books

Best New Books – Spring 2014: New Novels & Recommendations

Underdog Literature Best Novels 2014 Spring WordPress
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Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention…

all published between January and June 2014.

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01: MAXWELL NEELY-COHEN, „Echo of the Boom“, 456 pages, April 2014.

Echo of the Boom

02: PETER MATTHIESSEN, „In Paradise“, 256 pages, January 2014.

In Paradise

03: SIRI HUSTVEDT, „The Blazing World“, 368 pages, March 2014.

The Blazing World

04: AARON THIER, „The Ghost Apple“, 304 pages, March 2014. [Satire]

The Ghost Apple

05: TED THOMPSON, „The Land of Steady Habits“, 272 pages, March 2014.

The Land of Steady Habits: A Novel

06: KEVIN BROCKMEIER, „A few Seconds of radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade“, 208 pages, January 2014. [Memoir / Coming-of-Age / Cultural Studies]

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade

07: SHANE KUHN, „The Intern’s Handbook“, 288 pages, April 2014. [Corporate Satire / Thriller / Dystopia]

The Intern's Handbook: A Thriller

08: NNEDI OKARAFOR, „Lagoon“, 320 pages, April 2014. [Science Fiction; Nigeria]

Lagoon

09: ROBERT GLANCY, „Terms & Conditions“, 272 pages, February 2014 [Satire]

Terms & Conditions

10: LESLIE JAMISON, „The Empathy Exams“, 256 pages, April 2014. [personal Essays]

The Empathy Exams: Essays

11: NATALIE HAYNES, „The Amber Fury“, 307 pages, February 2014. [Mainstream / Suspense]

The Amber Fury

12: COURTNEY C. STEVENS, „Faking Normal“, 321 pages, February 2014. [Young Adult]

Faking Normal

13: ROBIN HERRERA, „Hope is a Ferris Wheel“, 272 pages, March 2014. [Young Adult]

Hope Is a Ferris Wheel

14: JOHN COREY WHALEY, „Noggin“,  356 pages, April 2014. [Young Adult Sci-Fi]

Noggin

15: STEWART FOSTER, „We used to be Kings“, 368 pages, January 2014. [Young Adult]

We Used to Be Kings

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Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: SUE MONK KIDD, „The Invention of Wings“, 373 pages, January 2014. [Mainstream / Historical Fiction]

The Invention of Wings

02: JENNIFER CLEMENT, „Prayers for the Stolen“, 224 pages, February 2014.

Prayers for the Stolen

03: WILLY VLAUTIN, „The Free“, 297 pages, January 2014.

The Free

04: GABRIELLE ZEVIN, „The Stories Life of A. J. Fikry“, 230 pages, March 2014. [Mainstream]

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

05: DANAH BOYD, „It’s complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens“, 296 pages, February 2014. [Sociology]

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

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Underdog Literature, September 2013: 15 fresh or compelling, off-the-wall CRIME novels

Underdog Literature WordPress September 2013.

Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention:

For this month, my focus is on crime novels, domestic suspense, thrillers and noir classics.

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01: HARLAN COBEN, „Tell No One“, 370 pages, 2000. [Thriller]

02: WILLIAM HJORTSBERG, „Falling Angel“, 302 pages, 1978. [Fantasy Noir]

03: TED ALLBEURY, „Lantern Network“, 200 pages, 1979. [Espionage]

04: RUTH RENDELL (as BARBARA VINE), „The Dark-Adapted Eye“, 278 pages, 1986. [Thriller]

05: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG, „A Dram of Poison“, 160 pages, 1956.

06: ROSS MACDONALD, „The Chill“, 288 pages, 1963. [Noir; book 11 of an 18-book series]

07: ED LACY, „Room to Swing“, 132 pages, 1957. [Noir]

08: KIN PLATT, „Sinbad and me“, 255 pages, 1967. [Children’s Mystery]

09: JACK D. FERRAIOLO, „The Big Splash“, 288 pages, 2008. [Middle-Grade Noir]

10: STUART GIBBS, „Spy School“, 291 pages, 2012. [Middle-Grade Spy Parody]

11: JOHN MORGAN WILSON, „Simple Justice“, 304 pages, 1996. [Mystery, first in an eight-book series]

12: JOHN FREEMANTLE, „Charlie M“, 207 pages, 1977. [Spy Thriller, first in a fourteen-book series]

13: ADAM HALL, „The Quiller Memorandum“, 254 pages, 1965. [Spy Thriller, first in a nineteen-book series]

14: ISSER HAREL, „The House on Garibaldi Street“, 290 pages, 1975. [Nonfiction]

15: JÜRGEN THORWALD, „Das Jahrhundert der Detektive“ / „Century of the Detective“, 704 pages, 1965 pages [Nonfiction; German]

This month, I found most of these titles on a long list [Link] of winners and nominees for the Edgar Awards [Link].

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Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: DON CARPENTER, „Hard Rain Falling“, 308 pages, 1964. [Noir Classic]

02: CHESTER HIMES, „If he hollers, let him go“, 224 pages, 1945. [Noir Classic]

03: ERIC AMBLER, „A Coffin for Dimitrios“, 304 pages, 1934. [Espionage / Suspense]

04: TONINO BENACQUISTA, „Saga“ / „Das Seifenopern-Quartett“, 439 pages, 1997. [Farce / Satire; France]

05: DANIEL GALERA, „Flut“ [German title] / „Barba Ensopada de Sangue“ [Portugese title], 424 pages, 2012. [Brazilian… literary thriller]

I started reading Dieter Wunderlich’s review here [Link, German; Spoilers], marked the book as to read – and later got a copy of the German edition, from Suhrkamp [Link]: Frank, the German editor, is a good publishing friend… and thought I’d like it.

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…and finally, here are three books that I read – and that were really good:

5 of 5 stars: DAVID GATES, „Jernigan“, 256 pages, 1991.

5 of 5 stars: PETER HEDGES, „What’s eating Gilbert Grape“, 319 pages, 1991.

4 of 5 stars: CELIA FREMLIN, „The Hours before Dawn“, 192 pages, 1958. [Thriller / Domestic Suspense]

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Underdog Literature, May 2013: 15 fresh or remarkable, off-the-wall books

Underdog Literature WordPress May 2013.

Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention:

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01: LAUREN KIRSHNER, „Where we have to go“, 336 pages, 2009. [Canada, Coming-of-Age]

02: MICHAEL DAHLIE, „The Best of Youth“, 288 pages, January 2013.

03: NOELLE REVAZ, „With the Animals“, 232 pages, 2002. [Switzerland]

04: PAUL RUSSELL, „The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov“, 375 pages, 2010.

05: PETER RUSHFORTH, „Kindergarten“, 224 pages, 1979.

06: ANDRÉ MAUROIS, „Climates“, 400 pages, 1928. [France]

07: CHARLES NEWMAN, „In Partial Disgrace“, 600 pages, March 2013.

08: ANDRÉ CARL VAN DER MERWE, „Moffie“, 314 pages, 2006. [South Africa]

09: FRANK NORRIS, „The Octopus. A Novel of California“, 688 pages, 1901.

10: DIANE ATHILL, „Stet. An Editor’s Life“, 256 pages, 2000. [Memoir]

11: ALEKSANDER WAT, „My Century“, 448 pages, 1977. [Memoir / Journalism; Poland]

12: KEVIN GUILFOILE, „Cast of Shadows“, 336 pages, 2005. [Sci-Fi / Thriller]

13: SALLY CLARK, „Waiting for the Revolution“, 362 pages, 2010. [Toronto]

14: CONSTANCE SQUIRES, „Along the Watchtower“, 320 pages, 2011. [Coming-of-Age]

15: ALICE ZENITER, „Take this Man“, 176 pages, 2011. [Nonfiction, France]

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Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: JOSEPH KESSEL, „Belle de jour“, 188 pages, 1928.

02: BARBARA STAFFORD, „The Mountain Lion“, 240 pages, 1972.

03: DANZY SENNA, „Caucasia“, 413 pages, 1998.

04: JOHN LANCHESTER, „The Debt to Pleasure“, 272 pages, 1996.

05: PATRICK McGUINNESS, „The Last Hundred Days“, 384 pages, 2011. [Romania]

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…and finally, here are three books that I read – and that were really good:

5 of 5 stars: CARSON McCULLERS, „The Member of the Wedding“, 240 pages, 1946. [Coming-of-Age / Southern Fiction]

5 of 5 stars: MARIA SEMPLE, „Where’d you go, Bernadette“, 326 pages, 2012.

4 of 5 stars: 05: BARBARA DEMICK, „Nothing to envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea“, 314 pages, 2009. [non-fiction]

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LGBT Graphic Novels: Recommendations for Teens & Young Adults

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Good Graphic Novels for school libraries, teenagers and a Young Adult audience… with GLBTQ themes?

Over at „DC Women Kicking Ass“ (Link), one of my favorite feminist super-hero blogs, author/webmaster Sue opened an interesting discussion:

„A while back, I got a request for a list of LGBQT Young Adult graphic novels for a High School library.

So far I have Young Avengers, Runaways, Pedro and Me, Tough Love, Strangers in Paradise, Skim and Batwoman.

Please let me know your recommendations and I will compile a list and publish it.

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I read lots of „literary“, more serious graphic novels this winter (recommendations here, Link), so for starters, here are some strong, personal recommendations:

Inclusive, serious, engaging titles for a young audience that will work well in a school setting / book club / discussion group:

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1: JUDD WINICK, „Pedro and me“, 192 pages, 2000.

gay main character  |  HIV prevention  | activism  | reality TV  | gay-straight friendship  | Cuban immigrants  |  autobiographical

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2: ALISON BECHDEL, „Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic“, 232 pages, 2006.

lesbian narrator / main character  |  coming-of-age  | suicide  | identity politics  | family secrets  | living in the closet  |  homosexual parents  | autobiographical

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3: HOWARD CRUSE, „Stuck Rubber Baby“, 216 pages, 1995.

gay narrator / main character  |  journalism / documentary  |  coming-of-age  | civil rights  |  discrimination, politics, activism  |  1960ies small-town USA  |  pre-Stonewall

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4: DAVID SMALL, „Stitches: A Memoir“, 326 pages, 2009.

straight narrator / main character  |  throat cancer  | identity politics  |  coming-of-age | family secrets  | suicide  |  lesbian parent  |  living in the closet  |  autobiographical

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5: DAN PARENT, „Archie Comics presents: Kevin Keller“, 160 pages, 2012.

gay main character  |  middle school audience  |  coming-of-age  |  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell  |  cartoon / slice-of-life / humour  |  harmless / bowdlerized / non-sexualized

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queer-positive YA books with a focus on trauma, loss, bullying or teenage alienation:

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6: DANIEL CLOWES, „Ghost World“, 80 pages, 1998.

friendship between girls  |  alienation  |  dark humour  |  everyday life  |  post-high school career  |  small-town USA  |  hook-up culture  |  loneliness

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7: JOE KELLY, „I kill Giants“, 184 pages, 2009.

middle-school female narrator  |  alienation  |  magical realism  |  everyday life  |  friendship between girls  |  personal trauma  |  cancer  |  anger / abandonment issues

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8: SARAH LEAVITT, „Tangles: A Story about Alzheimers, my Mother and me“, 127 pages, 2010.

lesbian main character / narrator  |  Alzheimer’s  |  family secrets  |  mother-daughter-dynamics  |  loss  |  leaving for College  |  coming-of-age  |  everyday life  |  autobiographical

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9: BRYAN LEE O’MALLEY, „Lost at Sea“, 160 pages, 2003.

teenage, female main character  |  magical realism  |  coming-of-age  |  friendship  |  soul-searching  |  alienation  | road trips  |  acceptance  |  everyday life

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super-hero books with gay and lesbian heroines:

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10: GREG RUCKA, „Gotham Central: Half a Life“, 168 pages, 2005.

lesbian main character  |  police procedural  |  coming out  |  lesbian relationships  |  second-generation Puerto Ricans in the US  |  Batman  |  psychological thriller

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11: GREG RUCKA, „Batwoman: Elegy“, 176 pages, 2010.

lesbian main character  |  Batman  |  magic, monsters, horror  |  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell  |  power fantasy  |  family dynamics  |  military families  |  self-acceptance  |  loss

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in 2011, the – mediocre, crass and often poorly-written – monthly YA super-hero comic series „Teen Titans“ (Link) added a gay character, Bunker (Link). I can’t recommend the series, per se. But the character has gained a vocal following, and some media attention:

Notes from Bunker, Link (Tumblr)

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another note-worthy and worthwhile read / discussion is this (Link) letter column / exchange between Marvel writer Christos Gage (Link) and an anti-gay reader unhappy with teenage gay and lesbian characters in the „Avengers Academy“ series (Link).

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notable series / titles that I cannot recommend (because the LGBT part is marginal or the overall writing is too weak):

  • „Buffy: Season 8“ (Joss Whedon, Link)
  • „Y: The Last Man“ (Brian K. Vaughan, Link)
  • „Friends with Ghosts“ (Faith Erin Hicks, Link)
  • „Scott Pilgrim“ (Bryan Lee O’Malley, Link)

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titles I have not read myself, yet:

  • „Runaways“ (Brian K. Vaughan, Marvel Universe, Link)
  • „Young Avengers“ (Allan Heinberg, Marvel Universe, Link)
  • „Strangers in Paradise“ (Terri Moore, Link)
  • „Revolutionary Girl Utena“ (Chiho Saito, Manga, Link)
  • „Wandering Son“ (Takako Shimura, Manga, gender-nonconforming, transsexual (?) elementary school kids, Link)

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and finally: five LGBT prose novels / literary fiction for a High School audience that I enjoyed:

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