Barbara’s Picks, Feb. 2013, Pt. 2: Fiction from Kelley Armstrong to Paul Yoon

Armstrong, Kelley. Omens: A Cainsville Novel. Dutton. Aug. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780525953043. $26.95. FANTASY
In this launch of a new series from the author of the hugely popular “Otherworld” books, wealthy, 24-year-old Ivy Leaguer Olivia Taylor Jones is happily engaged when she discovers that she is adopted—and that her biological parents are serial killers imprisoned for life. Olivia’s efforts to find out more about them take her first to her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, and then to secretive Cainsville, IL, where she and Gabriel look into evidence that could prove her parents’ innocence. There, Olivia finds herself using strange talents hidden since childhood that give her special appeal to the spooky Cainsville residents while bringing out the bad guys. Mystery, romance, otherworldly stuff…classic Armstrong.

Baker, Lori. The Glass Ocean. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 352p.
ISBN 9781594205361. $25.95. HISTORICAL
Set in the Victorian world but neither Dickensian nor steampunk, this debut novel by Bobst Literary Award winner Baker is narrated by red-haired, six-foot-plus Carlotta Dell’oro, who relates the story of her parents’ lives. On an 1841 expedition aboard the Narcissus, during which he’s expected to sketch sea creatures, Leonardo Dell’oro falls for remote, lovely Clotilde Girard, whose father funded the voyage. Leonardo brings Clotilde to remote Whitby, England, when her father goes missing, but they aren’t the perfect couple. Eventually, Leonardo apprentices himself to a glassblower, learning to transform his sea sketches into fragile, fantastical forms. Love, art, and history; who can resist?

Engel, Patricia. It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris. Grove. Aug. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780802121516. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802193278. LITERARY
Lots of readers have wanted to know what Engel would write after her arresting debut, Vida, a PEN/Hemingway finalist. And here it is, an enticingly written work featuring Lita del Cielo, daughter of two Colombian orphans who made a fortune in America in the Latin food market. She’s not hanging around, though, but going to Paris for a year to study before taking her place in the family business. In Paris, Lita rents a room in Countess Séraphine’s decaying mansion–cum–boarding house and eventually finds love with sweet, introspective Cato, son of a virulent right-wing politician. Now what happens to her plans?

Marías, Javier. The Infatuations. Knopf. Aug. 2013. 352p. tr. from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa. ISBN 9780307960726. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307960733. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY/SUSPENSE
Titles by Marías have sold six million copies in 50 countries worldwide, and his prizes range from the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award to the Prix Femina Étranger. His devoted following in the United States is about to get bigger with his shift to a powerhouse publisher. Already a best seller in Europe, this work is a murder mystery wrapped in a novel of ideas, asking questions about love, mortality, and truth vs. appearance. María Dolz can’t help admiring the couple she spots daily at the Madrid café where she breakfasts; they seem so much happier than she is. Then the husband is murdered, and when María pays the widow a sympathy call, she meets (and falls for) a man with disturbing insights into the crime.

Yoon, Paul. Snow Hunters. S. & S. Aug. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9781476714813. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781476714837. LITERARY
A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 emerging author whose debut collection, Once the Shore, won a Best Debut Fiction award from National Public Radio, Yoon should do splendidly with this story of a young North Korean named Yohan. At the end of the Korean War, Yohan manages to defect, ending up in a Brazilian port town. Four people make his life less lonely: the Japanese tailor for whom he works, the groundskeeper at the church, and two wild children named Santi and Bia. Interesting that North Korea is surfacing in fiction (see, e.g., Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son), and great to see a new work by Yoon.

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.