Amy Bloom, Robert Galbraith, Mary Gordon, John Scalzi, & More | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Aug. 2014, Pt. 3

Bloom, Amy. Lucky Us. Random. Aug. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781400067244. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812996005. CD: Penguin Random Audio. LITERARY
Bloom, a New York Times best-selling author as well as a National Book Award and National bloomamyBook Critics Circle Award finalist, here offers a tale of two half-sisters. It’s the 1940s, and Iris is dreaming of Hollywood, so she heads west with the much younger Eva in tow. Soon they’re back East amid upper-crust Long Islanders; then Iris must head to London, and Eva grows up quickly. The narrative is anchored by a cross-country road trip both touching and hilarious. With an 11-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Nashville, Miami, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Portland (OR), Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Cumming, Charles. A Colder War. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781250020611. $26.99. ESPIONAGE
Here’s another in New York Times best-selling Cumming’s edgily elegant works, perfect for those wanting a contemporary spy thriller in the vein of Le Carré and even for those who don’t. In the second Thomas Kell book, three recent recruits by Western intelligence—a military official and a nuclear scientist from Iran, plus a journalist critical of Turkey’s government—all meet unfortunate fates. Then M16’s veteran agent in Turkey perishes in a mysterious plane crash, and disgraced agent Tom Kell is pulled back in the fold to dig out the mole evidently buried somewhere.

Galbraith, Robert. The Silkworm. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780316206877. $28. THRILLER
As we all know, Galbraith’s first Cormoran Strike novel won great reviews but not great sales until it was revealed that Galbraith was actually J.K. Rowling. Wouldn’t you know a famous novelist is at the heart of this second Strike outing. When Owen Quine disappears, his wife assumes that he’s on one of his little escapades and asks Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike discovers, Quine has just finished a novel full of nasty portraits of people he knows, and one of them may have wanted to finish him off. Just announced but out in June.

Gordon, Mary. The Liar’s Wife: Four Novellas. Pantheon. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN gordonm9780307377432. $25.95. LITERARY
Past and present, Europe and America meet in this collection of four novellas from the incandescent Gordon. Simone Weil faces her death in New York City, Thomas Mann makes a difference to an American high school student, an American graduate student flees to Italy after a disastrous love affair, and a slippery-tongued Irish charmer shows us how to live. Just like a great Gordon novel times four; grab the reading group guide.

Jewell, Lisa. The House We Grew Up In. Atria. Aug. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781476702995. $24. CONTEMPOPARY WOMEN
The abundantly popular British novelist, who rejects the term chick lit, returns with a touching tale of a family in meltdown. The Bird family members—vibrant hippie mom Lorelei, dreamy dad Colin (note the Harry Potter glasses), daughters Meg and Beth, and the cute blond twins Rory and Rhys—live happily in a sunny little Cotswolds cottage. Then one Easter tragedy strikes, the family is torn apart, and only when the children are adults do the Birds try to reckon with what has really happened to them. With a reading group guide.

Scalzi, John. Lock In. Tor. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780765375865. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466849358. SFscalzi
When a virus blasts the nation, leaving most sufferers only feverish, a handful with acute meningitis, and an unfortunate one percent so completely locked in that they can’t speak or even move, scientists come to the rescue with two initiatives. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” that allows the locked-in to interact with others. The other involves the discovery that a few folks have brains receptive to being controlled by others, allowing the locked-in to hop aboard and use the bodies of these people as their own. Now doesn’t that sound dangerous? Hugo Award winner Scalzi does it again.

Woodroof, Martha. Small Blessings. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250040527. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466835887. CD: Macmillan Audio. LITERARY
Woodroof may be a debut novelist, but she’s got a big audience already. As an NPR producer, she’s already launched a ten-part Monkey See story on the experience of publishing a book. English professor Tom Putnam lives with vulnerable, withdrawn wife Marjory, whose condition has been aggravated by the knowledge that Tom had a fling with a visiting poet years ago. Things start looking up when Marjory warms to Rose, newly hired at the campus bookstore—but then the poet returns to town with the ten-year-old son Henry never knew he had.

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.