Tag Archives: new releases

Read Me! THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY by Margot Livesey

Hitting bookshelves and libraries tomorrow is Margot Livesey’s latest, The Flight of Gemma Hardy.  I am sad to say I’ve never read her before, but that will change because I really want to read this book!  Here’s the description from Amazon:

When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she’s found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.

To Gemma’s delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma’s charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma’s standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma’s biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she’s never dreamed.

Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and ’60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy—a captivating homage to Charlotte BrontË’s Jane Eyre—is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.

Part Jane Eyre, part Cinderella, The Flight Of Gemma Hardy is on my to-read list.  Is it on yours?

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Read Me! THE FUTURE OF US by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler – Recommended Reading

I’m sticking with my “retro” theme this week, and recommending a new release that once again takes us back in time to explore the roots of technology and online social interfacing.  We’re not going back quite as far as Ready Player One, but we are rewinding fifteen years to 1996, the time when the internet was just starting to gain popularity.  The Future of Us has a simple yet intriguing premise: what if you could see fifteen years into your future via your new AOL internet account?  Here’s the (very short) description from Amazon:

“It’s 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet.

Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM.

Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on–and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future.

Everybody wonders what their Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.”

Here are a few editorial reviews:

These two top-of-their-game authors don’t disappoint.” – Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

“A clever, timely story that will attract any teen with a Facebook account.” – Booklist, Starred Review

“Without question a page-turner.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Highly engaging.a tremendously likable, soul-searching romantic comedy and a subtle reminder to occasionally unplug and live in the moment.” School and Library Journal

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler have both published teen fiction on their own, so it will be interesting to see how they work together. This book is marketed for teens, but you can bet that I am going to read it anyway!

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Read Me! 11/22/63: A NOVEL by Stephen King – Recommended Reading

Finally, it’s here. Seems like I’ve been waiting forever for the new Stephen King book.  Out today is 11/22/63: A Novel, King’s massive (960 pages) epic time travel story, about Jake Epping, a man who discovers a portal to the year 1958.  His friend Al, who just happens to have the portal in the storeroom of his diner, encourages Jake to go on a mission back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination.

Here’s the book description from Amazon: “On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.  Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.  A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best.”

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I am a huge Stephen King fan.  I recently waxed rhapsodic about his series The Dark Tower here.  I am happy to see him take on a more serious subject this time around, and paired with the time travel element, I expect this will be a great read. Now I just need to figure out a way to freeze time so I can read it…


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Read Me! OUT OF OZ by Gregory Maguire – Recommended Reading

Although my interest in Gregory Maguire’s OZ series has waned since I (tried to) read Book #3, A Lion Among Men, I am still going to recommend the final book in the series, Out of Oz, out this week.  The story that started out sixteen years ago in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a book that reached bestseller-dom and was reimagined on stage as a Tony Award-winning musical, ends here, as we finally learn the fate of Oz.  Here’s the book description from Goodreads:

“The marvelous land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on the run from the law. And look who’s knocking at the door. It’s none other than Dorothy. Yes, that Dorothy.

Amid all this chaos, Elphaba’s granddaughter, the tiny green baby born at the close of Son of a Witch, has come of age. Now, Rain will take up her broom in an Oz wracked by war.

The stirring, long-awaited conclusion to the extraordinary bestselling series begun with Wicked, Out of Oz is a magical journey rife with revelations and reversals, reprisals and surprises — the hallmarks of the brilliant and unique imagination of Gregory Maguire.”

I absolutely loved Wicked and Son of a Witch, and I have high hopes for the closing chapter of this imaginative series.  If you have not experienced Maguire’s vision of the Land of Oz, you can catch up and read the entire series in one fell swoop. But please start at the beginning…




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Read Me! ZONE ONE by Colson Whitehead – Recommended Reading

As promised last week, I am featuring Colson Whitehead’s newest, Zone One, in bookstores and online today.  Arriving on the heals of season two of The Walking Dead (AMC), Zone One is a Zombie Novel, one I am very excited to read. Yes folks, zombies are everywhere.  The trend is alive and well and not slowing down that I can see, and I’m glad.  Despite the fact that I watch The Walking Dead with one hand over my eyes, I love zombies.  Zone One has been described as “a zombie novel with brains” (Justin Cronin), and I don’t think he’s talking about the gooey kind. The story starts out with a typical post-apocalyptic premise: a plague has struck, and the population is either affected (and has become the living dead) or not.  The narrative takes place over the course of three days, as Mark Spitz (yes, that’s his name!), an unaffected civilian worker, helps reclaim an area in Manhattan known as Zone One.  His story moves back and forth from the present to the beginning days of the plague when he was fighting for his life.

Here are some great reviews:

“The kind of smart, funny, pop culture-filled tale that would make George Romero proud…[Whitehead] succeeds brilliantly with a fresh take on survival, grief, 9/11, AIDS, global warming, nuclear holocaust, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Pol Pot’s Year Zero, Missouri tornadoes, and the many other disasters both natural and not that keep a stranglehold on our fears.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This diabolically smart, covertly sensitive, ruminative, and witty zombie nightmare prods us to think about how we dehumanize others, how society tramples and consumes individuals, how flimsy our notions of law and order are, and how easily deluded and profoundly vulnerable humankind is. A deft, wily, and unnerving blend of pulse-elevating action and sniper-precise satire.”
Booklist, starred review

“[Whitehead] sinks his teeth into a popular format and emerges with a literary feast, producing his most compulsively readable work to date…Whitehead transforms the zombie novel into an allegory of contemporary Manhattan (and, by extension, America).”
Kirkus, starred review

As we get closer to Halloween, I have more zombie recommendations to share, so keep reading…

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Curse of the Bestsellers

I love Entertainment Weekly. I even subscribe to it.  But I’ve noticed something disturbing lately, and I want to explain myself.

Entertainment Weekly covers the Big Four of entertainment: Movies, TV, Music and Books.  I love movies and TV. And if you’ve read any of this blog before, you know I love books.  (I love music too, but I don’t really follow the music industry. I just don’t have time for everything, you know?)  As far as “popular” entertainment magazines go, EW has a fantastic book review staff.  I am always eager to see what the hot books are for the week. But as I am a pretty busy person, I usually get around to reading my EW about a week after it comes out, and by that time, it’s too late.

You see, many of my “Read Me!” selections seem to wind up on EW‘s list as well.  And I want to set the record straight: I am not culling my list of recommended books from EW.  Coincidentally, I happen to have the same sensibility about books that their book review editors have.  For example, in the latest issue, the one pictured here, they mention not one, not two, but three books that have appeared, or will appear, on this blog.  Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot was my recommendation this week. I recently listed Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor as “Currently Reading.”  And much to my chagrin, my pick for next week also appears here: Zone One by Colson Whitehead.  Colson Whitehead isn’t even a bestselling author, and yet here he is, getting the number two spot in “Books” for the week of October 14th.  I’m baffled. I’m pissed. I’ve known about Zone One for months!  EW is scooping me.

Go back a week to the previous issue and you’ll see the “main pick” of the week is The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman.  Need I remind you that I recommended The Dovekeepers last week?  And last month I reviewed The Night Circus, which, yes, appeared larger than life in a recent edition of EW.

So what does this tell us about Tammy, you ask?  Is she hung up on bestsellers?  Is she going for the popular book pick?  The answer is a resounding “NO!”  My goal when I started this blog was to expose readers to books and authors that I love.  To introduce you to writers you may never have heard of before.  To share magical reading moments with you.  If some of the books I love turn out to be bestsellers, well, there’s not much I can do about that. Although the word “bestseller” leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, I can’t help but be pleased when good writers who write good books get the credit they deserve.

So if you’ve never heard of Colson Whitehead, chances are you soon will.  And not because Entertainment Weekly has featured his new book, but because you, loyal reader, will read about him here. Next week. Stay tuned.

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Read Me! THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides – Recommended Reading

Jeffrey Eugenides is one of those writers who takes his time writing books, and it shows.  His first book was The Virgin Suicides, a creepy and sad little story set in the 70’s that was made into an extremely creepy and sad movie.  His second book, Middlesex, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003, and is still one of my favorite books.  The Marriage Plot is only his third book in eighteen years, and although I want to rush right out and buy it so I can start reading right away, I also want to delay the moment, because I suspect it will be awhile before his next book is ready to publish. 

Here’s a short description from Amazon:  “Even among authors, Jeffrey Eugenides possesses a rare talent for being able to inhabit his characters. In The Marriage Plot, his third novel and first in ten years, Eugenides describes a year or so in the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 80s. There is Madeleine, a self-described “incurable romantic” who is slightly embarrassed at being so normal. There is Leonard, a brilliant, temperamental student from the Pacific Northwest. And completing the triangle is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major from Eugenides’ own Detroit. What follows is a book delivered in sincere and genuine prose, tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood. This is a thoughtful and at times disarming novel about life, love, and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seems filled with deep portent.” –Chris Schluep

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Read Me! THE CAT’S TABLE & THE DOVEKEEPERS – Recommended Reading

Fall is always a busy time for publishing, it seems.  Best-selling authors oftentimes release their latest and greatest in the fall. I mean, when was the last time Stephen King didn’t release a novel in October or November? (And yes, he has a new novel coming out this fall. More on that later.)  This week two favorites of mine are back and I hope you’ll check them out as well.  The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje follows an eleven-year-old boy in the 1950’s who takes a sea voyage to England. Here’s what some reviewers are saying:

The Cat’s Table is an exquisite example of the richness that can   flourish in the gaps between fact and fiction…. It is an adventure story, it is a meditation on power, memory, art, childhood, love and loss. It displays a technique so formidable as to seem almost playful. It is one of those rare books that one could reread an infinite number of times, and always find something new within its pages.”
London Evening Standard

“[Ondaatje] is justly recognised as a master of literary craft….As we read into The Cat’s Table the story becomes more complex, more deadly, with an increasing sense of lives twisted awry, of misplaced devotion….The novel tells of a journey from childhood to the adult world, as well as a passage from the homeland to another country…. All that was seen and experienced, is carried ashore by the passengers in memories, damaged psyches, degrees of loss, evanescent joy and reordered lives.”
—Annie Proulx, The Guardian

I have been reading Alice Hoffman since a friend gave me a paperback copy of Turtle Moon many years ago.  I love her lyricism and the dreamlike quality she brings to her writing.  I don’t think I have ever been disappointed in an Alice Hoffman book, and I doubt I ever will be.  Her latest, The Dovekeepers, is out today. Goodreads can describe it better than I can: “In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic historical event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary, bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.”

And a few glowing reviews:

“Beautiful, harrowing, a major contribution to twentyfirst century literature.”—Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate in Literature

“In her remarkable new novel, Alice Hoffman holds a mirror to our ancient past as she explores the contemporary themes of sexual desire, women’s solidarity in the face of strife, and the magic that’s quietly present in our day-to-day living. Put The Dovekeepers at the pinnacle of Hoffman’s extraordinary body of work. I was blown away.” —Wally Lamb, author of The Hour I First Believed

Better start reading! There are a lot more recommendations coming this fall…


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Read Me! THE BARBARIAN NURSERIES by Hector Tobar – Recommended Reading

Just released today is my pick of the week: The Barbarian Nurseries by Héctor Tobar. It is the story of Araceli, a Mexican live-in maid for the Torres-Thompsons, and what happens when she wakes up one morning to find herself alone with the two Torres-Thompson boys and no parents in sight.  After trying and failing to locate them, Araceli sets off with the boys to find their grandfather, a mysterious figure that Araceli only knows through a photo in an album. Set in current day Los Angeles, Tobar’s novel explores the social and economical differences between classes. Here’s what the reviewers are saying:

“Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries is that rare novel that redefines a city. It has the necessary vital sweep of culture and class that brings a city to life, but its power lies in Tobar’s ability to persuasively change the perspective from which the Los Angeles of the present—and, by extension, the United States—is seen. This book confirms the promise of Tobar’s debut novel, The Tattooed Soldier.” —Stuart Dybek, author of I Sailed with Magellan and The Coast of Chicago

The Barbarian Nurseries is a huge novel of this century, as sprawling and exciting as Los Angeles itself, one that tracks a Mexican immigrant maid not only as static decor in ‘real’ America’s economic rise and fall. Like yard workers and cooks, construction laborers and seamstresses, Tobar’s Araceli has flesh, brains, dreams, ambition, history, culture, voice: a rich, generous life. A story that was demanded, we can celebrate that it is now here.” —Dagoberto Gilb, author of Before the End, After the Beginning and The Flowers

“Héctor Tobar’s novel is astonishing, like a many-layered mural on a long wall in Los Angeles, a tapestry of people and neighborhoods and stories. A vivid testament to Southern California as the world. Araceli is so unexpected and unique; she’s a character America needs to see, and this novel takes her on a journey America needs to understand.” —Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon

“Tobar delivers a riveting, insightful morality tale of conspicuously consuming Americans and their Mexican servants in the O.C. . . . Tobar is both inventive and relentless in pricking the pretentious social consciences of his entitled Americans, though he also casts a sober look on the foibles of the Mexicans who serve them. His sharp eye for Southern California culture, spiraling plot twists, ecological awareness, and ample willingness to dole out come-uppance to the nauseatingly privileged may put readers in mind of T. C. Boyle.” —Publishers Weekly

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Read Me! Recommended Reading for the Week of September 19th

This week I have two books that are worthy of mentioning. First, Brian Selznick’s WonderstruckThe Invention of Hugo Cabret was one of the most surprising and beautiful books that I read back in 2007, and Wonderstruck is his follow-up in the same vein. Of the 629 pages in the book, over 450 of them are illustrations by the author, which means this thick, heavy book is not as daunting as it seems.  This is the story of Ben and Rose, two children who live fifty years apart, yet whose lives magically intertwine.  Both children are compelled to set out on quests after they discover puzzling clues, and although their stories are separate, Selznick weaves them together with words and pictures, and creates something astonishing and unique.  If Wonderstruck is anything like Hugo Cabret, it is sure to be a wonderful experience for both children and adults.

Also new this week is The Taker by Alma Katsu.  This is Ms. Katsu’s first novel, and it’s gotten quite a lot of attention already. From the book description:  “On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.

Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.

Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption.”  

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