Fiction

January Reviews – Four Genres

COZY

“Tilling the Truth” by Julia Henry

The feisty Garden Squad is back with a new set of projects, some aboveboard, some clandestine, and always chosen with the intent to spruce up the town and bring smiles to both residents and visitors. I opened “Tilling the Truth” to check a detail for the review, got caught up in the storyline again, and re-read the book because of its delightfully dedicated crew and their mission.

 

Small towns are a microcosm of society, with nice and not-so-nice residents living next door to one another. Everybody knows what you’re up to, or will find out as soon as the nosy neighbor texts her friends. Henry captures that perfectly with her charming mix of senior citizens and assorted helpful younger generation characters. The main characters are well-rounded, each with their own quirks and endearing qualities, and oh, my word, the unpleasant ones should be stripped of their gardening tools and run out of town in a wheelbarrow.

“Tilling the Truth” has a tightly layered plot, with our heroine, Lilly Jayne, dealing with the estate of a good friend, disgruntled beneficiaries, her best friend accused of murder, zoning laws, a bird sanctuary, and an impending lifestyle change for Lilly. Henry weaves it all together in a way that sounds just like a story you could tell to spellbound dinner guests if it happened in your own neighborhood.

 

THRILLER

“Dead Man Running” by Steve Hamilton

This is the ninth book in the top-notch Alex McKnight series. A serial killer has been arrested, but will talk to no one except retired police officer, Alex McKnight. Except that McKnight knows nothing about the man and has no idea why the killer thinks there is a connection between them.

 

What’s at stake is a missing woman that may still be alive. The FBI will do anything to save the woman and stop the murders, including hauling McKnight cross country to meet with the depraved Livermore. The story is told through McKnight’s point-of-view as well as the serial killer’s twisted mind. There are graphic discussions about the killer’s crimes, so if you’re looking for a light read, this is not for you. Instead, it will give some insight into an evil, manipulative thought process. There are surprises at every turn that keep McKnight pushing forward and the FBI in pursuit – each matching wits with Livermore. Chilling to the core, Hamilton has delivered another masterfully plotted page-turner in “Dead Man Running.”

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE

The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

“Silent Patient” is an intense read, centered around a successful artist who shoots her husband in the face and never says a word after the deed, not to explain herself, not to save herself from prosecution. The criminal psychotherapist who tells the tale is obsessed by the case and works his way onto the staff at her psychiatric institute so that he can solve the mystery of her silence. Michaelides delivers shocking revelations, clever twists in the plot, and characters so well-drawn that they could be people we know. Don’t read “The Silent Patient” before bed, because you won’t get a wink of sleep as the pages fly by.

 

NONFICTION

“The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston

I wish “The Hot Zone” was a thriller, a work of fiction, but it is completely true. An ordinary guy in 1970s Africa dies several days after spending time off trekking through a jungle. He ends life  horribly in a Nairobi hospital, infecting and killing others splattered by his blood; his companion on the outing with him doesn’t get sick. Blood samples are sent to the CDC in Atlanta, GA for testing, confirming the Ebola virus as the cause of death, and then are locked away in their secure facility. A few years later, the deadly Ebola virus arrives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. via monkeys tagged for research. The monkeys already in residence at this top-secret building set in an unsuspecting neighborhood, quickly start dying.

 

This hair-raising tale written in the 1990s, describes the rigorous protocols to keep the military personnel safe, the race to dispose of the infected monkey bodies while keeping the public from learning the truth, and the high personal cost of working in the field of infectious diseases. Preston includes a telling look at how the military and the world perceived a dedicated woman’s role in both the military and her ability to work with a killer virus in the 1980s. A television series based on “The Hot Zone” aired in 2020 and scared me silly, but the thoroughly researched book even more so.

 

 

 

“New York Times Best Fiction & Nonfiction of 2020”

The editors of The Times Book Review chose the best fiction and nonfiction titles of 2020, from among the titles they had reviewed. The titles are a mix of bestsellers and wannabes, from debut and/or international writers, but more importantly, the NYT Book Review editors fell in love with the story or the writing.

 

Listed in alphabetical order by author. Click on the titles to read the reviews and learn more about the books.

 

FICTION

Homeland Elegies”  by Ayad Akhtar 

The Vanishing Half”  by Brit Bennett

Deacon King Kong”  by James McBride

A Children’s Bible”  by Lydia Millet

 

 

Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell

 

 

NONFICTION

Hidden Valley Road” by Robert Kolker

War” by Margaret MacMillan

A Promised Land”  by Barack Obama

Shakespeare in a Divided America”  by James Shapiro

Uncanny Valley” by Anna Wiener

 

 

Mari Barnes’ “Best of Books for Children Under 12”

Mari Barnes is our first guest author on Nightstand Book Reviews! I ‘met’ her on Facebook because of our mutual love of mystery shows, but realized as I followed her posts that she also has a shared avid interest in developing literacy for young people and their families. She is a member of our NBR community and the perfect person to ask for her ‘Best of’ book list for children under 12. Welcome, Mari.  🙂

I’m Mari Barnes and I’m a big fan of children’s books. I share them with my own family and the children who participate in the literacy programs I facilitate. The following books are only SOME of the many great books I’ve enjoyed with children under the age of twelve. They range from silly to sweet to serious. If I didn’t list a favorite of yours, I hope you’ll find time to sample one or two…or all ten!

 

  1. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
    The perfect first chapter book for new readers. These two characters show us what friendship looks like in five adorable short stories.

 

  1. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willem
    This reader favorite is about a bus driver who has to leave so he asks the reader to not allow the pigeon to drive the bus. A great read-aloud book!

     

    8. The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket
    This book/CD is a clever and silly whodunnit about an orchestra. It’s fun for adults and kids won’t care that they’re learning about orchestras and classical music.

     

    7. I Can’t Said the Ant by Polly Cameron A story told in rhyme that is about what happens to the denizens of a kitchen when an ant tries to help a fallen teapot. 

     


    6. Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar

    There are laughs a plenty in this new spin on fairy tales. Little Red Riding Hood needs to find a partner to help her win a new pair of skates. But finding one isn’t easy.

  1. Sweet T and the North Wind by Cat Michaels
    Tara, or Sweet T as her grandmother calls her, finds out that there really is magic in the North Wind. This story is about the love of family told with charm and whimsy.

 

4. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
For older or more developed readers. Set in the Depression and told in Bud’s own unique voice, we follow his humorous, scary, sad and uplifting travels to find the man who just might be his father.

 

 

  1. I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty
    Frog would rather be ANYTHING else. Until he finds out that being a frog is the best thing he could ever be. A great lesson is hidden in lots of laughs. 

 

 

2. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Kid scientist Ada has to use all of her science skills to find out why her house is filled with a terrible smell. But her experiments lead to even more trouble in the winning tale of imagination and determination.

 

 

1. Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin
A charming little fable about friendship and problem-solving, this is one of my all-time favorites. And it’s got a surprise twist. A terrific bedtime story.

Mari Lumpkin Barnes writes for children under the pen name of Mari Lumpkin and for adults as ML Barnes. Mari owns Flying Turtle Publishing and has spent many years working with experts in child development, creating and implementing children’s literacy programs. The latest is Adventures in Reading, literacy programming for Chicagoland and northwest Indiana families.

https://aireading.org    

https://www.flyingturtlepublishing.com/

 

Many thanks to Mari Barnes for her photos and for sharing the wonderful list!  🙂

Enjoy!

 

 

2020 Barnes and Noble Book of the Year

In its second annual “Best of…” event, Barnes and Noble did a survey of booksellers at its brick and mortar stores, asking which books they enjoyed selling the most during the year. Here’s the list of the eight top nominees. The booksellers chose among the finalists for the B&N Book of the Year (indicated in red).

Click on the titles to learn more about the books.

 

“Leave the World Behind”  by Rumaan Alam

 

The Vanishing Half”  by Brit Bennett

 

Untamed”  by Glennon Doyle

 

Pieometry: Modern Tart Art and Pie Design”  by Lauren Ko

 

Accidentally Wes Anderson”  by Wally Koval

 

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times”  by Katherine May

 

World of Wonders”  by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 

Stamped”  by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

 

Have you read any of the finalists in this year’s celebration of the booksellers’ faves? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

 

2020 Booker Prize

From the Booker Prize website:

“The Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English speaking world, and has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over five decades. Each year, the prize is awarded to what is, in the opinion of the judges, the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland. It is a prize that transforms the winner’s career.

 

The winner receives £50,000 as well as the £2,500 awarded to each of the six shortlisted authors. Both the winner and the shortlisted authors are guaranteed a global readership plus a dramatic increase in book sales.”

 

Click on the titles and author names to learn more about both.
The winner is highlighted in red.

The 2020 shortlist is:

 

Congratulations to all the finalists and the winner!

 

National Book Awards – 2020

The mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best literature in America. NBF is guided by the belief that books and literature are for everyone, no matter the geographic location, level of economics, or ethnicity of the readers.

Click on the highlighted titles for more information about the books.
The winners are highlighted in red.

Fiction:

Nonfiction:

Young People’s Literature:

Finalists for Translated Literature: (Recently, I had occasion to read a book in a language that was not my native tongue. I had a copy of the original on my shelf and compared the two. While 90% of the book was beautifully translated, there were sections where the translator didn’t quite ‘get’ the nuances of the language. Bravo to those translators that do it well, because it can make all the difference in the reader’s perception of the original intent of the author.)

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!

 

 

 

 

2020 Anthony Awards

 

Bouchercon is an annual conference named after Anthony Boucher, a mystery author and critic who helped found the Mystery Writers of America. This event honors various segments of the mystery and crime fiction community.

The nominees for the coveted Anthony Award were announced in June and because of Covid19, voting took place online in mid October. The awards were presented as part of an online ceremony on October 17 and the winners indicated in red.


2020 Anthony Award Nominees

BEST NOVEL
Your House Will Pay, by Steph Cha
They All Fall Down, by Rachel Howzell Hall
Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman
The Murder List, by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Miami Midnight, by Alex Segura


BEST FIRST NOVEL

The Ninja Daughter, by Tori Eldridge
Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim
One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski
Three-Fifths, by John Vercher
American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson


BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

The Unrepentant, by E.A. Aymar
Murder Knocks Twice, by Susanna Calkins
The Pearl Dagger, by L.A. Chandlar
Scot & Soda, by Catriona McPherson
The Alchemist’s Illusion, by Gigi Pandian
Drowned Under, by Wendall Thomas
The Naming Game, by Gabriel Valjan


BEST CRITICAL NON-FICTION WORK

Hitchcock and the Censors, by John Billheimer
The Hooded Gunman: An Illustrated History of the Collins Crime Club, by John Curran
The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women, by Mo Moulton

The Trail of Lizzie Borden: A True Story, by Cara Robertson
The Five: The Untold Stories of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold


BEST SHORT STORY

“Turistas,” by Hector Acosta (appearing in ¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico)

“Unforgiven,” by Hilary Davidson (appearing in Murder a-Go-Gos: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Go-Gos)

“The Red Zone,” by Alex Segura (appearing in ¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico)

“Better Days,” by Art Taylor (appearing in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May/June 2019)

“Hard Return,” by Art Taylor (appearing in Crime Travel)


BEST ANTHOLOGY OR COLLECTION

The Eyes of Texas: Private Investigators from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, edited by Michael Bracken
¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico, edited by Angel Luis Colón
Crime Travel, edited by Barb Goffman
Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible, edited by Verena Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly Simmons
Murder A-Go-Go’s: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Go-Gos, edited by Holly West


BEST YOUNG ADULT
Seven Ways to Get Rid of Harry
, by Jen Conley

Catfishing on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer
Killing November, by Adriana Mather
Patron Saints of Nothing, by Randy Ribay
The Deceivers, by Kristen Simmons
Wild and Crooked, by Leah Thomas


Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!!!

 

 

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