LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Series Installments from J.A. Jance & Ed Lin | Audio in Advance December 2016 | Fiction

images__1476391757_54597Block, Lawrence, ed. In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520044989. Reader TBA.
These 17 stories were each inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper. Contributors include Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Craig Ferguson, Nicholas Christopher, Jill D. Block, Joe R. Lansdale, Justin Scott, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Warren Moore, Jonathan Santlofer, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, and Block himself. Gail Levin, Hopper’s biographer and compiler of his catalogue raisonée, appears with her own first work of fiction, providing a true account of art theft on a grand scale and told in the voice of the country preacher who perpetrated the crime.

Brautigan, Richard. The Hawkline Monster. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504759779. Reader TBA.
In 1902 in eastern Oregon, Magic Child, a 15-year-old Native American girl, wanders into the wrong whorehouse looking for the right men. She finds Cameron and Greer, two gunmen taking a timeout from the game after an aborted job in Hawaii. Their violent past doesn’t concern Magic Child. She wants them to kill a monster for her, one she says lives in the ice caves under the basement of Miss Hawkline’s yellow house, and one she says has killed before. But the more she tells them about the monster, the more her story unravels until it isn’t clear if the monster is even real, or if anything else is. Originally published in 1974.

Bruce, Scott G., ed. The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501940392. Read by T. Ryder Smith.
Since ancient times, accounts of supernatural activity have captivated people. The restless dead haunted the premodern imagination in many forms, as recorded in historical narratives, theological texts, and personal letters. This collection teems with roving hordes of dead warriors, corpses trailed by packs of barking dogs, moaning phantoms haunting deserted ruins, evil spirits emerging from burning carcasses in the form of crows, and zombies with pestilential breath. Spanning from the Hebrew scriptures to the Roman Empire, the Scandinavian sagas to medieval Europe, the Protestant Reformation to the Renaissance, this array of accounts charts humanity’s relationship with spirits and apparitions, wraiths and demons over 1500 years.

41eoiswbaxl__1476391856_49999Dickinson, Robert. The Tourist. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781478942887. Read by Peter Kenny.
It is expected to be an excursion like any other. There is nothing in the records to indicate that anything out of the ordinary will happen. A bus will take them to the mall and they will have an hour or so to look around, perhaps buy something, or try some food. A minor traffic incident on the way back to the resort will provide some additional interest, but the tour rep has no reason to expect any trouble—until he notices that one of his party is missing. Most disturbingly, she is a woman who, according to the records, did not go missing. Now she is a woman whose disappearance could change the world.

Gale, Patrick. Notes from an Exhibition. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520048932. Reader TBA.
When troubled artist Rachel Kelly dies she leaves behind an extraordinary body of work, but for her family there is a legacy of secrets and painful revelations. To her children she is both curse and blessing, as they cope with the inheritance of her passions—and demons. Only their father’s gift of stillness can withstand Rachel’s destructive influence and the suspicion that her family came second to her art. Piecing together the clues of her life as artist, lover, mother, wife and patient takes the reader from Cornwall to Canada across a span of 40 years. 

Gardner, Erle Stanley. The Case of the Lame Canary. Brilliance. ISBN 9781531827243. Read by Alexander Cendese.
The extraordinary Perry Mason never handles straightforward divorce cases, but this one is an especially strange bird. Rita Swaine is dating her sister’s ex-boyfriend. Her sister, Rosalind, is married to shady insurance adjuster Walter Prescott, who’s got dollar signs in his eyes and ice water in his veins. When Rita’s beau gallantly steps in to warn Rosalind about her heinous husband’s designs, Prescott hatches a plan to prey on them all—by suing for big profit. For Mason, this case should be a lark. But when a murdered man is found in the Prescott home—and a nosy neighbor sings an incriminating song about illicit love and a hidden gun—legal eagle Mason suddenly finds himself defending a sitting duck.

Harmon, Amy. From Sand and Ash. Blackstone. ISBN 9781531834692. Reader TBA.
Italy, 1943: Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger. As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chose the priesthood. Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church. But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. 

Jance, J.A. Clawback. (Ali Reynolds, Bk. 11). S. & S. Audio. ISBN 9781508226390. Read by Karen Ziemba.
When Ali’s parents lose their life savings to a Ponzi scheme, her father goes to confront his long-time friend and financial advisor, only to stumble into the scene of a bloody double homicide. With her father suddenly a prime suspect, Ali and her husband work to clear her father’s name, while at the same time seeking justice for her parents as well as the scheme’s other suddenly impoverished victims, one of whom is a killer.

Lacey, Catherine. Nobody Is Ever Missing. Blackstone. ISBN 9781441730732. Read by Saskia Maarleveld.
Without telling her family, Elyria takes a one-way flight to New Zealand, abruptly leaving her stable but unfulfilling life in Manhattan. As her husband scrambles to figure out what happened to her, Elyria hurtles into the unknown, testing fate by hitchhiking, tacitly being swept into the lives of strangers, and sleeping in fields, forests, and public parks. Her risky and often surreal encounters with the people and wildlife of New Zealand propel Elyria deeper into her deteriorating mind. Haunted by her sister’s death and consumed by an inner violence, her growing rage remains so expertly concealed that those who meet her sense nothing unwell. This discord between her inner and outer reality leads her to another obsession: If her truest self is invisible and unknowable to others, is she even alive? 

Legat, Anna. Swimming with Sharks. (DI Gillian Marsh, Bk. 1). Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520038490. Reader TBA.
When 40-something Nicola Eagles goes on the holiday of a lifetime to the Maldives, she never dreams she’ll fall in love—she’s too shy, too set in her ways. But then she meets someone who changes her life forever. Just when things seem to be going right for Nicola, though, she disappears without a trace. Was it a voluntary disappearance, was she abducted, or was she murdered? When her absence is noted back in the UK, DI Gillian Marsh is sent to investigate. 

incensed_cov_400x600__1476391908_18173Lin, Ed. Incensed. (Taipei Night Market, Bk. 2). Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501930690. Read by Ewan Chung.
In Taiwan, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for prioritizing family. When 25-year-old Jing-nan’s gangster uncle, Big Eye, asks a favor, Jing-nan can’t exactly say no. Big Eye’s 16-year-old daughter, Mei-ling, has a biker boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, and Big Eye wants Jing-nan to bring her to Taipei, away from the bad influences, and straighten her out. It doesn’t take Jing-nan long to discover Mei-ling is even more trouble than the average bratty, rebellious teenager. She’s been spoiled rotten and doesn’t know how to take no for an answer. She has her father’s thugs wrapped around her finger and quickly becomes the miniature dictator of Jing-nan’s life. But Mei-ling is also hiding a secret—one that puts her in harm’s way. 

Lonsdale, Kerry. All the Breaking Waves. Brilliance. ISBN 978-1-5366-0940-0. Read by Dara Rosenberg.
After a harrowing accident tore her family apart, Molly Brennan fled from the man she loved and the tragic mistake she made. Twelve years later, Molly has created a new life for herself and her eight-year-old daughter, Cassie. The art history professor crafts jewelry as unique and weathered as the surf-tumbled sea glass she collects, while raising her daughter in a safe and loving environment—something Molly never had. But when Cassie is plagued by horrific visions and debilitating nightmares, Molly is forced to return to Pacific Grove, the one place she swore she’d never move back to.

Lott, Cynthia. The Feathers. (Southern Spectral, Bk. 1). Blackstone. ISBN 9781504771122. Read by Courtney Patterson.
Thirty-five-year-old New Orleans resident Brenda Shapira fancies herself an amateur detective. But when she discovers a murder victim in the historic Garden District, she realizes it is no ordinary case. The stakes are higher and the mystery is more thrilling. As more bodies pile up, the evidence points to a seemingly impossible conclusion: the killer may be Thomas Carpenter—who died in 1878, a full century before the murders were committed. Could Carpenter really have found a way to return and seek vengeance against those he feels wronged him? But as Shapira and her partner unravel the long-ago mystery steeped in New Orleans history and the yellow fever epidemic, Brenda discovers she may be Carpenter’s next target.

McIntosh, Will. Faller. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781490680446. Read by George Guidall.
Day One: No one can remember anything—who they are, family and friends, or even how to read. Reality has fragmented and Earth consists of islands of rock floating in an endless sky. Food and water are all gone, except for what people can find, and they can’t find much. Faller’s pockets contain tantalizing clues: a photo of himself and a woman he can’t remember, a toy soldier with a parachute, and a mysterious map drawn in blood. With only these materials as a guide, he makes a leap of faith from the edge of the world to find the woman and set things right. He encounters other floating islands, impossible replicas of himself and others, and learns that one man hates him enough to take revenge for actions Faller can’t even remember.

Meades, Christopher. For the Love of Mary. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501935992. Read by Jonathan Todd Ross.
Fifteen-year-old Jacob feels almost smart, almost funny, almost good-looking, almost worthy of falling in love. Jacob’s mother has just started a curious (and rather un-Christian) holy war with the church across the street, while his father has secretly moved into the garage. Everything changes when Jacob meets Mary. Jacob thinks Mary is the most beautiful girl in the world. If only Mary’s father wasn’t the minister at the enormous rival church. If only she wasn’t dating a youth pastor with pristine white teeth and impeccably trimmed hair. If only Jacob could work up the courage to tell Mary how he feels. As the conflict between the churches escalates, a peeping Tom prowls the neighborhood, a bearded lady terrorizes unsuspecting Dairy Queen customers, a beautiful young girl entices Jacob into a carnal romp in a car wash, and the church parishioners prepare their annual re-enactment of Operation Desert Storm.

Olsen, Gregg. The Sound of Rain. Brilliance. ISBN 9781531878092. Read by Karen Peakes.
Former homicide detective Nicole Foster has hit rock bottom. Driven off the force by her treacherous partner and lover, she’s flat broke and struggling with a gambling addiction. All Nicole has left is the dream of a warm bed at a homeless shelter and the haunting memories of three-year-old Kelsey Chase—whose murder case ended her career. As Nicole obsesses over the old facts, she realizes everything about that case felt off: a disinterested mom, a suicidal pedophile, and too many questions left unanswered. When the little girl’s grieving father begs Nicole for help, she’s drawn back into the investigation—and given one shot at redemption.

small_admissions_9781501122521_hr__1476391965_73694Poeppel, Amy. Small Admissions. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681683751. Read by Carly Robins.
Despite her innate ambition and summa cum laude smarts, Kate Pearson has turned into a major slacker. After being dumped by her handsome, French “almost fiancé,” she abandons her grad school plans and spends her days lolling on the couch, leaving her apartment only when a dog-walking gig demands it. For reasons no one (least of all Kate) understands, she manages to land a job in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. In her new position, Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity during the height of the admissions season. Meanwhile, Kate’s sister and friends find themselves keeping secrets, hiding boyfriends, dropping bombshells, and fighting each other on how to keep Kate on her feet. 

Swinson, KiKi. Wifey’s Next Hustle. (Wifey’s Next Hustle, Bk. 1). Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520064826. Reader TBA.
After a brush with death and the loss of a loved one, Kira leaves her hometown for good, gives up being wifey, and finds herself a new hustle: selling high-end cars at a luxury dealership in South Beach. Her client list is filled with wealthy cats like hedge fund investors and dope boys. The dope boys bring in the most money. Kendrick Miles is one of the finest, and her best customer. So when it comes time for her to show him her appreciation, she doesn’t hesitate to pay up. But when she finds out that her debt came at the expense of someone else’s life, Kira is forced to call in reinforcements.

Thomson, Lesley. The House with No Rooms. (The Detective’s Daughter, Bk. 4). Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520044927. Reader TBA.
The summer of 1976 was the hottest in living memory. Britain sweltered, trees and plants wilted, fire ripped through forests, and rivers ran dry. In London’s Kew Gardens, a ten year old was parted from her friends and, dizzied by scorching heat, wandered into its secluded undergrowth. She thought she saw a woman lying dead on the ground, but when she opened her eyes, the woman had gone. Forty years later, the detective’s daughter, Stella Darnell, takes on a chilling new case. Along with her friend, Jack Harmon, she will be drawn to the secret spaces of Kew, into the obsessive world of botany, and towards an unsolved murder that has lain dormant for decades.

Tuck, Lily. The Double Life of Liliane. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501921544. Reader TBA.
As the child of a German movie producer father who lives in Italy and a beautiful, artistically talented mother in New York, Liliane’s life is divided between those two very different worlds. A shy and observant only child with a vivid imagination, Liliane uncovers the stories of family members as diverse as Moses Mendelssohn, Mary Queen of Scots and an early Mexican adventurer, and pieces together their vivid histories, through both World Wars and across continents.

Watson, Brad. Miss Jane. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501945748. Read by Tiffany Morgan.
Drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central “uses” for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage. From the world of nature around her to the hard labor of farm life, from the country doctor who befriends her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, Miss Jane Chisolm and her world are anything but barren. 

Zanetti, Rebecca. Deadly Silence. (Blood Brothers, Bk. 1). Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781478942689. Read by Karen White.
Ryker Jones feels like he’s under siege. The Lost Bastards Investigative Agency he opened up with his blood brothers has lost a client in a brutal way. The past he can’t outrun is resurfacing, threatening to drag him down in the undertow. And the beautiful woman he’s been trying to keep at arm’s length is in danger. Paralegal Zara Remington is in over her head. She’s making risky moves at work by day and indulging in an affair with a darkly dangerous PI by night. There’s a lot Ryker isn’t telling her and the more she uncovers, the less she wants to know. But when all hell breaks loose, Ryker may be the only one to save her. 

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.

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