Sleeping Beauty Retold, an Unusual Coming-of-Age Tale, Dystopic Noir | Fiction

whileredstarBlackwell, Elizabeth. While Beauty Slept. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. Feb. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780399166235. $25.95. F

In this retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story as seen through the eyes of Elise, a loyal servant and confidante to the royal family, readers follow Elise as she strives to learn how to be a servant while rising quickly through the ranks, balancing her new life as a friend to the queen with her downstairs friendships with maids and servants. Royal intrigue mingles with fairy tale lore and when the curse falls, as readers know it will, it is unexpected and heartrending. Even if at times the story appears to be following a predictable route, the surprises keep coming, and events dance around one another to form a new path to the climax. VERDICT Blackwell, previously a reporter and romance writer, makes her historical fiction debut with a gripping tale full of romance, secrets, and promises made and broken. This beautiful, original reinterpretation of a classic story is engrossing and often surprising. Recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings or gothic historical fiction.—Katie ­Lawrence, Chicago

redstarHadley, Tessa. Clever Girl. Harper. Mar. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780062270399. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062270405. F

A middle-aged woman relates her life story from the 1960s to the present, a coming-of-age, after age, after age story, as she evolves into womanhood in the UK. Bright and industrious, a mother at an early age, Stella is filled with unresolved fury and rebellion. She is always most gratified when situations or people save her from herself. Dramatic and realistic, Stella’s story includes violent deaths, failed affairs, and broken hearts. The book is not so much about what she chooses in her life as it is about how she lives out what befalls her. A uniquely gifted writer, Hadley (Married Love), never vague, possesses a narrative voice that moves the characters through their phases with parenthetic irony. Like an artist dabbing in precise luminous details, she has a masterly grasp of pivotal moments and renders them with brilliant economy. VERDICT This is an absorbing work, sure to appeal to readers who are in touch with their own inner voices. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/13.]—Joyce Townsend, ­Pittsburg, CA

redstarSternbergh, Adam. Shovel Ready. Crown. Jan. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780385348997. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780385349000. F

Former garbageman Spademan is a box cutter–wielding death dealer in a near future New York City decimated by car bombs and dirty bombs. Geiger counters are chic accessories for stylish youth, and jacking in to a thoroughly immersive virtual reality world is all the rage. Spademan thinks his life is simple—do the job, get paid—until his new mark turns out to be a young girl who calls herself Persephone. She’s on the run from her very powerful father, and he’ll do anything, and take down anyone, to get her back. Persephone’s got secrets that could topple an evangelical empire, and she is determined at all costs to save herself. ­VERDICT First-time author Sternbergh takes a heavy dose of noir and sets it in a dystopian setting. Spademan is an unlikely yet tragic hero, and it takes a talented author to make a reader root for such a damaged and ruthless man. Lean prose is punctuated by moments of shocking violence that only serve to underscore the novel’s underlying humanity, and Persephone is a shining, brutal example of the will to survive at all costs. This is a gripping genre mash-up and a stunning debut. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/13; this title was selected for Barnes & Noble’s Spring 2014 Discover Great New Writers season.—Ed.]—Kristin ­Centorcelli, Denton, TX

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Baszile, Natalie. Queen Sugar. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780670026135. $27.95. F

Butler, Nickolas. Shotgun Lovesongs. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250039811; ebk. ISBN 9781466840799. $25.99. F

Catton, Eleanor. The Luminaries. Little, Brown. 2013. 848p. ISBN 9780316074315. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316126953. F

redstarDenfeld, Rene. The Enchanted. Harper. Mar. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780062285508. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062285522. F

Frangello, Gina. A Life in Men. Algonquin. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781616201630. pap. $14.95. F

Grand, David. Mount Terminus. Farrar. Mar. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780374280888. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374711658. F

redstarJoyce, Rachel. Perfect. Random. Jan. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780812993301. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780679645122. F

Lawhon, Ariel. The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress. Doubleday. Jan. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780385537629. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385537636. F

redstarMoore, Christopher. The Serpent of Venice. Morrow. Apr. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780061779763. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062194879. F

Ngugi, Wanjiku Wa. The Fall of Saints. Atria. Feb. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781476714912. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781476714936. F

Pasulka, Brigid. The Sun and Other Stars. S. & S.

Feb. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781451667110. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451667134. F

Pavone, Chris. The Accident. Crown. Mar. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780385348454. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780385348461. F

Sampsell, Kevin. This Is Between Us. Tin House. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9781935639701. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781935639718. F

Sealy, Jon. The Whiskey Baron. Hub City. Apr. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781891885747. $26. F

redstarSigurdardottir, Yrsa. I Remember You: A Ghost Story. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2014. 352p. tr. from Icelandic by Philip Roughton. ISBN 9781250045621. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250019004. F

Thier, Aaron. The Ghost Apple. Bloomsbury USA. Mar. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781620405277. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620405291. F

Turner, Nancy E. My Name Is Resolute. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2014. 560p. ISBN 9781250036599. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250036582. F

Wildgen, Michelle. Bread & Butter. Doubleday. Feb. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780385537438. $25.95. F


redstarMoore, Lorrie. Bark. Knopf. Mar. 2014. 176p. ISBN 9780307594136. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780307594136. F