Finally, my post about the crux of BEA 2013—the books! These are the titles I gathered. I could have picked up even more but seem to have moved past the phase of getting a book solely for an author’s signature or just to own it. These are the books that piqued my interest and will hopefully, pique yours when I write about them. They now join the crowd on my nightstand…and coffee table…and several shelves in another room. I may have a time management problem but this is some of what I’ll be reading and writing about this summer and into fall.
*Thanks to Goodreads for providing the blurb for each book.
From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.
Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.
It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.
But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army. Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.
On a damp October night, the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. By all appearances her death is a suicide–but investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. Though much has been written about the dark and unsettling films of Ashley’s father, Stanislas Cordova, very little is known about the man himself. As McGrath pieces together the mystery of Ashley’s death, he is drawn deeper and deeper into the dark underbelly of New York City and the twisted world of Stanislas Cordova, and he begins to wonder–is he the next victim?
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the months leading up to her execution on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed her spiritual guardian, will listen to Agnes’s side of the story. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force everyone to work side by side, the family’s attitude to Agnes starts to change, until one winter night, she begins her whispered confession to them, and they realize that all is not as they had assumed.
Alma DeGeer Dunahew, the mother of three young boys, works as the maid for a prominent citizen and his family in West Table, Missouri. Her husband is mostly absent, and, in 1929, her scandalous, beloved younger sister is one of the 42 killed in an explosion at the local dance hall. Who is to blame? Mobsters from St. Louis? The embittered local gypsies? The preacher who railed against the loose morals of the waltzing couples? Or could it have been a colossal accident? Alma thinks she knows the answer-and that its roots lie in a dangerous love affair. Her dogged pursuit of justice makes her an outcast and causes a long-standing rift with her own son.
On May 30, 1995, the NYPD rolled an armored tank down East 13th Street, evicting squatters from two buildings. With gritty prose and vivid descriptions, Cari Luna’s debut novel, The Revolution of Every Day, imagines the lives of five squatters from that time. But almost more threatening than the city lawyers and the private developers them are the rifts within their community. Amelia, taken in by Gerrit as a teen runaway seven years earlier, is now pregnant by his best friend, Steve. Anne, married to Steve, is questioning her commitment to the squatter lifestyle. Cat, a fading legend of the downtown scene and unwitting leader of one of the squats, succumbs to heroin. Amid this chaos, Amelia struggles with her ambivalence about becoming a mother while knowing that her pregnancy has given her fellow squatters a renewed purpose to their fight — securing the squats for the next generation. Told from multiple points of view, The Revolution of Every Day shows readers a life that few people know about or understand.
On the Massachusetts coast north of Boston, a controlling manager, Mark, discovers his wife’s infidelity after twenty-five years of marriage. An overweight young woman, Marla, gains a romantic partner but loses her innocence. A philandering bartender/aspiring poet, Robert, betrays his pregnant wife. And in the stunning title novella, a teenage girl named Devon, fleeing a dirty image of her posted online, seeks respect in the eyes of her widowed great-uncle Francis and of an Iraq vet she’s met surfing the Web. Slivered by happiness and discontent, shadowed by aging and death but also by persistent hope and forgiveness, these beautifully wrought narratives express extraordinary tenderness toward human beings, our vulnerable hearts and bodies, our fulfilling and unfulfilling lives alone and with others.
Evalina Toussaint, the orphaned child of an exotic dancer in New Orleans, is just thirteen when she is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. The year is 1936, and the mental hospital is under the direction of the celebrated psychiatrist Robert S. Carroll. His innovative program of treatment for mental and nervous disorders and addictions is based on exercise, diet, art, and occupational therapies and experimental shock therapy.Evalina finds herself in the company of some notable fellow patients, including Zelda Fitzgerald, estranged wife of F. Scott, who takes the young piano prodigy under her wing. Evalina becomes the accompanist for the musical programs at the hospital. This provides privileged insight into the events that transpire over the next twelve years, culminating in a tragic fire its mystery unsolved to this day that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. At all costs, Evalina listens, observes, remembers and tells us everything.
Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.
Through a blend of deeply personal stories about what formed her as a writer, tales from other authors, and a searching look at her own creative process, Shapiro offers her gift to writers everywhere: an elegant guide of hard-won wisdom and advice for staying the course. The writer’s life requires courage, patience, empathy, openness. It requires the ability to be alone with oneself. Gentle with oneself. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks.” Writers—and anyone with an artistic temperament—will find inspiration and comfort in these pages. Offering lessons learned over twenty years of teaching and writing, Shapiro brings her own revealing insights to weave an indispensable almanac for modern writers.
By the time Queen Victoria slipped the Mountain of Light diamond on her wrist, claiming it for England, the gem had traveled around the world, changing hands over the centuries from one ruler to another in Persia, Afghanistan, and India.
The fascinating story of this 105-carat diamond opens in 1830, when the Indian Maharaja and founder of the Sikh empire Ranjit Singh takes possession of the massive jewel that has been passed from man to man, king to king, and emperor to emperor, through bloodshed and destruction, since the 1200s. But India in the nineteenth century is a very different place. Now the British Empire has claimed territories all across the country and the colonization of India takes root. When Ranjit Singh dies, four of his sons are slaughtered in wars with the British, and the diamond is left to Prince Dalip Singh, a six-year-old child. The British governor-general orders that the Mountain of Light be secreted out of India in 1850, and the teenage-king Dalip Singh follows the diamond to London to officially present it to the queen as a spoil of the Sikh War.
Moving between the dazzling world of courtesans in turn of the century Shanghai, a remote Chinese mountain village, and the rough-hewn streets of nineteenth-century San Francisco, Amy Tan’s sweeping new novel maps the lives of three generations of women connected by blood and history-and the mystery of an evocative painting known as “The Valley of Amazement.”
Catherine Havisham was born into privilege. Spry, imperious, she is the daughter of a wealthy brewer, and lives in luxury in Satis House. But she is never far from the smell of hops and the arresting letters on the brewhouse wall—havisham. A reminder of all she owes to the family name, and the family business.
Sent by her father to stay with the Chadwycks, Catherine discovers literature, music and masquerades—elegant pastimes to remove the taint of her family’s new money. But for all her growing sophistication Catherine is anything but worldly, and when a charismatic stranger pays her attention, everything—her heart, her future, the very Havisham name—is vulnerable.
1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers, and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours too about what is happening in the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House. Defiance, though, is growing. In Britain, Winston Churchill’s Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government’s side. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given by them the mission to rescue an old friend and get him out of the country. Before long he, together with a disparate group of Resistance activists, will find themselves fugitives in the midst of London’s Great Smog; as David’s wife Sarah finds herself drawn into a world more terrifying than she ever could have imagined.