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Friday, December 29, 2017

Serving up a New Year's feast of fiction for 2018

As the year 2017 is drawing to a close, the time has come to look ahead to what literary delights the new year will be bringing our way.

For this peek into a few of the page turning goodies that will appear on bookshelves this upcoming January and February of 2018, my focus is on fiction as many of the best new offerings seem to fall into that category.

In the months to come, I promise not to neglect any interesting works of nonfiction that are bound to arrive,eager for attention there. For now, let us devour these tasty bookish morsels being served up for our future consumption:

Sizzling Slices of Mystery Meat: Our first course is a debut novel from English writer C.J. Tudor,The Chalk Man, that brings with it some of the fearsome flair of the 1980s.

Eddie Addams is a school teacher still haunted by playing a role in the past that brought down a teacher from his childhood days. That's not the only thing from those days that comes with bad memories as a visit from Mickey, one of his boyhood buddies, reminds Eddie of that time when he was twelve and the two of them,along with a few other pals, discovered a dead body.

Not long after Mickey arrives back in his life, Eddie sees those chalk symbols that he and his friends used as a secret code cropping up all around him,particularly near a new set of victims. Is this connected to that long ago murder or are these simply inspired by that tragic event? Tudor sets up a mix of Stand by Me with Midsomer Murders that should provide readers with some extra chills this winter(January):

Speaking of British chills, The English Wife by Lauren Willig gives us a mystery bride from the Gilded Age who may or may not be involved in the death of her new husband.

Janie Van Duyvil was just as surprised as anyone in her family when her beloved brother Baynard brought home from London a wife named Annabelle to New York. Many eyebrows were raised in society yet she was willing to give Annabelle a fair chance.

However, when Bay is found dying at a party in his own home, Janie uncovers a whole new world of secrets and lies. With Annabelle vanishing into thin air and no one else willing to look deeper into her brother's death, she teams up with an ambitious reporter named Burke, who helps her find out but to what advantage of his own?

 Lauren Willig is well at home when it comes to mysteries set in the past and even with her Pink Carnation series finally completed, her future as a writer is bright indeed(January).

 A Satirical Sandwich at Work: In Jillian Medoff's This Could Hurt,  Rosa Guerrero finds her job as a HR rep more taxing than usual.

 As the economic landscape is quickly devolving  in late 2009, more pressure is placed on her to lay off staff at the Ellery Consumer Research Group in her own department, leaving her severely lacking in help to say the least.

While other department heads,such as burnt out recruiting director Rob,benefits manager Leo and hustling for a promotion Lucy, are struggling to stay on payroll, their status is strongly challenged when Rosa becomes severely ill. Covering for Rosa becomes part of their job ,repaying the loyalty that she's given them all, yet how long can they manage to pull it off is the new skill that can't be placed on any of their resumes.

Looking back at the recent past is not as easy as it seems and somehow, Medoff handles it with wry humor and well earned drama that makes this story feels as current as today's headlines(January):

Handing out pieces of Historical Fiction cake: In Janet Beard's The Atomic City Girls, we met June, who at age 18, is leaving home for the first time during WWII to work at Oak Ridge, a government run town that promises that the work they're doing is meant to end the war as soon as possible.

During her stay, she meets Sam, a young scientist who slowly grows troubled about the weapon that he and his fellow researchers are developing. Over time, June and other residents, like her roommate Cici and segregated construction worker Joe, soon realize that the ultimate goal of Oak Ridge is to bring the atomic bomb to terrifying life.

Historical photos are added into to give more of a sense of time and place to the story yet Beard's writing is vivid enough,making them that extra dollop of icing on top of a supremely crafted cake.  For a fictional take on the real life men and women on this project, The Atomic City Girls are grand company to keep up(February):

The life of Eleanor Roosevelt is showcased in White Houses by Amy Bloom, told from the perspective of Lorena Hickok, a long time friend and romantic partner.

The two of them first met during Lorena's journalist days, well before Franklin Delano Roosevelt  began his presidency. Given a staff position, Lorena had access not only to Eleanor but to the inner workings of FDR's administration which lead to personal insights she could not share with the world at large.

Amy Bloom does have a knack for elegant portrayals of complicated lives and this novel has the potential to be one of her best yet. Hopefully, her new novel will also inspire readers old and new to seek out more about Eleanor and Lorena, a pair of ladies who made real history together and then some(February).

 A Western omelet with Aussie flavor: Paul Howarth's debut novel, Only Killers and Thieves, is set in 19th century Queensland, Australia where a pair of brothers find themselves at the opposite ends of a brutal conflict.

When their parents are killed, Tommy and Billy McBride are of one mind in seeking to avenge those deaths. However, that forces the brothers to team up with John Sullivan, a vicious land owner who made their father's ranching life miserable and is eager to hunt down supposed suspect Joseph, as an excuse to go after the aboriginal tribes in the area.

Eventually, Tommy finds it hard to join in with the mob mentality and driven by his conscience(as well as the love of an aboriginal woman) to break away from Billy's determined course of brutal action in the name of "justice". 

This story has a familiar feel to it yet is free of the standard tropes of the Western with not only location but emphasis on the emotional cost of choices that may not be taken back but could be retreated from before it's too late(February):

A Happy New Year of reading to all and to all a good book! While it may seem that next year might be as off putting in some ways as this year was, take hope in the fact that good things are on the horizon such as season two of Victoria on PBS. It is comforting to see a historic leader who was able to make the phrase "grace under pressure" a true reality and a fine example to those who came afterward-may we see that like again and soon:


Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Lots of great reading coming up in 2018! The English Wife was my December Book of the Month selection. I didn't skip it. I got it. Couldn't resist! It sounds so good!

That Australian one sounds good. The trailer you shared...The Proposition...great movie!

I hope I will get to see my PBS shows. I'm cutting the cord next week (no more high priced satellite bills) and getting Sling. I probably won't have local stations for a while because I have to get (or find my old one) an HD receiver. I'm sure there will be some way to watch. Sling may even have PBS.

Happy New Year, Tara! Now, I'm off to look for that Book Lover's calendar. :)

lady t said...

Happy New Year to you as well,Michelle! I haven't seen The Proposition but the trailer felt right for the book(might have to find it on Netflix). The English Wife does sound great, do let me know how it is when you finish it!

Good luck with Sling-I know that PBS does let you watch shows online but there might be a charge,not sure on that. It's called Passport,so it might he a decent back-up, just in case.

The Haunted Reading Room said...

I was fortunate to review THE CHALK MAN. Absolutely scrumptious (and engrossing!)