Four Favorite Fall Releases

Although I’ve stepped back from reviewing new releases in the last few months, the fall books I have managed to read so far have been excellent! Here’s a quick look at four of my favorites:

Fortune Smiles by Adam JohnsonFortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Publisher: Random House
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

Fresh off the heels of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son, Anthony Johnson is back with an excellent short story collection. In “George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine,” a former warden of an East German Stasi prison denies the crimes of his past and tries to convince tourists that no wrong-doing was committed. In “Dark Meadow,” a pedophile grapples with his desires while using his computer skills to fight child pornography. Mixing humor with darkness and despair, Fortune Smiles is sometimes deeply uncomfortable to read but compelling nonetheless.

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Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill CleggDid You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Books
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

The night before her daughter’s wedding, June Reid loses everyone she cares about in a horrific gas explosion. Devastated, she sets off across the country to heal and start anew. Although this story alone would make for a beautiful, gut-wrenching book, Did You Ever Have a Family isn’t just a portrayal of a woman dealing with tragedy; using a rotating cast of memorable characters, Clegg paints a portrait of a small Connecticut town with it’s tangled relationships, unique social dynamics, and racial tensions. One of my favorite books of the year, this novel is heartbreaking, poignant, and ultimately uplifting.

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Fates and Furies by Lauren GroffFates and Furies by Lauren Groff 

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Pages: 392
Source: Publisher

One of the biggest books of fall, Fates & Furies is a dazzling portrait of a marriage. When the novel opens, Lotto and Mathilde are newly married and passionately in love — but as the decades pass, the cracks in their relationship, the secrets and resentments roiling beneath the surface, are revealed. Although the first half of the novel, told from Lotto’s perspective, is less than spectacular, the second half, presenting Mathilde’s point of view, blows it out of the water. Wildly inventive and poetically written, Groff’s newest novel takes on a legendary feel with its vibrant characters, unique format, and and mythological allusions.

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Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye WatkinsGold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

In a near-future California devastated by drought, Luz and Ray squat in an abandoned mansion, avoiding evacuation to a camp for as long as possible. Living on love and rationed cola, the couple are content eking out a meager living until they cross paths with a baby with strange blue-gray eyes and translucent skin. To give the child a better life, they set out across the desert in search of greener pastures. Emily St. John Mandel‘s post-apocalyptic vision meets Karen Russell‘s sparkling sentences to make Gold Fame Citrus a stunning work of fiction. Although the ending doesn’t quite hit the right note, this is a gripping novel with heart-stopping twists and a hearty dose of environmentalism. It’s totally bonkers and crazy good.

What’s the best new book you’ve read this fall?

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Book Review: Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus

Book Review: Burial Rights by Hannah KentLEAVING THE SEA
by Ben Marcus

Short Stories
Knopf; Jan. 8, 2014
Hardcover; 288 pages
Source: Received from publisher for review

Where to start discussing this book? I’ve been putting off writing this review for weeks because I’m just not quite sure what to say. It’s the rare book that I didn’t particularly like, but that I didn’t think was bad. I think this was just not the book for me, and that makes it really hard to talk about.

Leaving the Sea is a collection of short stories by Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet. I didn’t get to read this novel, but it sounded right up my alley, and I was eager to read his stories. What I found wasn’t quite to my taste, but I was thoroughly impressed by Marcus’ power of imagination. Continue reading

Book Review: The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich

Book Review: The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon RichTHE LAST GIRLFRIEND ON EARTH
by Simon Rich

Fiction: Short Stories
Reagan Arthur Books; Jan. 22, 2013
Ebook; 213 pages
Source: Purchased

The Last Girlfriend on Earth is a collection of short stories that explore the classic themes of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl — but in hilarious, unexpected ways. There’s a story made up of missed connections ads written by dogs, a repair shop that fixes grumpy girlfriends, and a program for “high-risk” youths in danger of long-term relationships.

These stories are the funniest things I have read in quite a while. It’s clear Rich is really enjoying playing with the tropes of nagging girlfriends, men afraid of commitments, the silly rituals of dating, and the way love (or the search for love) makes people act in crazy, irrational ways. Continue reading

Book Review: Red by Terry Tempest Williams

Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert by Terry Tempest WilliamsRED
by Terry Tempest Williams

Non-fiction: Essays and Stories
Vintage, 2001
Paperback, 288 pages
Source: Purchased

I recently spent three weeks traveling around the American West and spent much of that time in southern Utah, a vast, wild land of stunning red cliffs and winding canyons, natural bridges and arches, views of distant mountains, the meanderings of the Colorado River, and an astonishing variety of plant and animal life.

I picked up Red at the visitors center in Moab and read a good portion of it while sitting on a sun-warmed boulder under a massive red butte next to the Colorado River. Reading this book about the beauty of the desert and the importance of conserving it while being able to look up and contemplate the multi-hued, ever-changing colors in the rock around me made for the perfect reading experience. Continue reading

Book Review: Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish

Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh ParrishOUR LOVE COULD LIGHT THE WORLD
by Anne Leigh Parrish

Linked short stories
She Writes Press, June 3, 2013
Paperback, 192 pages
Source: TLC Book Tours

I’ve really been enjoying linked short stories lately, and Our Love Could Light the World is an enjoyable collection of stories centering on the Dugans, a scrappy down-at-the-heels family in the New York Finger Lakes region.

The setting is what attracted me to this book when one of the lovely ladies at TLC Book Tours asked if I would like to review it. I live near the Finger Lakes and have many happy memories of summer vacations in rented cottages on one of the lakes, so I was thrilled to read a book set in this beautiful area. The location isn’t actually a major component of these stories, but I liked them nonetheless. Continue reading

Book Review: Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

Book Review: Diving Belles by Lucy Wood
DIVING BELLES
by Lucy Wood

Short Stories
Mariner, Aug. 2012
Paperback, 223 pages
Source: Purchased

I think we’ve established that I am a sucker for anything that blurs the line between myth and reality. Karen Russell is my goddess, The Tiger’s Wife made me swoon, and No One Is Here Except All of Us totally charmed me. When I heard about Diving Belles, the title story of which is about an old woman who goes under the sea in a diving bell to try to retrieve her husband, who was taken by the mermaids many years before, I knew it would be right up my alley.

Continue reading