Germany to a journalist to a Muslim prince. The cracked mirror of his life fascinates— he’s the author of both what is considered Azerbaijan’s national novel (Ali and Nino) and admiring letters to Fascist sympathizers. He never accepts one name or location for long, defying Nazis and Italian Fascists alike in doing so. Lev was born into a historical era that was interested in categorizing humanity in every way it knew how, but his is the story of a man who chose to defy categorization. Puzzling over Lev’s mysterious life will make you forget what a reading rut feels like.

    Silk, by Alessandro Baricco
    This tale of the 19th-century silk industry follows a man from his native French village to Japan and back again. But to tell you that is to tell you nothing at all—and it barely matters what the book is about, honestly. You’ll be unable to stop reading it simply for the exquisitely delicate atmosphere of longing, regrets, illusions, and deep, abiding love. This book speaks only in whispers, ellipses, and silence, in what is understood and what can never be said. Read it in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon, and let its gorgeous spell lead you out of your rut before you realize you’ve moved at all.

    Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn
    I loved Gone Girl, just like everyone else. But then I discovered Sharp Objects. Centered on a journalist who revisits her hometown to write about a string of murders of young girls, this book is approximately ten million times creepier, and even more psychologically twisted. It’s about dreams dashed and twisted societal roles inhabited by powerful women whose inner rage manifests in horrifying ways. I’ve rarely read a book so quickly—even as it made my skin crawl, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. This book might accidentally become glued to your hands, but there’s certainly no danger of you putting it down to go back to your rut.

    Fast Women, by Jennifer Cruisie
    This is an absolute bon-bon of a book, a fun noir tribute—the hero and heroine are a detective and his new secretary—that goes far beyond its basic setup. Both protagonists have complicated romantic pasts, and both were clearly damaged by them. This is a truly adult romance: we get to watch these people slowly, believably (and with many mistakes along the way) come back to life for each other. Even better, we get to watch them do it while they laugh, and cry, and have real friendships and relationships that need tending to. It’s well paced, with characters that make sense and dialogue that sounds genuine. Sit back, relax, and pull out the chocolates, because Cruisie’s taken the wheel and is steering you right out of that rut.

    An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Alameddine
    This is the story of Aaliya, an elderly woman from Beirut. She has lead a quiet life, though one that took an accidental wrong turn and never quite recovered. She has quietly, steadily, forged a path of her own, in the midst of a city that has turned into a nightmarish war zone, where women keep AK-47s underneath their beds and sell what they must to preserve themselves when soldiers walk into their homes. But Aaliya has a secret: she is a bibliophile. She has spent her life buried among the words and thoughts of others, translating the classics of Western literature into Arabic. This is a story about what books can do, and what meaning we might find in loving them for a lifetime. What are we granted? What do we miss? Is our faith misplaced? Or is it possible that it’s the only faith worth having? More than bringing an end to your reading rut, this book reminds us of the power of words: what they can lead us to do, and the ways, big and small, they can save us from ourselves.

    What are your favorite books to break you out of a reading rut?

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