Category Archives: Fiction

Aquarium

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Title: Aquarium

Author: David Vann

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press, March 2015

Summary/Review: David Vann is a master of family dysfunction. Hidden within his beautiful writing lurk some of the cruelest and manipulative characters you will ever meet. His newest novel, AQUARIUM, is no exception. This one, however, allows for some hope which isn’t always the case with Vann.

Twelve year old Caitlin lives with her single mother, Sheri, in Seattle. Sheri is struggling as a single mother, working full time while trying to build a good life for herself and her daughter. Since, according to Sheri, they are all alone in the world, Caitlin is left alone for long periods while Sheri is at work. Caitlin is dropped off at school early in the morning and heads to the local aquarium after to school to wait for her ride home. It is at the aquarium that she meets a very kind elderly man who takes an interest in Caitlin and keeps her company while she waits for Sheri to pick her up. When Sheri learns of this friendship, she is consumed with an uncontrollable rage and her haunted past comes roaring back with a vengeance.

Sometimes there’s just no way to tell how damaged a person really is until they are forced to confront the demons from their past.

 Who will like this?:  Someone who’s not turned off by dysfunction.  Someone looking for a thrilling read.

 If you like this, try this: other David Vann novels, FATHER OF THE RAIN BY Lily King, DROWNED, by Therese Bohman, and DISQUIET by Julia Leigh.

If you think you’d like this book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold.

Paying Guests

 

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Title: The Paying Guests

Author: Sarah Waters

Publisher: Riverhead Books, September 2014

Summary/Review: I have never read the fiction of Sarah Waters before, but I am happy to have now read The Paying Guests.  She writes beautifully – creating characters that you can literally see and hear in your own head as you read the book.

The story begins at the dusk of the Edwardian era, a few years after the end of World War I.  Frances lives with her mother in what was previously a grand house.  They have fallen on hard times.  Frances’ father is dead, after having mismanaged the family fortune and a brother has died in the War.  In order to make ends meet, they must take in paying guests — a matter of some shame.

The Barbers, a young middle class, perhaps lower middle class couple, take rooms on the second floor.  They are young, stylish in their way, and are a product of a new society growing in England that has tossed aside the trappings of propriety of the past.

The author slowly unfolds the plot to reveal events that would never be understood or tolerated at this time in English society. Then the final unforgivable act takes place– and it is a fast and furious ride all the way to the end of the novel. So hang on.

Who will like this?: Those interested in period novels that describe post WWI-era. Someone looking for a gripping novel.

If you like this, try this: If you’re interested in the 1920’s, the standard is “Great Gatsby”. However, you could also try Hemingway or Fitzgerald. If you liked Sarah Waters’ writing, you could try her other novels including “The Night Watch” and “Affinity”.

Recommended by: Susan Z, Reference

Does this look like a book you’d like?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold!

 

At the Water’s Edge

Title: At the Water’s Edge

 Author: Sara Gruen

 Publisher: Penguin Random House, June 2015

Summary/Review: Sara Gruen has taken on elephants, bonobos, and now the Loch Ness Monster.

It’s the height of WWII in Europe as Maddie and Ellis Hyde, along with their friend Hank, travel from Philadelphia to Scotland to find the elusive Loch Ness Monster. Why, you might ask, are they making this dangerous Atlantic crossing? For money, of course. Ellis, unable to serve in the war due to his colorblindness, is already an embarrassment to his colonel father. When Ellis publicly mocks his father during a drunken rant, Ellis and Maddie are cut off financially and unsure what to do next. Without really thinking it through, Ellis decides the best way to get back into his father’s good graces, is to succeed where his father failed. Years ago the colonel tried, and failed, to find the Loch Ness Monster. It turns out the colonel didn’t make any friends over in Scotland during his quest. He did manage to anger quite a few people, though. And that is what Maddie, Ellis, and Hank walk into when they arrive in the village of Drumnadrochit. While Maddie is left alone for days at a time as the men are out monster hunting, she discovers that the life she has been living with Ellis might not be the life she wants to live after all.

This novel is part drama, part romance, and part mystery. Maddie’s reawakening to what is really important in life is the focus of this story, as the monster hunt fades into the background.

Who will like this? If you like historical romance, complete with heroes and villains, you will like At the Water’s Edge. 

If you like this, try this: If you liked Sara Gruen’s writing style, then try her other books – most famous is “Water for Elephants”, but “Ape House” and “Riding Lessons” also gave positive reviews.

 This book isn’t published yet, but be on the lookout come June!  How did we review a book that’s not published?  Publishers often donate copies of books for an honest review – like this one!

 

 

The Painter

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Title: The Painter

Author: Peter Heller

Publisher: Knopf, May 2014

Summary/Review: Peter Heller’s second novel is a huge departure from his stunning post-apocalyptic debut, The Dog Stars. From Good Reads,

“Jim Stegner has seen his share of violence and loss. Years ago he shot a man in a bar. His marriage disintegrated. He grieved the one thing he loved. In the wake of tragedy, Jim, a well-known expressionist painter, abandoned the art scene of Santa Fe to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. Now he spends his days painting and fly-fishing, trying to find a way to live with the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. He works with a lovely model. His paintings fetch excellent prices. But one afternoon, on a dirt road, Jim comes across a man beating a small horse, and a brutal encounter rips his quiet life wide open. Fleeing Colorado, chased by men set on retribution, Jim returns to New Mexico, tormented by his own relentless conscience.”

Heller’s novel is a quintessential guy book with lengthy descriptions of fishing, painting, violence and memories of his daughter. Heller’s character Stegner spends a large portion of the book inside his own head.

Who will like this book?  This book will appeal to anglers, artists, lovers of the Southwest, and readers hungry for an intellectual suspense novel.

If you like this, try this:   Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson, The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham.

Recommended by:  Philip, Reference

If you think this is a book you’d like to read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold!

 

We Are Called to Rise

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Title: We Are Called to Rise   

Author: Laura McBride

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, May 2014

Summary/Review: The mother of a returned Iraq War veteran, a young Albanian boy, an injured soldier and a volunteer social service worker have lives and stories that intersect in this debut novel set in Las Vegas. The novel is told through the four voices of these characters. We learn much about their backgrounds and the many issues that make up their stories.  Through the mother Avis we also learn about the husband who is divorcing her, their troubled son and his wife. Their family issues and losses are profound. Through the soldier Luis, recovering in a hospital, we learn about his loving grandmother who has looked after him his whole life. Through the little boy, Bashkim we come to know his whole family, the issues these new immigrants are faced with and a great tragedy that brings all of these characters together.  This book is filled with emotion and will leave you with much to think about.  I really like the title of this book because in spite of the tragedy and sadness, each character rises toward hope with courage and compassion.

Who will like this book?  This book will appeal to a wide-range of contemporary fiction readers. It has well-developed characters that you care about along with an engaging writing style.

If you like this, try this:   Shotgun Lovesongs by Nicholas Butler; The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris

Recommended by:  Jan, Administration

Does this look like a book you’d like to read?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold!

Boy, Snow, Bird

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Title: Boy, Snow, Bird

Author: Helen Oyeyemi

Publisher: Riverhead Books, March 2014

Summary/Review: A loose retelling of the story of Snow White, Boy, Snow, Bird deals with the issues of jealousy, race, family, and identity.  Set in Massachusetts during the pre-civil rights era, Boy Novak Whitman is surprised when her newborn daughter, Bird, is born with dark skin. Unbeknownst to Boy, her husband Arturo and stepdaughter Snow, as well as most of his family, are African Americans passing for white.  Aware of society’s, and her in laws’, idea of beauty leads to Boy’s jealousy and resentment of light skinned Snow and an evil stepmother is born.

Told through the voices of more than one of the complex characters in this novel, Boy, Snow, Bird is a great choice for book groups and anyone who likes multilayered fiction. You won’t be bombarded with parallels to Snow White’s story, but you will catch a glimpse of her from time to time.

Who will like this book? Someone who enjoys loose retellings of fairy tales.  Someone who is looking for a book that will leave them thinking about it.

If you like this, try this: If you enjoyed the fairy tale retelling, try The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.  These stories are more popular in young adult and children’s, including the Grimm trilogy by Adam Gidwitz, multiple series by Shannon Hale, and more.

Recommended by:  Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

If you think you’d like to read this book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold!

Miniaturist

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Title: The Miniaturist

Author: Jessie Burton

Publisher: Harper Collins, August 2014

Summary/Review: When 18 year old Nella Oortman travels to Amsterdam to meet her new husband, she finds her life will be very different than she could ever have imagined.

Nella’s new husband, Johannes Brandt, is a 39 year old merchant trader in the city of Amsterdam. His successful business has allowed Johannes to have a nice home, servants, and some of the finer things in life. Nella arrives to find Johannes’ sister, Marin, at home but not Johannes. In fact, Johannes deftly dodges his new bride for as long as he can, claiming his business keeps him away from home.

To make up for his absence, Johannes gives Nella a gift-a miniature replica of her new home. She is also given the means to furnish it as she wishes. As Nella orders pieces to complete the cabinet sized house, she receives more than she bargained, or paid, for. Somehow, the miniaturist she hires creates exact replicas of their real life counterparts as if he or she has been in the home before. Nella also receives pieces that she did not order, but still perfectly match items in her home. As her life in repressive Amsterdam starts to take dangerous twists and turns, Nella has to wonder whether the mysterious miniaturist is foretelling her future with each new reproduction or orchestrating her destruction.

Jessie Burton’s debut novel may be set in 1686, but the prejudices and discrimination that take place are still, shamefully, taking place in 2014. Burton’s writing will transport you to Amsterdam complete with the sights and sounds of the bustling city. A great choice for book clubs and historical fiction readers, The Miniaturist will give you plenty to think about and talk about.

Who will like this book? Someone looking for a book that will lend itself to conversation.  Someone looking to be transported to another time and place.

If you like this, try this: If you are looking for more good historical fiction, try Geraldine Brooks, Phillipa Gregory, or Ken Follett.  “Girl With the Pearl Earring”  may be another choice for you.  This is Burton’s first novel, but the buzz with this book is huge – so be on the lookout for more!

Recommended by:  Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

If you think this is a book you’d like to read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold!

100 Years and 4 Days

In our final installment of World War I fiction and non-fiction recommendations, we would like to suggest the following titles.

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Cavendon Hall                                                                                                                                                By Barbara Taylor Bradford

“The popular and prolific Bradford knocks another fast-paced family saga out of the park with charming characters and manor-house mayhem.” ~Booklist

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on Cavendon Hall please click here.

The Wild Rose                                                                                                                                                 By Jennifer Donnelly

“A lush story of epic proportions . . . Donnelly peoples her book with larger-than-life characters whose tragedies and triumphs lift your heart and soul.” ~Romantic Times Book Review

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on The Wild Rose  please click here.

No Graves as Yet                                                                                                                                          By Anne Perry

“This absorbing mystery/spy thriller, set in tranquil Cambridge just before the onset of the Great War, marks a powerful start to bestseller Perry’s much anticipated new series.” ~Publisher’s Weekly

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on No Graves as Yet please click here.

The Last of the Doughboys : the Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War  By Richard Rubin

“…the last known American veteran of the Great War died in 2011. Determined to obtain and document the remembrances of the surviving “doughboys,” journalist Rubin began an effort to locate and interview many of them a decade ago. The result is this fascinating and deeply moving collection of individual stories.” ~Booklist

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on The Last of the Doughboys : the Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War  please click here.

100 Years and 3 Days

This week we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. Florence Green, the last known WWI veteran, died in 2012 at age 110. Frank Buckles, the last living U.S. WWI veteran died in 2011, also at age 110. Here are today’s reading suggestions if you would like to learn more about this global conflict, or if you want a novel set during that time period.

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Waiting for Sunrise: a novel                                                                                                                       By William Boyd

“Sex, psychiatry and Vienna on the eve of World War I – those are promising ingredients for a novel. And William Boyd makes the most of them. . . . Boyd’s narrative moves briskly, and his local color is deftly done.” ~The Seattle Times

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on Waiting for Sunrise: a novel please click here.

The Lie                                                                                                                                                            By Helen Dunmore

“[A] tender tale… subtle and enduring…A quiet tragedy… a poet’s feeling for language shines through the descriptions of the landscape…in this novel Dunmore has wreaked tenderness out of tragedy, so that the reader is left with the sense that something beautiful, however fleeting, has been salvaged from the darkness.” ~The Observer (UK)

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on The Lie please click here.

Somewhere in France                                                                                                                                  By Jennifer Robson

“Utterly engaging and richly satisfying, Somewhere in France depicts the very best in love and war. Fans of Downton Abbey will devour this novel!”  ~author Erika Robuck

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on Somewhere in France please click here.

Women Heroes of World War I : 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics                 By Kathryn J. Atwood

“In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this book brings to life the brave and often surprising exploits of 16 fascinating women from around the world who served their countries at a time when most of them didn’t even have the right to vote.” ~Amazon.com

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on Women Heroes of World War I : 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics please click here.

 

100 Years and 2 Days

World War I, which began 100 years ago Monday, involved a total of 76 current nations and more than 65,000,000 troops. Here are today’s suggested fiction and non-fiction titles that are set during or around The Great War.

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The Secret Life of Violet Grant                                                                                                                  By Beatriz Williams

“Rumor has it that Violet murdered her husband and mentor, Dr. Walter Grant, before mysteriously disappearing with her lover on the eve of WWI. As Vivian closes in on the past, she has a heart-wrenching problem of her own to resolve in the present. Readers will love wallowing in the twists and turns of this irresistibly luxurious tale.” ~Booklist

To check our catalog or place a hold on The Secret Life of Violet Grant, please click here.

Stella Bain: a novel                                                                                                                                       By Anita Shreve

“An intriguing character study that delivers compelling mystery without melodrama. Shreve offers a fresh, feminine twist on a topic that’s much in vogue lately-World War I…. Shreve cleverly and movingly shifts between Stella’s two lives, as we learn who she really is. A custody battle, a horrible case of wartime disfigurement, and even questions of women’s rights emerge in this spare but involving novel….” ~USA Today

To check our catalog or place a hold on Stella Bain: a novel, please click here.

The Canal Bridge                                                                                                                                              By Tom Phelan

“From Phelan’s effectively constructed and emotionally honest novel about Irish participation in WWI, the reader gains a new perspective on how the Great War decimated lives throughout Europe.” ~Booklist

To check our catalog or place a hold on The Canal Bridge, please click here.

The Great War : a Combat History of the First World War                                                                   By Peter Hart

“Hart demonstrates an admirable command of the subject matter and offers a compelling case for the lasting impact of the ‘unwaking nightmare that was WWI.'”
~Publishers Weekly

To check our catalog or place a hold on The Great War : a Combat History of the First World War, please click here.