Now that winter has finally arrived in the Upper Peninsula, here are a few new fiction titles to help pass the hours of endless cold. Curl up, stay warm, and enjoy.
City of Dark Magic is Magnus Flyte's debut novel and is a highly imaginative thrill-ride through the city of Prague and through time. A team of academics have been commissioned to catalog centuries old treasures from the Lobkowicz family collection while also turning a 14th century royal palace into a museum. The novel follows Sarah Weston, a musicologist from Boston, who has been invited to work at the palace for the summer cataloging the Beethoven artifacts. After arriving, Sarah discovers that the suicide of her mentor who had been working at the palace may not be as it seems. Once people start disappearing and dying around her, Sarah must figure out the truth behind the cryptic clues she discovers. Between warring members of the existing royal family, a time-traveling prince, a mysterious dwarf, and a powerful U.S. senator with a watchful eye, who can Sarah trust? This novel as has it all: mystery, murder, romance, humor, and time travel.
Ghosting by Kirby Gann is a novel about human desperation, poverty, broken men, abandoned dreams, a family torn apart by drugs in rural Kentucky. "Ghosting" is not for the faint-hearted. James Cole, a young man with a mother addicted to pain medication, wants to know what's become of his missing stepbrother Fleece Skaggs, a drug runner who's disappeared with drug dealer Lawrence Gruel's marijuana harvest. James decides the only way he will discover what truly happened to his stepbrother is to work as a drug runner for Gruel. Veiled motives and violence are all that await James as he enters the underworld of drug trafficking in order to find the truth.
Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber, selected as one of New York Times 100 "Notable Books" of 2012, is a collection of short stories that focus on the bond between mother and daughter. This bond gets tested time and time again only to remain unbroken, though stretched thin. Though, in several of the 11 stories the mother is not actually present but her authority or perceived wickedness is. From eating disorders to sexual relations with college professors, no theme is left alone.
We Had It So Good by Linda Grant is a family saga with panoramic tapestry of the '60s. Sy Newman, born in Poland, lives in Los Angeles, and cares for the furs of such icons as Lauren Bacall and Rita Hayworth. His son, Stephen, dodges the Vietnam draft by marrying Andrea, an English girl whose father fought in World War II. Stephen works for the BBC. Their daughter becomes a press photographer in the Yugoslavian war, and has an affair with an English catholic doctor born in Poland who is maimed in the 2004 London subway bombings. Grant shows great ingenuity in linking the events and cultural changes of the 20th and 21st centuries with the lives of her characters. The contrasts between eras and between countries are achieved well.
We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen: The Rovaniemis and their nine children belong to a deeply traditional church (no drinking, no dancing, no TV) in modern-day Michigan. A normal family in many ways, the Rovaniemis struggle with sibling rivalry, parental expectations, and forming their own unique identities in such a large family. But when two of the children venture from the faith, the family fragments and a haunting question emerges: Do we believe for ourselves, or for each other? Each chapter is told from the distinctive point of view of a different Rovaniemi, drawing a nuanced, kaleidoscopic portrait of this unconventional family. The children who reject the church learn that freedom comes at the almost unbearable price of their close family ties, and those who stay struggle daily with the challenges of resisting the temptations of modern culture. With precision and potent detail, We Sinners follows each character on their journey of doubt, self-knowledge, acceptance, and, ultimately, survival.
- Dominic M. Davis