I Never Fancied Him Anyway
Cassandra has a gift. Born with the ability to see glimpses of the future, Cassie settled into life as a successful psychic advice columnist for one of Ireland's biggest papers. Although she has no problem seeing other people's futures, she has a blind spot when it comes to her own, particularly when it comes to men. But with the help of her hilarious and diverse pack of friends and their complicated love lives, Cassie finds herself with a new career as a television psychic and a new man in her life, who happens to be dating her best friend. If only she had seen that coming. Carroll brings her characters to life with biting wit and honest humor, and the story is as funny as it is relatable. Although the tale of a famous psychic may not sound realistic, Carroll's lively and captivating novel is delightful and authentic.
Booklist Review; September 2009.
To Heaven By Water
Whitbread winner Cartwright offers his latest saga of flawed relationships and unfulfilled dreams. David Cross is a retired celebrity news anchor and a widower of 11 months. To his friends, he remains witty and erudite; to his older brother, he is merely 'the lackey of the international media'; and to his children, Ed and Lucy, he is now an enigma. They still mourn their mother but have the distinct feeling their dad is happier now than when she was alive. Ed and his wife are depressed at remaining childless, while Lucy feels abandoned, both by her deceased mother and her most recent boyfriend. But David, instead of standing firm as the stalwart father, exercises to excess and contemplates selling the family home, for which he has lost all affection. He then departs for a sojourn in the Kalahari Desert to try to bond with his dying brother--a brilliant vehicle for Cartwright's pondering of how we all wonder whether our lives could have been better, or at least different. A beautifully told story of the fragility of love, aging, and memories.
Booklist Review; July 2009.
In Curie's curious second novel (after NYPL Young Lion Award-winning God Is Dead), a young man nearly succeeds in his attempt to inject meaning into a doomed world. A mysterious voice has accompanied Junior Thibodeax all his life, having chosen the moment after Junior's birth to tell him that a meteor will destroy Earth in 36 years. The voice also tells him secrets about his father, his girlfriend and his brother, as well as providing a cure for cancer and sage advice against bombing a federal building. From modest beginnings, Junior descends into violent insanity before finding himself lifted to a position of supreme importance. But even with his foreknowledge, the prophet cannot win every battle, and the ones he loses are more than sufficient to break his heart. Curie shows an appreciation for whimsical storytelling, leaning on unlikely chains of events and multiple perspectives to tell what could otherwise be a very dark tale, and though the omnisciently narrated portions come off as heavy-handed, the big decision he makes toward the end recasts the story in a strangely hopeful light and lends a pile of emotional currency to the book's title.
Publishers Weekly Review; April 2009.
Two women, one a Northerner with a husband fighting for the Confederacy, and one a Southerner yearning to attend art school in Philadelphia, exchange letters and find in their unlikely friendship the strength to survive the Civil War, and though shades of Scarlett O'Hara occasionally pop up, Hambly manages a mostly original take on a much-covered era. Newly wed to Tennessean Emory Poole, Cora Poole retreats to Deer Isle, Maine, to remain true to her husband among friends and relatives who abhor his allegiance and suspect hers. In Greene County, Tenn., Emory's neighbor, Susanna Ashford, dabbles in the arts while facing an increasingly dire reality. The correspondents share feelings, views of current events and accounts of their respective tribulations: Susanna nurses the wounded, hunts and sews to pay for her sister's midwife. Cora raises her infant daughter, cares for her demented mother and also sews as the war exhausts resources. The leads are three-dimensional, occasionally surprising and always sympathetic as they find in their unlikely friendship the strength to accept the loss of their ways of life and to seek new ways where they both might thrive.
Booklist Review; September 2009.
LaValle has garnered critical acclaim for his previous works (a collection, Slapboxing with Jesus, and novel, The Ecstatic), and his second novel is sure to up his critical standing while furthering comparisons to Haruki Murakami, John Kennedy Toole and Edgar Allan Poe. Gritty, mostly honest-hearted ex-heroin addict protagonist Ricky Rice takes a chance on an anonymous note delivered to him at the cruddy upstate New York bus depot where he works as a porter. Quickly, Ricky finds himself among the 'Unlikely Scholars,' a secret society of ex- addicts and petty criminals, all black like him, living in remote Vermont and sifting through stacks of articles in a library devoted to investigating the supernatural; the existence of a god; and the legacy of Judah Washburn, an escaped slave who claimed to have had contact with a higher being that the Unlikely Scholars now call 'the Voice.' Ricky's intoxicating voice--robust, organic, wily--is perfect for narrating LaValle's high-stakes mashup of thrilling paranormal and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, as the fateful porter--something of a modern Odysseus rallied by a team of 'spiritual X-men'--wanders through America's 'messianic hoo-hah.'
Publishers Weekly Review; June 2009.
Publishers Weekly Review; June 2009.
Murder Takes the Stage
More than 20 years ago, Rick Marsh disappeared while on a backpacking trip. Despite the best efforts of his father and sister, true-crime writers Peter and Georgia, no trace of him was ever found. Never giving up, Peter and Georgia are following a new lead when Georgia has one of her 'fingerprints in time' episodes--an eerie sense of evil done years earlier. Making no progress on Rick, Peter and Georgia decide to investigate the 'fingerprint.' They become involved in the case of Tom Watson, a circus performer accused and then acquitted of murdering his wife decades earlier. Despite Tom's acquittal, his friends and neighbors were sure he was guilty, so they weren't surprised when he disappeared. But there were plenty of people who had a motive for wanting Tom's wife dead and Tom out of the way permanently. Can they uncover the long hidden truth? As usual in this series (Murder and the Golden Goblet, 2007), Myers produces an entertaining, cleverly plotted mystery starring an engaging duo.
Booklist Review; October 2009.
In this memorable first novel by Memphis-born Perkins-Valdez (English, Mary Washington Coll.), four friends meet each summer at a resort in Ohio but can share only snatches of time. Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu are black slaves brought to the resort each year by their vacationing Southern masters as personal servants and sexual companions. Their presence discomfits the Northern whites and black servants in the free state of Ohio, but the real angst lies within each woman's struggles: Mawu is determined to escape her sadistic master; Lizzie admires Mawu's independent spirit but concentrates her efforts on wheedling her master into granting freedom to her own children. Readers of historical fiction centering on Southern women's stories like Lalita Tademy's Cane River or Lee Smith's On Agate Hill will be moved by the skillful portrayal of Lizzie's precarious situation and the tragic stories of her fellow slaves.
Library Journal Review; December 2009.
Murder on Astor Place
Sprinkled with fascinating details of turn-of-the-century New York City, Thompson's old-fashioned mystery takes the reader from the mansions of Fifth Avenue to the flophouses of the Lower East Side. Sarah Brandt is a midwife who has been estranged from her wealthy family for years. When Alicia VanDamm, a young woman from a prominent family, is murdered, Sarah must return to the upper-class society she has scorned to find the killer. Haunted by her past and disgusted by police department corruption, Sarah takes it upon herself to avenge the girl's death. Annoyed at first by her interference, Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy asks for Sarah's help only when he has been taken off the case at the request of the victim's scandal-fearing family. The feisty midwife and the ambitious policeman grudgingly become allies in their search for justice. Sarah and Frank are appealing characters, and the author develops their rapport subtly and believably. In this first installment in a new series of historical mysteries, Thompson vividly re-creates the gas-lit world of old New York, concluding her mystery with revelations that will shock even 20th-century readers.
Publishers Weekly Review; April 1999.