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New York Times Notable Fiction – 2018

 

The New York Times Notable Fiction of 2018 list has been posted. It’s always interesting to see which books the Book Review editors will choose for their “Best of…” lists for the year. The titles are sometimes bestsellers, sometimes from debut authors, several from international writers, but more importantly, the NYT Book Review editors have fallen in love with the story (or the writing) and ta-da! the book makes the list.

 

Check out ten of their notable fiction choices from 2018. Click on the book titles to read their reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"An American Marriage"  by Tayari Jones

 

"Cherry"  by Nico Walker

 

"Eternal Life"  by Dara Horn

 

"The Friend"  by Sigrid Nunez

 

"The House of Broken Angels"  by Luis Alberto Urrea

 

"Macbeth"  by Jo Nesbø. Translated by Don Bartlett

 

"Mirror, Shoulder, Signal"  by Dorthe Nors

 

"My Year of Rest and Relaxation"  by Ottessa Moshfegh

 

"There There"  by Tommy Orange

 

"Warlight"  by Michael Ondaatje

 

Happy reading!   🙂

 

 

Try Something New This Summer

 

Every once in a while, avid readers take a break from their favorite genre and venture into ‘summer reading,’ where the world is either a warm, happy, safe place, or the mishaps that occur are slapstick funny and somebody always has your back. No world crises, no exploding planets, just stories that bring a smile to your face.
 


A few of us indulge our curiosity about demons and witches – as long as the hero/heroines are owners of tea and herb shops, that is.


Then there are the ancient curses that awaken and wreak havoc upon those that get in the way.


If you are primarily a fan of fiction as I am, a foray into the realm of serious non-fiction most often occurs when a compelling true story crosses our paths.


Take a look at the suggestions below and try something a bit different this season.


Happily Ever After

“Sand Dollar Cove,” by Nancy Naigle, is the completely delightful story of a beach area recently hit by bad weather, with people working together to rebuild it. The town relies on tourism to stay afloat, so one of the business owners organizes a fundraising event. We must suspend our disbelief while the rapidly approaching deadline looms to get the work done, but the lead characters are so endearing that we want them to be super human, have their wishes come true, and save the pier. Just in time for summer reading, “Sand Dollar Cove” includes a budding romance between a stranger and our heroine, and the almost magical sand dollars. This could easily fit into the Hallmark Channel lineup of happily ever after stories.


P.I. for Dummies

“Choke,” by Kaye George

Imogene Duckworthy wants to become a private eye, but has no training whatsoever. She gets a book – “P.I. for Dummies,” and has business cards made. Our  hapless heroine feels that she is qualified to ‘detect’ because she found a neighbor’s missing puppy. How hard could it be?

 

This high school graduate, an unwed mother, works for her Uncle at his diner, and when he is found dead, she tries to solve the case. Duckworthy is too naïve to recognize the crooks right in front of her and swoons at the sight of long legs and a smile. Me, oh, my, this gal is in trouble. She is in and out of jail, escapes from cops who are not after her and sees disasters and threats where none exist.

 

“Choke” is a comedy read that takes nothing seriously in solving a mystery – except the lead character herself. What in the world could go wrong? (First book in the series by Agatha nominated, Kaye George) Set near the Oklahoma border, people familiar with the North Texas area will recognize a certain town with fake falls in ‘Wymee Falls.’

 

 

 

Witches, Demons, Wiccans, and ordinary folk

“Booke of the Hidden,” by award-winning author Jeri Westerson, came to Jeri in a dream. Known for her medieval mysteries, her dream was so compelling that she had to write it down, and a few paragraphs turned into this first book in a new series.

 

Kylie Strange has moved to a small Maine town to open a tea and herb shop, and during the shop renovation, she discovers a mysterious book that is older than anyone in town and is completely blank. The locals are more than they seem, there are secrets behind every door, deaths occur in her wake, and Kylie has more than one ‘Being’ interested in her. “Booke of the Hidden” is sexy and funny, with adult themes and situations, with the demons and witches, Wiccans, and assorted other supernatural sorts inhabiting the quaint village. Quick-witted, up-for-everything, crossbow wielding Kylie Strange, is a great new character in the genre.

 

 

Theological Suspense

“Aceldama,” by John Hazen

A coin from the time of Christ is passed through the centuries with dire consequences for its unwitting possessors. A present-day couple faces the wrath of its curse when the husband falls ill. The wife must uncover the reason for his illness before her husband dies – defying logic, the law, and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

International connections and supportive friends make “Aceldama” an absorbing read as we discover the identity, power, and meaning of the coin. Several surprises along the way keep the pages turning.

 

 

Non-Fiction

“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” by David Grann.

This award-winning, non-fiction account feels like a novel of suspense. Grann recounts the tragedies that unfolded as members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma were displaced, swindled, and murdered in a pattern of corruption and greed at the highest levels of government at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the source of it all? Oil fields that lay under lands given to the Osage Nation. Grann researched the court cases and news of the 1890s and early 1900s, includes photos of the stakeholders, and weaves all of the information into a compelling read. While not the only reason for the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Osage cases made an additional convincing argument for the establishment of a national investigative agency.

 

Stretch your reading horizons and try something new this summer.  🙂

 

“I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” by Ann Garvin

 

 

Book Cover - I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around

Every once in a while, we read a novel that deals with a life event we have lived through ourselves. “I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” has been on my TBR (To Be Read) stack for a few months, but I was reluctant to start it, not because I am unfamiliar with the author, but in fact, just the opposite. I was certain her honesty, wisdom, superb writing, and gut-wrenching truths would bring up old sadness. Was I ready for a visit to the not-so-long-ago past? Guess what? I wish I’d had it to read while Mom was still alive.

 

Ann Garvin’s “I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” enters the in-your-face world of an aging parent who develops Alzheimer’s, while the daughter/caregiver simultaneously tries to live her own life. As many of you primary caregivers know, the parent’s situation usually takes precedence over anything and everyone else.

 

Ms. Garvin delivers her story with kindness, love, and a blinding reality check for Tig Monahan, the daughter who really doesn’t want her Mom to move into a nursing home. Tig feels guilty about leaving her in a strange place, especially since Mom seems constantly agitated/unsure, so unlike the accomplished woman she had been in younger days. If only Tig could figure out how, she is sure that her Mom could come home again and the world could go back to the way it was. Sigh…  If only.

 

Tig’s boyfriend, a seemingly nice guy, wants her to move to Hawaii with him while he works at his dream job. Tig is a therapist, but seems stuck, unable to figure out her own life. She does quit her job in preparation for joining the boyfriend as soon as she clears up a few things. Meaning: as soon as she gets mom moved into the nursing home. And settled. Hmmm.

 

Tig’s sister, who has rarely helped with Mom, has a boatload of issues that spill in a huge way into Tig’s life, making it much more complex, almost destroying her in the process. Tig shifts careers before she’s ready. Does it help? Will her boyfriend ever ‘get it’? Is he what Tig really wants in her life? What will happen to Mom? Who is the Doctor/stranger at the nursing home? Can Tig cope with her Mom not recognizing her, despite knowing everyone else? The surprises, laughs, and tears keep the pages turning.

 

Garvin has imbued the characters with just enough edge and sass, given them realistic voices in a difficult situation, keeping Tig’s story focused on finding a better way for her and her Mom. We root for Tig to discover her place in the world again, as messy and unkempt as the journey might be. We pray for her Mom to find peace in a world she no longer knows.
 

“ ‘Oh, if I could tell you, I would let you know…’ ” words from the book that will stay with me forever. Unexpressed heartache, unspoken love.

 

In addition to “I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around,” Ann Garvin has written two other books. Read my review of her marvelous “The Dog Year” here.

 

Please visit www.anngarvin.net for more information about her work, as well as that of the Tall Poppy Writers.   🙂

 

 

 

Greatest Love Stories of All Time

 

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It’s the time of year when bouquets of flowers fill the stores, the gift of a box of chocolates takes on new meaning, and love songs (and movies) fill the airwaves. Swoonworthy stuff, ya’ll.

 

Instead of creating a post about current titles that inspire hearts to flutter, I put out an open call for men and women to name their favorite Greatest Love Stories of All Time. Thanks to Mari Barnes*, Sarah Bewley, Leah Canzoneri, Kait Carson, Peggy Clayton, Joy Ross Davis, Missy Davis, Laura Di Silverio, Saword Broyles Ellis, Terri Gault, Courtney Carter Girton, Sherry Harris, Cynthia Kuhn, Joyce Laferrera, Marj Lilley, Alice Loweecy, Gary Miller, Sylvia Nickels, Debbie York Parker, Nanci Rathbun, Jeanie Smith, Ellis Vidler, and Lynn Chandler Willis for their wonderful suggestions.  *drawing winner  🙂

 

Books are listed in alphabetical order by title, and where available, links to the Greatest Love Stories are included.  Click on the titles and read more about them.               

 

At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karon

“Cinderella Story” by Wendy Logia

Come Rain or Come Shine” by Jan Karon

Dr. Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak

Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry

Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

Persuasion” by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen

Shadow of the Moon” by MM Kaye

Somewhere in Time” by Richard Matheson

Soulless” by Gail Carriger

The Far Pavilions” by MM Kaye

The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper 

The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks

The Princess Bride” by William Goldman

The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy

The Second Coming” by Walker Percy

The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough

 

Are you thinking romantic, weak-at-the-knees thoughts?

Our work is done.  😉    

 

Photo credit:  Patti Phillips

 

 

Author Profile: Lynn Chandler Willis

 

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Lynn Chandler Willis began her adventure with the public side of writing as the owner/publisher/editor/reporter of the Pleasant Garden Post, circulated in the Pleasant Garden region of North Carolina. The first issue came out in 1996, and the last in 2009. She “did everything but print it.”

 

It was during that (sometimes intense) experience that she covered a local murder. She sat in court, interviewed the participants as well as the family of the victim and was led to write a true crime novel, “Unholy Covenant,” also titled “The Preacher’s Son.” This murder in the small North Carolina town became so famous that it was featured on the TV show, American Justice, in 2005.

 

Her next novel was a distinct departure from her true crime writing. Willis’ inspirational book, “The Rising,” became a 2013 Grace Award winner for Mystery/Romantic Suspense. It was followed by another shift in focus, “Wink of an Eye,” a Shamus Award winner for Best PI Book of the Year. Willis was the first female recipient of the Award in a decade. The “Wink” series, with hunky Gerard Butler oops Gypsy Moran as the Texas PI, will continue – great news for Gypsy fans.

 

But, there’s more. Lynn Chandler Willis has written the first of three books set in North Carolina, “Tell Me No Lies,” with Ava Logan, newspaper owner/publisher/editor/reporter, as the lead protagonist. Sound familiar? Willis’ personal background lends wonderful authenticity to the newspaper scenes both in and out of the office. “TMNL” deals with ginseng poaching, betrayal, a love lost and found, and of course, a murder. (Willis promises that the book is not autobiographical.)

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Willis’ fiction includes children as major characters, ranging in age from toddler to teenagers. One of the things that won me over to her as an author is the genuine voices those children have, no matter the age. While it could be said that she draws on her considerable experience as a grandmother (two children and nine grandchildren) what becomes clear is that in real life she really listens to them – their speech patterns, their levels of anxiety, the realistic interactions with their surroundings – making for a completely natural read. It could be your kid in the room with Ava or Gypsy. Not an easy thing to achieve.

 

Ms. Willis said, “As for portraying the teens realistically, I wanted to be honest about how teens really are. I didn't want the kids to be flawless. They make mistakes, they make bad decisions, and they learn from them.”

 

Devoted to her family, Ms. Willis happily lives within a few minutes of all of them. A rescue Border Collie named Finn, has recently become a large part of her life, and when you find Willis on Facebook, photos of Finn demonstrate how happy the two of them are together. That tail never stops wagging. Lol  Great dog!

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When asked how she decided upon the Appalachian setting for the Ava Logan series, Willis said, “I see the area as so pure in a complex, yet simplistic way. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, the people are multi-layered, and traditions run deep. The people are probably some of the most self-sufficient people you'd ever meet.”

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Lynn Chandler Willis trivia:

 

Favorite foods: Fresh, summertime veggies on a Sunday afternoon – homegrown tomatoes, fried squash or okra, fresh creamed corn, fresh, overcooked green beans (the way we eat them in the south), and of course homemade biscuits. After that, probably pizza. Thin crust with pepperoni and mushroom.

 

Favorite Music: Country & Western, with George Strait or Garth Brooks twanging in the background while she writes.

 

“Small towns, big characters” is the theme that threads its way through all her books. Click on the links below to read my reviews.  

 

Book Cover -The Rising

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read my review of "The Rising" here.

 

 

 

Book Cover - Wink of an Eye                                Read my review of "Wink of an Eye" here.

 

Book Cover - Tell Me No Lies

 

 

Review coming soon. Stay tuned.  🙂

Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Periodically, Nightstand Book Reviews has a crossover post with www.kerriansnotebook.com. Ava Logan was a Visiting Detective in January, with “Crime in Appalachia.” Take a look here.

 

Please visit www.lynnchandlerwillis.com for details about Ms. Willis’ appearances and updates on the books.

 

Facebook Author Page

 

Visit Henery Press for additional information.

 

*Photo credits:

Lynn Chandler Willis & Blue Ridge Parkway – Patti Phillips

Bloody Footprint – Google

 

 

“What She Knew” by Gilly Macmillan

Book Cover - What She Knew

 

 

 

In “What She Knew,” Rachel Finch hesitates, but finally gives her son, Ben, permission to run ahead of her to the swings in a park they have been to many times before. She doesn’t want to be seen as an over protective mother. But when she reaches the swings, he isn’t there and is nowhere to be found.

 

A sense of sorrow envelops the reader at the beginning of “What She Knew,” as Rachel shares the story from her point of view – what could she have done better/differently/instead of, during those minutes leading up to and after Ben’s disappearance? Her story is heart wrenching as she explores her own actions and reactions in the face of enormously challenging circumstances.

 

Macmillan spares no one, however, and the other stakeholders – the father, the new wife, the investigators – all take turns at center stage, examining their own guilt and excuses as the 8-day search continues. There is plenty of ‘would have, should have’ to pass around when fingers are pointed and accusations fly. People try to help her cope for a while, but Rachel pushes them away in despair, certain that they cannot truly understand. And, of course, they can’t.

 

Is Rachel or some other trusted adult at fault? People even remotely involved with the child are questioned, then questioned again. The detective work is painstakingly difficult; the media attention excruciating and sometimes misplaced and vicious.

 

Do we, the readers, remember every detail about every person, bush, swing, and shrub that we pass on our daily walks in the park? Unless we are in the middle of some kind of memory training game, probably not. And, yet that’s exactly what Rachel is asked to do. Every second, every step, every motive, must be accounted for.

 

“What She Knew” is an astonishing page-turner, and by seeing the reactions to the crime through the major players involved, Macmillan gets us, the readers, highly invested. I found myself defending the parents, then faulting the parents, defending the detectives and faulting the system as the kidnapping details were explained and suspects revisited.

 

Macmillan has written fully fleshed out characters, with emotionally believable reactions and dialogue, with devastating twists and turns. Who did it and why? Were the right people investigated/punished? ‘Is the investigative process itself, flawed?’ may be a question that haunts you long after the last page of “What She Knew” is read.

 

Although the action in “What She Knew” takes place in England (where the book is called “Burnt Paper Sky”) the themes are sadly universal and missing children remain a terrible part of our culture. Check out NamUs.gov and the UK missing children’s sites for more information. Read “How long has your daughter been missing?” for related details about missing persons.

 

Please visit www.gillymacmillan.com  for news about Macmillan and her other work. “What She Knew” is an international bestseller and her latest book, “The Perfect Girl,” was published in the USA in September, 2016.

 

 

 

“Echoes of Edisto” by C. Hope Clark

 

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Callie Jean Morgan is now the Police Chief in “Echoes of Edisto,” the third book in C. Hope Clark’s Edisto Island series. The former Boston police detective, haunted by the tragic death of her husband, is living in South Carolina on the coastal island of Edisto with her teenaged son. She has come to Edisto to get as far away from the memories as possible, but it seems that law enforcement is in her blood and those memories have a way of following her trail to the beach.

 

A horrifying traffic accident tests Callie’s mettle as a new Police Chief, pushes the limits of her sobriety, and raises more than one question about the people in her life. “Echoes of Edisto” delves into Callie’s actions, both past and present, and we get to see more of what makes this complex flesh and blood woman tick. Clark delivers an astonishing revelation:   just when Callie has come to terms with her deceased father’s behavior, a new bombshell turns her life upside down.

 

In a perceptive nod to real-life alcoholics, Clark has Callie switch parental roles with her son at her lowest points – he watches out for her when she places herself in danger or drinks too much. Clark explores the nuances of their evolving relationship in occasionally tender, sometimes painful ways as they navigate the minefield of terrifying experiences that have accidentally shaped this young man’s world.

 

Kudos to Clark for creating very real teenagers in her books. The Slade Mysteries has a teenaged daughter and the Edisto series has the teenaged son and both are spot-on in their love for their moms without being sappy, with nothing out of character for the modern teenaged voice. They are not perfect children by any means, but are occupied with normal (sometimes secret) activities and the average rebellious moments of trouble and subterfuge. Ah, the times that try moms’ souls.

 

The recurring characters – friends, family, neighbors, supporting officers and personnel – along with the new people essential to the plot, are nicely written with changing attitudes toward Callie as they get to know her through the three books. Mike Seabrook, doctor turned police officer, is her sometime romantic interest, but in self-preservation mode, Callie has placed boundaries on the relationship because of work. It turns out that Seabrook has secrets/challenges of his own that place them all at risk.

 

Some of the quirky tourists made me LOL. Life as a beach cop must have plenty of “are you kidding me?” moments mixed in with the more serious policing of vacationers who leave their common sense at home. The subplots are complex, with murders and nasty bad guys, along with twists that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens to these likable people.

 

More books are planned in the series and I look forward to discovering the stories that develop on Edisto Island, especially the ones with a newcomer from Callie’s past. Delicious possibilities were set up in “Echoes of Edisto” for the future.

 

Please visit www.chopeclark.com for information about her appearances and her other works of fiction and non-fiction. C. Hope Clark’s profile can be read here.

 

*Some adult topics and occasional adult language.

 

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