Adrian, Chris. The Great Night. Farrar. May 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780374166410. $26.
I could be highlighting this latest from Adrian because The New Yorker recently included him among America’s top young writers in its 20 Under 40 feature. But in fact I’m doing it mostly because I’m entranced by the plot: a fresh and wild retelling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. It’s Midsummer Eve 2008 in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park, where Titania, Oberon, and the other faerie folk now reside in exile. Her adopted son dead, a grief-stricken Titania releases terrible forces upon the world‚ not good news for three mortals trapped in the park and inside the memories of a loved one that each had lost or forsaken. Meanwhile, a homeless man wants to depose the city’s evil mayor by staging a musical version of Soylent Green. Decidedly darker and crazier than Shakespeare’s play, this would be fun to read with the original and should appeal to literary types of all stripes.
Brooks, Albert. 2030: The Real Story of What Happens To America. St. Martin’s. May 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780312583729. $25.99.
Yes, that’s actor/director Brooks, launching his fiction career with an unusually sober book. In the near future, cancer has been cured; old folks keep on living, secure in their pensions; and the younger generation resents being stuck with the bill. Then, on June 12, 2030, an earthquake all but obliterates Los Angeles, and the government is too stretched financially to respond. Brooks is obviously asking some hard questions; I’d look into this one.
Collins. Jackie. Goddess of Vengeance. St. Martin’s. May 2011. 512p. ISBN 9780312567460. $26.99.
Lucky Santangelo owns the wildly successful casino-hotel complex The Keys, and billionaire business Armand Jordan wants it‚ even if it’s not for sale. Collins has not faded away, and neither have her fans.
Dallas, Sandra. The Bride’s House. St. Martin’s. May 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780312600167. $24.99.
The Bride’s House is a gorgeous Victorian, under construction in 1880s Georgetown, CO, where 17-year-old hired girl Nealie Bent dreams of living one day. Nealie is being courted by two very different men, and her future is ultimately the house’s future, tracked through three generations of strong women (a phrase that pops up a lot with regard to contemporary women’s fiction). For Dallas’s many fans.
Goldberg, Amanda & Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper. Beneath a Starlet Sky. St. Martin’s. May 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780312544423. $24.99.
CEO of Julian Tennant Inc., a fashion line that must make it now or fold, Lola Santisi has turned her back on the acting world but is still at the Cannes Film Festival, where she might get a break; one of Tennant’s wedding dresses appears in the festival’s top film. Lola’s best friend, agent Kate Woods, is there to manage unruly clients of her own. Of course things don’t work as planned. Will this book do well? Is this a book about the celebrity film world by the authors of the best-selling Celebutantes? Come on.
Lobo Antunes, António. The Land at the End of the World. Norton. May 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780393077766. $24.95.
Hugely honored abroad‚ he’s won the France Culture, Juan Rulfo, and Jerusalem prizes, among others, aside from prizes in his native Portugal‚ Lobo Antunes is making a name for himself here among the cognoscenti. This work, being given a fresh, new translation by the redoubtable Margaret Jull Costa, features a narrator just back from the horror of fighting in Angola who feels compelled to confess all he has seen and done to a nameless lover. Recommend to your smart readers.
Michaud, Jon. When Tito Loved Clara. Algonquin. Mar. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781565129498. $25.99.
I can’t let March books go by without mentioning this title. It was written by a librarian (head librarian at The New Yorker, in fact) and features librarians among its characters. The heroine, Clara, has escaped her restrictive Dominican neighborhood in upper Manhattan and enjoys professional success and the personal satisfaction of family. Then her former boyfriend, Tito, comes calling. This book was the publisher’s most demanded galley at a recent AAP Book Buzz for librarians in New York, and it is, insists the publicist, brilliant: It may not be our next Water for Elephants, but it is certainly going to be our next Mudbound. And Mudbound was good!
Simon, Rachel. The Story of Beautiful Girl. Grand Central. May 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780446574464. $24.99. lrg prnt. CD: Hachette Audio
Simon triumphed with Riding the Bus with My Sister, her account of bonding with a mentally retarded sibling. Her new novel focuses on the developmentally impaired Lynnie and Homan, a deaf African American man, who meet and fall in love after being shut away in the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded (it’s mid-20th-century America). After they escape, only Lynnie is captured and returned to the school‚ but not before she entrusts the woman who sheltered them with the baby she has just borne. Excellent, popular writer; poignant story; I’m betting on this one.
Smith, Wilbur. Those in Peril. St. Martin’s. May 2011. 656p. ISBN 9780312567255. $27.99.
Now residing in London, Smith was born in what was then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and writes two best-selling historical series set in Central Africa, the Courtney and Ballantyne series, and one set in Ancient Egypt. Now he jumps to the 21st century as African Muslim pirates highjack the pirate yacht of Hazel Bannock, heir to a huge oil fortune. She’s not on board, but her teenage daughter is, and when the pirates demand a ludicrous $20 billion ransom, she hires wily security man Hector Cross to rescue her child. Proof, as the folks at Mulholland say, that this genre gets its thrills from engaging in politically relevant events. The publisher wants you to think Clive Cussler.