Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, April 20, 2012

Week ending April 20, 2012

Gregory, Jill. Larkspur Road: A Lonesome Way Novel. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). May 2012. 275p. ISBN 9780425250891. pap. $7.99. ROMANCE
Travis Tanner unceremoniously dumped his high school sweetheart, Mia Quinn, 15 years ago. Mia now is a fifth-grade teacher in Lonesome Way, MT, having moved back home after her divorce to live with her now-deceased grandmother. Travis has left his FBI career to start a new business in his hometown and spend quality time with his ex-wife’s son, Grady, whom he legally adopted. He also sees plenty of opportunity to make up for his youthful mistakes. Mia wants nothing to do with Travis, especially now that her 16-year-old niece, Brittany, is staying with her for the summer. She hopes to finish her quilt for the annual fundraiser and try to reconnect with her great-aunt Winny, who has been estranged from the family for years. But seeing Travis in the flesh (oh, yeah) brings back memories, and when Grady needs a tutor, who better than the best fifth-grade teacher in Lonesome Way?
Verdict Considering how abruptly Travis ended their teenage relationship, Mia is a bit quick to forgive and forget‚ and kiss. There’s lots of tension surrounding Winny’s and Britt’s secrets, but Gregory (Sage Creek) wraps everything up for all concerned‚ perhaps a bit too neatly. Still, this sweet romance will appeal to fans of the genre.‚ Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Ikezawa, Natsuki. The Navidad Incident: The Downfall of Matías Giuli. Haikasoru: Viz Media. 2012. c.334p. tr. from Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum. ISBN 978142154225. $24.99. F
On the South Sea atoll of Navidad, its corrupt president, Matías Guili, is preparing to make a good impression before an arriving delegation of Japanese World War II veterans. When their delegation flag bursts into flames, it seems that it can’t get any worse. But when their bus disappears with all the vets on board‚ the island is transfixed. Locals report seeing the bus attending Catholic mass, skimming across the island lagoon, and appearing in local advertising. As the search for the bus continues, the president speaks to ghosts, uses the resources of a clairvoyant, and suspects a covert guerrilla organization is behind this incident.
Verdict Ikezawa, who won the prestigious Tanizaki Jun’ichiro Prize for this title, pushes the boundaries of storytelling and gives us a new vision of magical realism, merging the surreal with real-world dirty politics and humor. This mysterious and suggestive novel will attract readers who enjoy fantastical and surreal fiction. [Haikasoru is Viz Media’s new Japanese sf and fantasy imprint.‚ Ed.].‚ Ron Samul, New London, CT

McAfee, Annalena. The Spoiler. Knopf. Apr. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780307957344. $25.95. F
When freelance journalist Tamara Sim is assigned an in-depth interview in a tony Sunday magazine, she thinks she has been discovered. The interview is with the aged, now reclusive journalist Honor Tait. Tait was with the troops in Europe at the end of World War II. She reported from Hungary during the Soviet takeover, from a foxhole in Korea, and from Saigon at the evacuation of the American embassy and has been photographed with politicians, artists, and Hollywood stars. Sim is looking for an angle, a scandal, a personal defect that will sell, but Tait isn’t talking. Sim trails Tait doggedly until she discovers her with a much younger mystery man. As the mystery unravels, Sim has a lesson to learn.
Verdict McAfee, a former Orange Prize judge who founded the Guardian‘s literary supplement, highlights the slide of media reporting from serious to scandalous as she crafts a story that catches journalism on the cusp of the electronic age. Her characters are trapped in a transition they never expected. For all fiction readers.‚ Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence

starred review starMantel, Hilary. Bring Up the Bodies. John Macrae Bk: Holt. May 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9780805090031. $28. F
In her sequel to the Man Booker Prize‚ winning Wolf Hall, Mantel has succeeded in doing what only the most gifted novelist can do. She has fleshed out an enigma‚ the historical cipher that was Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s fixer‚ and made us accept her interpretation of him as valid. Cromwell helped Henry to annul his marriage to his wife of 20 years, Katherine, so he could marry the younger Anne Boleyn. But it is three years later now. Anne has committed two fatal errors: she hasn’t given the king a son and she has become shrewish. Henry’s eyes are on a younger, more placid woman, Jane Seymour. He wants to be rid of Anne. It is up to Cromwell to bring Henry what he wants.
Verdict It is Mantel’s crowning achievement to make Cromwell not just powerful but sympathetic. Mantel is a consummate setter of scenes: descriptions of stunning poetry are embedded amid savagery and earthiness. The historical novel does not come any better than this. It will be as much of a success as its predecessor. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/11.]‚ David Keymer, Modesto, CA

Piñeiro, Caridad. The Claimed. Grand Central. (Sin Hunters, Bk. 2). May 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780446584609. pap. $7.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
As a future Quinchu of the Light Hunter race, Victoria Johnson is tasked with choosing a strong mate before she reaches the end of her equinox, thereby ensuring the continued existence of her people. When she first locks eyes with Christopher Sombrosa, she doesn’t realize that he is a Shadow Hunter‚ and therefore her sworn enemy‚ but that does nothing to abate the magnetic pull she feels toward him. Like Victoria, Christopher’s role as Anura brings with it a responsibility to lead his local Shadow Hunters to a prosperous future. Yet, while both are willing to explore their mutual attraction in the course of sussing out each other’s secrets, there are those among them who believe that light and shadow do not mix, and they will do anything necessary to sever their bond.
Verdict In this second book in the Sin Hunters series, Pi√±eiro (The Lost) layers equal parts action and romance with liberal coatings of paranormal effects to produce a reworked tale of forbidden love. Although one might wish for fewer scenes involving the secondary players, fans of the genre will nonetheless appreciate the author’s attention to character development, pacing, and descriptive detail. For all romance collections.‚ Natasha Grant, New York

Schuster, Marc. The Grievers. Permanent. May 2012. c.176p. ISBN 9781579622633. $26. F
Charley Schwartz is shaken by the suicide of his high school friend Billy Chen. He recognizes that his own life is going nowhere. He has a job parading around as a giant dollar sign in front of a bank and an unfinished dissertation. Charley, therefore, attempts to organize a memorial service for Billy at the elite private school they attended. Nothing, however, goes according to plan. The school’s development director decides to turn the memorial into a giant fundraiser; another classmate wants to use the time to stage a bizarre play he has written; and everything brings back high school memories of never taking anything seriously, of bullying and being bullied, and most of all pretending to be cool.
In his sophomore outing (after The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl), Schuster writes with pointed wit as he satirizes male bonding and its discontents. This bittersweet novel about men unwilling to accept that they have become adults, like several other recent novels, e.g., Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending and Lawrence Douglas’s The Vices, uses a suicide as the means for the narrator’s self-examination. This book, however, is much funnier.‚ Andrea Caron Kempf, formerly with, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"