Fiction Previews, October 2012, Pt. 1: Block, Frazier, Johansen, and More

Block, Francesca Lia. The Elementals. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781250005496. $24.99; eISBN 9781250018427. POP FICTION
Ariel Silverman is facing more than just first-year jitters at Berkeley. Not only is her mother fighting cancer at home in Los Angeles but Ariel still mourns the disappearance of best friend Jeni. Then she meets three strange and seductive young people at a crumbling mansion up in the hills, which may just lead to her discovering what happened to her friend. Ultra-hot YA author Block, recipient of the ALA’s Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2005, tilts toward the adult market (as she has in the past) with a coming-of-age novel that’s being plugged for book clubs.

Cornwell, Patricia. The Bone Bed. Putnam. Oct. 2012. 512p. ISBN 9780399157561. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
First, a leading paleontologist goes missing from a dinosaur dig in Canada. Then a body is heaved out of Boston Harbor. Soon other curious, unsolved cases pile up, and forensic expert Kay Scarpetta has her hands full‚ with no one to help, because her lead investigator, Pete Marino, and FBI agent husband, Benton Wesley, are both grumbling about changes at Cambridge Forensic Center, where she is now chief medical examiner, even as niece Lucy stays uncharacteristically low profile. Cornwell has been struggling lately; see what happens, and buy for her fans.

Danielewski, Mark Z. The Fifty Year Sword. Pantheon. Oct. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780307907721. $23.95; eISBN 9780307907738. LITERARY THRILLER
The setting is decidedly thrillerish: in an East Texas ranch house, five orphans listen attentively to a story about a quest for a special weapon, even as a big black box with five latches looms before them. Just what will happen as the clock strikes midnight? But given that Danielewski is the author of books like the cutting-edge House of Leaves, don’t expect standard thrillerish writing.

Fury, Dalton. Tier One Wild: A Delta Force Novel. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780312668389. $25.99; eISBN 9781250018564. CD: Macmillan Audio.
The senior ranking military officer at the Battle of Tora Bora, the 2001 campaign in Afghanistan aimed at capturing Osama bin Laden, Fury had a nonfiction best seller with Kill bin Laden. Black Site, his fiction debut‚ just published in February 2012‚ is being embraced by fans. So there will likely be enthusiasm for this quick follow-up, again starring Kolt Raynor. After a SEAL Team Six mission fails to eliminate American al-Qaeda commander Daoud al Amriki, who’s shepherding a group of terrorists across the border with the aim of disrupting American aircraft via Russian-bought surface-to-air missiles, Raynor is called to the task. For all military/techo thriller fans.

Francis, Felix. Dick Francis’s Bloodline. Putnam. Oct. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780399160806. $26.95. THRILLER
When race caller and television producer Mark Shillingford accuses twin sister Clare, an accomplished jockey, of throwing a race, she storms off‚ and later is found dead beneath the balcony of her London hotel. What really happened? Another horse-race novel from Francis, who’s following in his Edgar Award‚ winning father’s hoof prints.

Frazier, Ian. The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days. Farrar. Oct. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780374133184. $24; eISBN 9780374709495. CD: Macmillan Audio. LITERARY
You know Frazier as the author of fluidly absorbing books like Great Plains and Travels in Siberia. Now he’s written a first novel, which features the Cursing Mommy character from the columns he’s been publishing in the Shouts and Murmurs section of The New Yorker since 2009. She’s the original desperate housewife, red wine in hand, so take her tips about managing the household with a handful of salt. Can’t wait to see how Frazier’s tuned-in nonfiction skills transfer to fiction.

Hutchins, Scott. A Working Theory of Love. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781594205057. $25.95. LITERARY
His marriage having ended in a matter of months, Neill Bassett is back in San Francisco, working for the artificial intelligence company Amiante Systems despite a complete lack of computer science credentials. The company has hired him to input his father’s dull but monstrously detailed journals into what it hopes will be the first sentient computer‚ and the computer soon obliges by asking disturbing questions about Neill’s childhood. Even as he contends with his own romantic mishaps, Neill discovers that a crucial year is missing from the diaries‚ pages that might have explained his parents’ foundering marriage and his father’s suicide. A conversational first novel from a Truman Capote Fellow at Stanford’s Wallace Stegner program; watch it.

Kirkman, Robert & Jay Bonansinga. The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780312547745. $24.99; eISBN 9781250013446. CD: Macmillan Audio. HORROR
The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor provided backstory for one of the creepiest characters in Kirkman’s boundary-shattering comic book series for Image Comics and the subsequent television show‚ both called The Walking Dead, of course. Here, Philip Blake, aiming for the leadership of Woodbury, would kill to make Woodbury a safe haven in a sea of postapocalyptic horror. For all those brave fans.

Jacobson, Howard. Zoo Time. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. Oct. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781608199389. $26. LITERARY
Disillusioned novelist Guy Ableman is so yanked about emotionally by wife Vanessa, a blazingly difficult redhead, and her equally difficult mother that he can barely write, but no matter. His publisher has committed suicide, and who’s reading anyway? (Actually, lots of folks, but I digress.) Will Guy be able to find a way to be inspired rather than sapped by Vanessa and pull off one great novel? And whatever will come of Vanessa’s threat to write a novel of her own? Caustic humor from the author of the Man Booker Prize winner of The Finkler Question.

Johansen, Iris. Sleep No More. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780312651244. $27.99; eISBN 9781250018120. THRILLER
Having long endured the loss of her daughter, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan has more trouble thrown in her face. Her mother begs her to help find a woman named Beth Avery who has fled a mental hospital‚ because, as Eve soon learns, Beth is her half-sister. And, this being a Johansen thriller, they’re all in danger. With a one-day laydown on October 16 and a powerful publicity campaign; obviously, you’ll want more than one.

Lindqvist, John Ajvide. Little Star. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. 544p. ISBN 9780312620516. $26.99; eISBN 9781250012821. THRILLER
Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In was made into an award-winning Swedish film whose American remake, Let Me In, was called the best American horror film in 20 years by Stephen King. The proof is in the reading, of course, but that does bode well for Lindqvist’s latest, about a man who finds an abandoned baby in the woods and takes her home, teaching her music as she grows. Later, she’s spotted in a televised singing contest by another girl who lives at some remove; when they meet, something evil this way comes. Fans will seek out.

Mapson, Jo-Ann. Finding Casey: A Novel. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. Oct. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781608197637. $26. POP FICTION
Glory is newly married, newly pregnant at 41, and happy in the Santa Fe home she shares with husband Joseph and adopted daughter Juniper, never mind the ghost said to be hanging about the rafters. Juniper is home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday and finally in love. But all’s not well, for years ago, before Glory and Joseph came into her life, Juniper had a sister named Casey who disappeared. Featuring characters from Solomon’s Oak, winner of the American Library Association’s 2011 RUSA Award for Women’s Fiction; smart heartstrings.

Meek, James. The Heart Broke In. Farrar. Oct. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780374168711. $28; eISBN 9780374709327. LITERARY
An Ondaatje Prize winner for The People’s Act of Love, an international best seller that has reportedly interested Johnny Depp, British author Meek once worked for the newspapers‚ he was named Foreign Correspondent and Amnesty Journalist of the Year in 2004. So it’s fitting (especially given the media stir in Britain these days) that a main character in his new novel is powerhouse tabloid editor Val, who pretends to be the nation’s voice of conscience even as he schemes to wreak revenge on obdurately honest Bec, who dared to break off their engagement. Meek will especially satisfy readers who want all the careful details.

McLaren, Kaya. How I Came to Sparkle Again. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781250013873. $24.99; eISBN 9781250017031. POP FICTION
Obviously, the sparkle of the title is a much-desired state of mind, but it’s also a place, specifically, a ski town in Colorado. Jill Anthony returns there to escape the anguish of a miscarriage and a faithless husband. Lisa Carlucci, who lives there, decides that she wants not just sex but love and surprises herself by considering her ski-bum best friend. And ten-year-old Cassie Jones recalls the heart-shaped rocks she and her mother, now lost to cancer, once collected in Sparkle’s nearby hills and streams. All three meet, for the better, in the snow-sparkly town one winter. McLaren’s Church of the Dog was a sweet read; try this new novel.

Sandford, John. Mad River: A Virgil Flowers Novel. Putnam. Oct. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780399157707. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
Three angry teenagers without prospects but with access to guns make like Bonnie and Clyde and a sidekick, killing a highway patrolman, then a woman during a robbery, and then just keep going, often sending cellphone images of their crimes to a local Minnesota TV station. Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers joins the crowd hunting down these nasties‚ just before things get really bad. Flowers seems about as popular as Sandford regular John Prey; buy up.

Sloan, Robin. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Farrar. Oct. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780374214913. $25; eISBN 9780374708832. LITERARY
Suddenly jobless in the current recession, San Francisco web designer Clay Jannon starts working at the eponymous bookstore, whose few (but regular) customers seem merely to shuffle over to a dark corner and read obscure texts. Is the store a front? Clay’s efforts to find out lead to some big surprises. Billed as a literary adventure in the spirit of Haruki Murakami or Neal Stephenson and also recalling works by Carlos Luis Zafón; that Sloan says he splits his time between San Francisco and the Internet suggests a potential for edgy whimsy.

Wong, David. This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780312546342. $25.99; eISBN 9781250017901. HORROR
Here’s a sequel to John Dies at the End, the online comic horror spectacular that inspired 70,000 downloads and then book sales amounting to 60,000 copies. An evidently revived John and costar David battle the zombie anxiety that’s gripped the world after release of all those zombie books and movies‚ never mind that there’s no proof that zombies are actually stalking the earth. Still, something is out there stalking, and it makes zombies look like cupcakes. A couple of hundred Goodreads folks have already declared interest in this book by Wong, the pseudonym of Jason Pargin, editor in chief of

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.