Barbara’s Picks, Jul. 2013, Pt. 2: Gardiner, Kiernan, Lin-Liu, Rymer, and Van Booy

Gardiner, Meg. The Shadow Tracer. Dutton. Jul. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780525953227. $26.95. THRILLER
Single mother Sarah Keller makes a living by tracking down folks on the run from, say, debt or prison. But maybe she’s on the run herself; after her five-year-old, Zoe, is in a school bus accident, tests show that she’s not the daughter of Sarah but of Sarah’s sister Beth, who was murdered. Now Sarah has a lot to prove. A standalone from the Edgar Award winner that should not be missed.

Kiernan, Stephen. The Curiosity. Morrow. Jul. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780062221063. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062221087. THRILLER
Aside from a 75,000-copy first printing, the purchase of film rights by 20th Century Fox, and the author’s credentials (he’s a multi-award-winning journalist), what does this book have going for it? A really intriguing premise. When a team of scientists uncovers a man frozen deep in the Arctic ice, Erastus Carthage, the megalomaniac running the project, orders team manager Dr. Kate Philo to attempt to revive him—after all, she’s done it with plankton. Soon, a surprised Jeremiah Rice is recalling falling overboard sometime in 1906—and is falling for Kate. But Erastus plans to exploit the situation in a nasty way.

Lin-Liu, Jen. On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Jul. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781594487262. $26.95. MEMOIR/CULINARY
If you don’t love Chinese food, or Italian food, or the romance of the Silk Road, you can stop reading now. But I’m betting most of you are still with me. Enjoying pasta on her honeymoon in Italy, food writer Lin-Liu (Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China) was reminded of the food she enjoyed in China, where she has lived for a decade. That led her to wonder how both food and culture moved along the Silk Road—and to travel the route herself, eating her way from Beijing dumplings to Turkish manti to Italian tortellini. Great for book clubs, especially those who like food along with the discussion.

Rymer, Russ. Paris Twilight. Houghton Harcourt. Jul. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780618113736. $25. THRILLER
Rymer is the author of Genie: A Scientific Tragedy, which became a NOVA television documentary and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and American Beach, which was a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year Award finalist. So he’s no neophyte, but this is his first fiction. When American physician Matilde Anselm goes to Paris to help with a heart transplant, protests against the first Gulf War are stopping traffic, and she’s getting worried about the hush-hush aspects of the surgery.  A surprising love affair with an Arab diplomat catches her off guard, as does her sudden inheritance of a Paris apartment. But nothing stops her uncertain feeling that something’s very wrong. Not a huge first printing, but given Rymer’s writing skills, the intriguing set-up, and the Paris venue, I can’t resist.

Van Booy, Simon. The Illusion of Separateness. Harper: HarperCollins. Jul. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780062112248. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062112262. LITERARY FICTION
I found Van Booy’s award-winning Everything Beautiful Began After particularly memorable; colleague Annalisa Pesek reports that his stories are to die for; and the heightened moral atmosphere afforded by the World War II seeds of the story is a definite eye-catcher. So I’m excited about this work, featuring a host of telling characters, e.g., a deformed German infantryman, Jewish American newlyweds divided by war, and a caretaker at a California retirement home for actors. They’re all linked by one man’s moment of mercy.


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.