A Publishers Weekly review by David Black: Albom (The Five People You Meet in Heaven) has a nose for thin places: places where the boundary between secular and sacred is porous, and ultimate meaning is easier to encounter. In his new novel, Coldwater, Mich., is this thin place, a town where people who have lost loved ones begin receiving phone calls from the dead in heaven. Sully Harding’s wife died while he was in prison, and their young son, Jules, hopes his mom will call, even while Sully smells a hoax. Albom weaves a thread of satire into a narrative braided from the lives of smalltown residents; Coldwater becomes a media hotspot as well as battleground for religious and antireligious zealots, all awaiting the revelation they expect. A historical thread—popping into the narrative like a change-up in baseball—deals with Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone and how the instrument came to be the premier human connector. This brisk, page-turner of a story climaxes at Christmas. Another winner from Albom; this book just about shouts
Adult Ficton & Non Fiction
A Booklist review by Bridget Thoresen: With historic forces playing out on a human scale, this novel brings a lyrical voice all its own to midwestern literature. An author recognized for her memoir The Summer of Ordinary Ways (2005), Helget plunges with the force of river rapids into nineteenth-century life on the changing landscape of Minnesota’s wild frontier, with all its hardships. The story revolves around the connection between fraternal twins Clement and Angel, which proves to be both a blessing and a burden throughout their lives among the hardy town and prairie folk. Helget’s writing practically sings with the force of Clement’s aching devotion to his sister and its consequences. The characters’ unique perspectives weave a rich tapestry of the community, replete with religious caretakers, logger barons, and an abolitionist brothel. Throughout, Helget beats the theme of human bondage in ways both obvious and subtle, from runaway slaves to a domineering mother. A well-crafted meditation on bonds and bondage, Stillwater offers an eloquent tribute to the tribulations of those who made their mark on a growing nation. –Bridget Thoreson
A Booklist review by Deborah Donovan: Smith, author of five thrillers starring FBI Special Agent Ana Grey, here offers a heartfelt glimpse into a little-known episode in U.S. history, the journey taken by mothers of U.S. soldiers fallen in WWI to visit their sons’ graves in Europe. Smith focuses on five mothers whose sons were buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. Their unofficial leader is Cora Blake, a single mother from Maine. She’s joined by an Irish maid, the wife of an immigrant Russian chicken farmer, a woman who’s been in and out of mental institutions since her son was killed, and a wealthy Boston socialite. Smith deftly spotlights moments along their sojourn, from the giggling fits brought on by the French delicacies they are served on board ship to the tears they shed when confronted by the stark white lines of marble stones where their sons’ remains now lie. Side plots revolve around an American journalist, badly disfigured in the war, who befriends Cora and publishes her story in a French newspaper, and the practice of racially segregating these mothers, even in their grief. Smith’s foray into historical fiction is captivating and enlightening. –Deborah Donovan
A review from Publishers Weekly: Elliott’s elaborate first entry in a projected seven-book fantasy series introduces a once prosperous but now lawless land called the Hundred. Its godlike Guardians, who dispense justice, have disappeared; the eagle-riding Reeves, who have kept the peace, have lost authority; and a mysterious, ruthless new force preys on the towns and inhabitants of the Hundred and neighboring empires. But after years of dissolute behavior, a Reeve named Joss is regaining his will to defend his land. Meanwhile, Outlanders Captain Anji; his resourceful bride, Mai; and his well-trained band of Qin soldiers come to the Hundred by necessity. Elliott (Crown of Stars) crafts complex if not wholly original characters, including strong women who persevere in repressive, nonegalitarian societies. She is equally adept at outlining intricate religions and myths. This promises to be a truly epic fantasy.
A Booklist review by Julie Trevelyan: Adding to the growing popularity of WWI-era romances, Robson’s first novel evocatively captures the feeling of the time as it follows the adventures of independent Lady Elizabeth “Lilly” Neville-Ashford, who in 1914 is expected to adhere to the rigid roles for upper-class British ladies. Instead, Lilly defies her family’s stifling expectations by moving to London, where eventually she joins the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and becomes an ambulance driver in a refreshing change of pace from the more usual female occupation of nursing. Strongly on Lilly’s mind is Robert Fraser, a friend of her brother’s and the one man who makes her heart flutter. Despite being a surgeon, Robbie is not from the right class and, therefore, spurned as an appropriate suitor by Lilly’s snobby parents. Yet the two would-be lovers manage to find one another near the battlefields of France. The question remains whether their love will be realized during those tumultuous years. Robson intermingles the overarching themes of love, war, and societal strictures in this appealing read that should resonate with fans of Downton Abbey
Publishers Weekly review: In this many-layered second installment in the Crossroads fantasy series (after 2007′s Spirit Gate), Marit, an eagle-riding reeve, awakens as a spirit three years after her death and slowly realizes she’s become one of the nine Guardians, protectors of justice who wield god-given powers. Soon Marit discovers that some of her fellow Guardians lead forces plaguing the land, while others hide or resist. Meanwhile, among the living, war rewrites the social order, and those of different religions and homelands make common cause. Elliott follows Qin soldier Anji and his troubled, lonely wife, Mai; Marit’s former lover, reeve marshal Joss; and Kirya, a tribal warrior who sells herself into slavery to protect her brother. Each must balance cultural imperatives with a broader view of justice, and survival with mercy. The cosmology and politics may confuse newcomers, but the human dilemmas grip the reader right through to the abrupt final cliffhanger. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc
Washington Post review: “Riveting…. Co-written with Christina Lamb, a veteran British journalist who has an evident passion for Pakistan and can render its complicated history with pristine clarity, this is a book that should be read not only for its vivid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls…. It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank. With the essential difference that we lost that girl, and by some miracle, we still have this one.”—Marie Arana,
A reader’s review: Fern Michaels has the ability to take current social issues, whether it’s Grandparents rights, women’s rights, or animal rights, and weave them into believable stories. She gives you hope and something to cheer for and about. She takes risks with her story lines, but the resolution is always satisfying. BRAVO for her craftsmanship and her guts!!! The Sisterhood is a group of women who I admire. Glad they are back!!!
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2013: It’s hard to articulate just how much–and why–The Goldfinch held such power for me as a reader. Always a sucker for a good boy-and-his-mom story, I probably was taken in at first by the cruelly beautiful passages in which 13-year-old Theo Decker tells of the accident that killed his beloved mother and set his fate. But even when the scene shifts–first Theo goes to live with his schoolmate’s picture-perfect (except it isn’t) family on Park Avenue, then to Las Vegas with his father and his trashy wife, then back to a New York antiques shop–I remained mesmerized. Along with Boris, Theo’s Ukrainian high school sidekick, and Hobie, one of the most wonderfully eccentric characters in modern literature, Theo–strange, grieving, effete, alcoholic and often not close to honorable Theo–had taken root in my heart. Still, The Goldfinch is more than a 700-plus page turner about a tragic loss: it’s also a globe-spanning mystery about a painting that has gone missing, an examination of friendship, and a rumination on the nature of art and appearances. Most of all, it is a sometimes operatic, often unnerving and always moving chronicle of a certain kind of life. “Things would have turned out better if she had lived,” Theo said of his mother, fourteen years after she died. An understatement if ever there was one, but one that makes the selfish reader cry out: Oh, but then we wouldn’t have had this brilliant book! –Sara Nelson