Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, February 14, 2014

Week ending February 14, 2014

McCabe, Erin Lindsay. I Shall Be Near to You. Crown. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780804137720. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780804137737. F
When her husband, Jeremiah, joins the Union Army in 1862, newlywed Rosetta Wakefield quickly realizes she isn’t prepared to wait quietly at home for his return. Ill-suited for a life of housework and sewing, she instead cuts her hair short and sets out to join him in the ranks as “Ross Stone,” hoping that their combined wages will allow them to buy a farm in Nebraska when the war is over. Inspired by the true stories of women who fought on both sides of the Civil War, McCabe’s first novel gives readers an intriguing glimpse at the challenges those women faced.
Verdict First and foremost a love story, this book has a memorable heroine in the often naïve but always spirited Rosetta, who remains determined to stay by Jeremiah’s side despite the difficulties of maintaining her deception. Even those who question the wisdom of her choices will find it hard to put the book down once started, and historical fiction fans will find much to savor in this affecting debut.—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL

McEvoy, Dermot. The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family, Michael Collins, and the Irish Uprising. Skyhorse. Feb. 2014. 595p. ISBN 9781626365612. $24.95. F
The author’s second novel centering on Irish rebel Michael Collins (after A Terrible Angel) sees the hero through two sets of eyes: those of Collins’s protégé Eoin Kavanagh and of Eoin’s grandson (reading his grandfather’s diary) 80-plus years later. From the Easter Rising of 1916 to the assassination of Collins in 1922, McEvoy details—sometimes overly so—the battle for Irish independence. At first it was the Irish against the British, but then the Gaels turned on each other. The machinations and personalities are vivid, but the author weighs the tale down by repeating numerous minor facts. The contemporary sections featuring the grandson lengthen rather than explain the story. Grandpa Kavanagh also has a few too many Zelig-like moments with American politicians like JFK and FDR in later years.
Verdict Given the repetition, the hokey sex chatter, and the21st-century narration conceit, it is difficult to think of a reader who would enjoy wading through the many distractions to find the valid story hidden within.—W. Keith McCoy, Somerset Cty. Lib. Syst., Bridgewater, NJ

starred review starThe Time Traveler’s Almanac. Tor. Mar. 2014. 960p. ed. by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. ISBN 9780765374219. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765374240. SF
timetravelers021414In this amazing tome, the husband-and-wife team who also edited the World Fantasy Award–winning The Weird survey the literary development of the time travel genre from the 1880s to the present. The anthology starts with Charles Yu’s delightful essay “Top Ten Tips for Time Travelers,” which advises readers to forget about the so-called rules of time travel. The book is then divided into four sections: Experiments; Reactionaries and Revolutionaries; Mazes and Traps; and Communiques. Each section wraps up with an educational, nonfiction gem. Authors of the more than 70 stories include Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, and Connie Willis.
Verdict Completely satisfying, this collection will appeal on some level to every sf reader. Although these stories were written over time, from the first time travel story ever published, “The Clock That Went Backward” (1881) by Edward Page Mitchell, to “Thirty Seconds from Now” (2011) by John Chu, they each prove timeless. So accept the (il)logic of time travel, and enjoy the ride.—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

Tursten, Helene. The Fire Dance. Soho Crime. 2014. 320p. tr. from Swedish by Laura A. Wideburg. ISBN 9781616950101. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616950118. MYS
This is an earlier work (published in Sweden as Eldsdansen in 2005) involving Tursten’s DI Irene Huss. Investigating the death of a dancer/choreographer, Huss recalls the serial arson case in which she first met the victim, Sophie, 15 years ago when Sophie’s stepfather was killed in a fire, supposedly started by a cigarette. It’s a case that has never sat right with Huss. At the time it was ruled an accident. Now years later, Sophie is dead after choreographing a new piece, “The Fire Dance.” And then an elderly woman is killed. Is there a connection? Sophie’s past is revealed to unearth some dark secrets.
Verdict Although the plot falters and leads to a somewhat predictable ending, series fans will enjoy the details of Huss’s early career and her continuing family saga of being a working mother of teenage twins. Readers of Anne Holt or Mari Jungstedt will enjoy this installment—Frances Thorsen, Chronicles of Crime Bookshop, Victoria, BC