Debuts from McKeon and Ng, Small Press Fiction, Summer Suspense, & More | Fiction Reviews

redstarMcKeon, Darragh. All That Is Solid Melts into Air. Harper Perennial. May 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780062246875. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062246882. F

All That Is Solid Melts into AirTop surgeon Grigory finds refuge from his failed marriage in his work at a Moscow hospital. His ex-wife, Maria, makes car parts at a factory, the numbing repetition crushing her rebellious spirit. Maria’s nephew is a nine-year-old piano prodigy, who practices noiselessly to avoid disturbing the neighbors at their dilapidated apartment building. And in a Ukrainian village, residents awaken to a crimson sky while in a nearby field the ears of cattle are dripping blood. An unthinkable tragedy has happened at the Chernobyl Power Plant, ten miles away, and nothing will ever be the same. This startling debut novel is a love story set against the harrowing tale of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. As the government attempts to downplay and even cover up the catastrophe, people are dying, some quickly, others slowly over years, black sores appearing on their tongues and skin; out in the woods, “Mother Nature is bleeding.” VERDICT McKeon’s thrilling narrative is matter-of-fact but emotionally powerful, and his convincing characters depict precisely the perseverance of the human spirit in the darkest of times. A promising debut; highly recommended. [See “Key Summer Titles,” 2/3/14.]—Lisa Block, Atlanta

redstarMoyes, Jojo. One Plus One. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Jul. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780525426585. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698152007. F

One Plus OneJess Thomas works hard to support her ten-year-old, math-genius daughter and bullied teenage stepson, but it never seems to be enough. With two part-time jobs and no child support from her estranged husband, Jess is desperate to change her fortune. Ed Nicholls suddenly finds his world crashing down as he comes under investigation for insider trading. Facing the loss of his business, his oldest friend, and likely his freedom, he flees to his vacation home in the south of England. Jess discovers just how far she will go for the sake of her family when an opportunity to send her daughter to an elite school presents itself, even if that means a road trip to Scotland with the kids, their enormous dog, and a near stranger, Ed. Without fail, everything goes wrong. But in the end, this amazing novel is about more than a road trip; it is about trust, dignity, desperation, and, ultimately, love. VERDICT Moyes (The Girl You Left Behind) has a remarkable gift for creating balanced, deep characters who struggle to find their own way. With humor, and insight, and an amazing ability to see how personal hitting rock bottom can become, she has written an emotional, rich, and satisfying novel. Highly recommended. [Eight-city tour.]—Jennifer Beach, Cumberland Cty. P.L., VA

redstarNg, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You. Penguin Pr. Jun. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781594205712. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101634615. F

Everything I Ever Told YouNg’s debut is one of those aching stories about which the reader knows so much more than any of the characters, even as each yearns for the unknowable truth. “Lydia is dead,” the novel opens—blunt, unnerving, devastating. She’s only 16, the middle of three children of James and Marilyn Lee, a mixed-race couple married years before the ironically named Loving v. Virginia finally invalidated U.S. antimiscegenation laws in 1967. They’re initially drawn together by their differences: James, the American-born son of Chinese immigrants, finishing his Harvard PhD; Marilyn, the only Radcliffe undergraduate determined to become a doctor, a gifted scientist among unbelieving men. When they bury their daughter in 1977, the Lee family—already fragile before the tragedy—implodes. James detaches, Marilyn seeks refuge, brother Nath blames, and youngest Hannah silently watches all. Each will search for a Lydia who doesn’t exist, desperate to parse what happened. ­VERDICT Ng constructs a mesmerizing narrative that shrinks enormous issues of race, prejudice, identity, and gender into the miniaturist dynamics of a single family. A breathtaking triumph, reminiscent of prophetic debuts by Ha Jin, Chang-rae Lee, and ­Chimamanda Adichie, whose first titles matured into spectacular, continuing literary legacies. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/13.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

redstarRowell, Rainbow. Landline. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250049377. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466850378. F

LandlineThe New York Times best-selling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl makes a leap back to the world of adult relationships we last saw in her Attachments. Georgie ­McCool (her husband Neal didn’t want her to change her killer name, either) writes with her best friend/writing soul mate, Seth, for a TV show, but they’ve just sold the program of their dreams to a network—as long as they can deliver four episodes by December 27. When she’s supposed to be in Nebraska. With her family. For Christmas. After Neal takes the girls to Nebraska without her, Georgie’s world begins to crumble. Neal seems to be dodging all of her calls until she starts phoning to the old rotary phone in her mother’s house—and finds an odd connection to the past. Georgie’s progress with her writing stalls as she tries to figure out her past, present, and future. VERDICT While the topic might have changed, this is still ­Rowell—reading her work feels like listening to your hilariously insightful best friend tell her best stories. [See “Editors’ Spring Picks,” LJ 2/15/14; national tour; library marketing.]—­Julie Kane, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., VA

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
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Ahern, Cecelia. One Hundred Names. Morrow. May 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780062248633. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062248640. F

redstarBarry, Sebastian. The Temporary Gentleman. Viking. May 2014. 310p. ISBN 9780670025879. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698163485. F

Bergstrom, Heather Brittain. Steal the North. Viking. 2014. 315p. ISBN 9780670786183. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101612750. F

Clark, Stephan Eirik. Sweetness #9. Little, Brown. Aug. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780316278751. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316278768. F

Crook, Elizabeth. Monday, Monday. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780374228828. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374711375. F

Davenport, Randi. The End of Always. Twelve: Grand Central. May 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781455573073. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781455573066. F

Galloway, Steven. The Confabulist. Riverhead. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781594631962. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101631430. F

Gilman, Susan Jane. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. Grand Central. Jun. 2014. 528p. ISBN 9780446578936. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781455555451. F

Hashimi, Nadia. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. Morrow. May 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780062244758. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062244772. F

House, Richard. The Kills. Picador. Aug. 2014. 1024p. ISBN 9781250052438. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781250052445. F

Kerouac, Jack. The Haunted Life. Da Capo: Perseus. 2014. 224p. ed. by Todd Tietchen. ISBN 9780306823046. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780306823053. F

Khakpour, Porochista. The Last Illusion. Bloomsbury USA. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781620403044. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620403051. F

Knight, Anouska. Since You’ve Been Gone. HQN: Harlequin. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780373779284. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460330265. F

redstarKoch, Herman. Summer House with Swimming Pool. Hogarth: Crown. Jun. 2014. 304p. tr. from Dutch by Sam Garrett. ISBN 9780804138819. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780804138826. F

redstarLotz, Sarah. The Three. Little, Brown. May 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780316242905. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316242929. F

redstarNahm, David Connerley. Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky. Two Dollar Radio. Aug. 2014. 222p. ISBN 9781937512200. pap. $16. F

Nicholson, Geoff. The City Under the Skin. Farrar. Jun. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780374169046. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781429954853. F

Parish, Stan. Down the Shore. Viking. Jun. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780670016426. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698137707. F

Pekkanen, Sarah. Catching Air. Washington Square: Atria. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781451673531. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781451673548. F

Preston, Douglas. The Kraken Project. Forge: Tor. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780765317698. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466854550. F

redstarPritchett, Laura. Stars Go Blue. Counterpoint. Jun. 2014. 208p. ISBN 9781619023086. $25. F

Rachman, Tom. The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. Dial. May 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780679643654. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812995725. F

redstarRankin-Gee, Rosa. The Last Kings of Sark. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781250045355. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466844001. F

redstarRotert, Rebecca. Last Night at the Blue Angel. Morrow. Jul. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780062315281. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062315304. F

Straub, Emma. The Vacationers. Riverhead. May 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781594631573. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101618042. F

Webb, Peggy. The Language of Silence. Gallery. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781451684810. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781451684827. F

redstarWillig, Lauren. That Summer. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781250014504. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466851474. F

Wood, Naomi. Mrs. Hemingway. Penguin. Jun. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780143124610. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101632093. F

Woolard, Jim R. Raiding with Morgan: A Novel of the Civil War. Kensington. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781617732683. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781617732690. F

short stories

Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean. Peekash: Akashic. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781617752711. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617752834. F

Summer Suspense

Bolton, Sharon. A Dark and Twisted Tide. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781250028587. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250028570. F

Deeply troubled by her last case involving child murder (Lost), London constable Lacey Flint seeks some peace by moving to a houseboat on the River Thames. Soon, however, she discovers a decomposing body in the river—and then she finds more of them. On examination, all appear to be the bodies of immigrant women who have been drowned, wrapped in linen shrouds, and left in a macabre underwater graveyard for Lacey to find. With her undercover cop boyfriend accused of murder and her boss leery of her involvement in yet another homicide case, Lacey is left on her own to discover the identity of the serial killer before she becomes the next victim. VERDICT Bolton, also well known as S.J. Bolton, has written several stand-alones as well as three earlier Lacey Flint mysteries. She delights in a kind of gothic horror, weaving suspenseful tales featuring complex, often tormented characters. Readers can expect many details about Afghan immigrants, the Thames, and esoteric medical conditions, but the focus remains on Lacey. Just as readers think they know the killer’s identity, there is another shocking twist in this sometimes melodramatic but always gripping tale by a master of the genre. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14; “Editors’ Spring Picks,” LJ 2/15/14; library marketing.]—Roland Person, formerly with ­Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

Cain, Chelsea. One Kick. S. & S. (Kick Lannigan). Aug. 2014. 320p.ISBN 9781476749785. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476749884. F

One KickCain, best known for her compelling ­Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers (Heartsick; Let Me Go), turns her hand to a new series and a new protagonist. After years of being held prisoner by a ­pedophile, Kick Lannigan spends her time researching cases of missing children and obsessively practicing martial arts. She is recruited, somewhat against her will, in a daring plot to locate and rescue a kidnapped child. Kick’s knowledge might be the only thing that can save the missing boy. ­VERDICT Kick is a gutsy kick-ass heroine doing her best to build a life for herself, while understandably haunted by her tragic past. She makes plenty of mistakes and isn’t always likable, which makes her come across as very real. This book is nearly as dark as Cain’s other titles, although not quite as graphic. Fans of psychological suspense and flawed characters will enjoy getting to know Kick. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14.]—Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.

O’Dell, Tawni. One of Us. Gallery. Aug. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781476755878. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476755946. F

Dr. Sheridan Doyle has made a nice life for himself in Philadelphia as a sought-after ­forensic psychologist, far away from his traumatic childhood in the mining town of Lost Creek, PA. After police arrested Sheridan’s bipolar mother for a horrific crime, he was left in the care of his alcoholic and abusive father. Danny, as Sheridan was known back then, survived only because of his grandfather, Tommy, and Rafe, the cop who arrested his mom and saw the potential in Danny. Hearing that Tommy has been ill, Danny travels back to Lost Creek. Once there, he stumbles across a body. Superstitious townspeople believe the dead man is a victim of the Nellie O’Neills—a group of miners hanged in the late 19th century. When more bodies turn up, Rafe and Danny look for a killer. VERDICT O’Dell, whose Back Roads was an Oprah’s Book Club pick, works in all her trademarks here: dysfunctional families, a coal-mining town, and the desolation wrought by long-term poverty. This time the author combines these elements into a well-written psychological thriller that will appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14.]—Lynnanne Pearson, Skokie P.L., IL

Watson, Jan Elizabeth. What Has Become of You. Dutton. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780525954378. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698157149. F

What Has Become of YouTrue crime chronicler Ann Rule stumbled on the subject for her first book while working as a rape hotline volunteer with then law student Ted Bundy. Watson (Asta in the Wings) introduces readers to would-be true crime writer Vera Lundy as she takes on a long-term substitute teaching position at a New England private school for girls where she, like Rule, will become directly involved in the investigation of a spree of local murders. Vera, we quickly learn, is a character with a dark past—a past that continues to encroach on her daily life and that explains why, at nearly 40, she leads a minimal and mostly solitary existence, finding solace only in her crime research and bouts of heavy drinking. Guilt and shame over the death of her own classmate decades earlier compel Vera’s classroom behavior to veer from that of refreshingly engaging interlocutor to a teacher who crosses the boundaries of propriety with one of her students, Jensen Willard, a talented writer who reminds Vera of her younger self. VERDICT After meeting the mercurial Vera, readers will soon want more from Watson. Fans of psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators will enjoy this outing.—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT

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