Fiction Reviews, Sept. 1, 2012

starred review starAnton, Maggie. Rav Hisda’s Daughter, Bk I: Apprentice. Plume: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.480p.ISBN 9780452298095. pap. $16. F

Anton, the author of the acclaimed “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy, has penned her best book to date. Using her extensive knowledge of the Talmud and other historical Jewish writings, she immersed herself in the tractates to uncover a marvelous heroine for this historical novel. Hisdadukh, daughter of the rabbi Hisda, was born in the third century CE in Babylonia, where many Jews fled to escape persecution after the Romans conquered Israel and destroyed the temple. Growing up absorbing her father’s teachings intended for his male rabbinical students, Hisdadukh developed a great love of the Talmud and the Mishna, Jewish oral law. This first book of two begins when Hisdadukh­ is eight and follows her from her marriage to her first love, Rami, when she’s 14 through the death of her young husband and the loss of her children, to her transformation into an independent woman. In a time when women were prized for their beauty and their ability to bear children, Hisdadukh was an anomaly, a woman who loved learning and spirited debate. Complex discussions of Jewish law and tradition as well as detailed description of the culture and customs of the times enhance truly wonderful storytelling. VERDICT This absorbing novel should be on everyone’s historical fiction reading list.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage P.L., AK

Cronin, Justin. The Twelve. Ballantine. Oct. 2012. c.592p. ISBN 9780345504982. $28. F

In this second book of his epic vampire trilogy (after The Passage), Cronin once again deposits readers on the front lines of a human-made apocalypse. On the North American continent, a failed government experiment has turned most of humanity into lethal, vampirelike creatures called virals and destroyed the world as we know it. Cronin’s story follows the human survivors, moving smoothly between “Year Zero,” when the outbreak began, and a period 97 years later, when the remaining pockets of humanity seek not only to survive but also to eradicate the viral plague and defeat a despotic regime that has risen to power. VERDICT­ Cronin’s masterly prose and intricate plotting bring an entire world to life; his cast features both the flawed and the heroic, including an impressive number of strong female characters, and the vast scope of his story begs favorable comparisons to epics such as J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings and Stephen King’s The Stand. Readers left hanging at the end of the first book will find some resolution here, but also twists, turns, and new developments that will make them desperate for book three. Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy­ thrillers, science fiction, and epic adventure tales. [See Prepub Alert, 4/16/12; library marketing.]—Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins

starred review starFforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died a Lot: A Thursday Next Novel. Viking. Oct. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780670025022. $26.95. F

Still recovering from injuries received in the line of duty, literary cop Thursday Next is anticipating a promotion in this seventh series entry (after One of Our Thursdays Is Missing) but instead finds herself being put out to pasture as—gulp—a librarian! However, this is Fforde’s book-mad alternative England, where few are as respected as the heavily armed librarians in charge of the nation’s tomes. But some woes are universal, and Thursday must face massive budget cuts while also contending with problems at home with her children (one of whom doesn’t actually exist), a continuous stream of doppelgängers trying to replace her, and the reappearance of her archenemy, Jack Schitt. Together, the Next family struggles to prevent not only the destruction of their hometown via an actual religious smiting but also an apocalyptic event not due for another 37 years. Strap in and hang on tight, because the timeline is as linear as a wet noodle. VERDICT Another winner for fans and lovers of sf, time travel, puns, allusions, and all sorts of literary hijinks. [See Prepub Alert, 4/16/12.]—Devon Thomas, DevIndexing, Chelsea, MI

The following titles are reviewed in the September print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Anthony, Iris. The Ruins of Lace. Sourcebooks.Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781402268038. pap. $14.99. F

Bauer, Carlene. Frances and Bernard. Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2013. c.208p. ISBN 9780547858241. $23. F

Cable, Pamela King. Televenge. Satya House. Oct. 2012. c.582p. ISBN 9781935874164. pap. $19.95. F

Child, Lee. A Wanted Man. Delacorte. Sept. 2012. c.405p. ISBN 9780385344333 $28. F

Coleman, Rebecca. Heaven Should Fall. Mira: Harlequin. Oct. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780778313892. pap. $15.95. F

Edward, John. Fallen Masters. Tor. Sept. 2012. c.480p. ISBN 9780765332714. $25.99. F

Erickson, Carolly. The Unfaithful Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII’s Fifth Wife. St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780312596910. $25.99. F

Fernando, Roshi. Homesick. Knopf. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780307958105. $24.95. F

Ferrell, Sean. Man in the Empty Suit. Soho, dist. by Random House. Feb. 2013. c.320p. ISBN 9781616951252. $24.95. F

Frederick, K.C. Looking for Przybylski. Permanent. Oct. 2012. c.232p.ISBN 9781579622732. $28. F

Harris, Oliver. The Hollow Man. Harper: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9780062136718. pap. $14.99. F

Jacobson, Howard. Zoo Time. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Oct. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781608199389. $26. F

Jonasson, Jonas. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Hyperion. Sept. 2012. c.400p. tr. from Swedish by Rod Bradbury. ISBN 9781401324643. pap. $15.99. F

Kimball, Michael. Big Ray. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Nov. 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9781608198542. $22. F

starred review starLennon, J. Robert. Familiar. Graywolf. Oct. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781555976255. pap. $15. F

McDonough, Yona Zeldis. A Wedding in Great Neck. NAL: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780451237941. pap. $15. F

McOmber, Adam. The White Forest. Touchstone: S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781451664256. $25. F

Mabanckou, Alain. Memoirs of a Porcupine. Counterpoint, dist. by Publishers Group West. 2012. c.160p. tr. from French by Helen Stevenson.ISBN 9781593764364. pap. $15.95. F

Majors, Inman. Love’s Winning Plays. Norton. Sept. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780393062809. $25.95. F

Mapson, Jo-Ann. Finding Casey. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Oct. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781608197637. $26. F

starred review starMillet, Lydia. Magnificence. Norton. Nov. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780393081701. $25.95. F

starred review starMofina, Rick. They Disappeared. Mira: Harlequin. Oct. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780778313816. pap. $7.99. F

Neville, Stuart. Ratlines. Soho Crime. Jan. 2013. c.368p. ISBN 9781616952044. $26.95. F

Niven, Jennifer. Becoming Clementine. Plume: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780425298101. pap. $15. F

O’Brien, Timothy L. The Lincoln Conspiracy. Ballantine. Sept. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780345496775. $26. F

starred review starPamuk, Orhan. Silent House. Knopf. Oct. 2012. c.320p. tr. from Turkish by Robert Finn. ISBN 9780307700285. $26.95. F

Porter, Jane. The Good Woman: A Brennan Sisters Novel. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780425253007. pap. $15. F

Romano, Stephen. Resurrection Express. Gallery: S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9781451668643. $25. F

Schutt, Christine. Prosperous Friends. Grove. Nov. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780802120380. $24. F

Sloan, Robin. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Farrar. Oct. 2012. c.304p.ISBN 9780374214913. $25. F

Stebbins, Erec. The Ragnarök Conspiracy. Seventh Street Bks: Prometheus. Oct. 2012. c.343p. ISBN 9781616147129. pap. $15.95. F

Tóibín, Colm. The Testament of Mary. Scribner. Nov. 2012. c.96p. ISBN 9781451688382. $23. F

Wiles, Will. Care of Wooden Floors.New Harvest: Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780547953564. $24. F

starred review starWinter, Ariel S. The Twenty-Year Death. Hard Case Crime: Titan. 2012. c.672p. ISBN 9780857685810. $25.99. F

Zgustova, Monika. Goya’s Glass. Feminist Pr., dist. by Consortium. 2012. c.336p. tr. from Czech by Matthew Tree. ISBN 9781558617971. pap. $16.95. F

Short stories

Hadley, Tessa. Married Love: and Other Love Stories. HarperPerennial: HarperCollins. Dec. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780062135643. pap. $14.99. F

Katz, Jon. Dancing Dogs. Ballantine. Oct. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780345502681. $24. F

Science Fiction

starred review starPullman, Philip. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. Viking. Nov. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780670024971. $27.95. FANTASY

starred review starSamatar, Sofia. A Stranger in Olondria: Being the Complete Memoirs of the Mystic, Jevick of Tyom. Small Beer. Apr. 2013. c.300p. ISBN 9781618730626. $24; pap. ISBN 9781931520768. $16. FANTASY

Stine, R.L. Red Rain. Touchstone: S. & S. Oct. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781451636123. $24.99. HORROR