Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First Novels: 2017 Debut Authors

I really enjoy reading debut authors as they often bring something fresh and new to fiction. Here are a few from the class of 2017. Happy Reading.

American War by Omar El Akkad
In the near future, the United States is again at war with itself. Fossil fuels, which have devastated the environment, are banned, but the states rich in them refuse to comply with the Federal government and thus secede from the union. Biological warfare, drones as killing machines, and state against state fighting contribute to make this a prophetic novel.  Multiple narration and clashing viewpoints combine to make this an engrossing and        shocking read.

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
Narrated by autistic, newly adopted Ginny Moon, who, at thirteen can't forget her birth mother or sister, Ludwig's novel is an unforgettable page-turner about family and how special-needs children are treated.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Living with her parents in a counterculture commune, 14-year-old Linda finds her perceptions changed by the scandal-marked arrest of a teacher and the secrets of a new neighbor family as she copes with the consequences of actions and failures in the name of love.

No One is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
A story inspired by The Great Gatsby is set in the contemporary South and follows the difficulties suffered by an extended black family with colliding visions of the American dream.

The Gargoyle Hunters by John Freeman Gill
Enlisted into his estranged father's illegal architectural salvage business in 1974 Manhattan, young Griffin is given to steal 19th-century gargoyle sculptures while traversing the trials of his father's growing demands and his own changing views.

Monday, December 11, 2017


The latest film from Guillermo del Toro is now in theaters. If you liked this fantasy romance, you might also like these films:

Amélie: A quirky romance saturated in warm colors and lush sets - visually similar to The Shape of Water, but more grounded in the real world.

Creature from the Black Lagoon: The amphibious man at the center of The Shape of Water bears a great resemblance to this classic Universal Monster, and is one of the primary sources of inspiration.

The Lure: A horror flavored retelling of The Little Mermaid. More gruesome than The Shape of Water's romance, but similar in its treatment of music, color, and nautical romance.

The Red Shoes: Cited as an inspiration for the film, and a classic not to be missed (coincidentally, also similar to The Lure in that it is an adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale).

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: The Shape of Water constantly references the works of Jacques Demy - start here, then try Donkey Skin.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mistletoe Meet 'n' Greet - New Holiday Love Stories

Enjoy GPL's new holiday love stories - perfect for the fireside easy chair accompanied by a mug of steaming hot cocoa on a cold snowy night.

Our top pick is -
Christmas at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer
While in Charleston for business, Yankee CEO Deacon Banks needs someone to line up some dates, but when he asks Macy Frost, part-owner of Two Love Lane  Matchmaking Agency, for help, Macy tells him she is going to find Deacon the love of his life. It's an engaging and heartwarming contemporary romance full of fast-paced fun. Brimming with sassy southern charm and an abundance of deliciously dry wit, this debut entry in Kramer’s Two Love Lane  series is a festive treat.

A sizzling spicy story -
Maybe This Christmas by Jennifer Snow
When her best friend NHL star Asher Westmore, sidelined from the ice due to an injury, returns home for the holidays, physical therapist Emma Callaway, while helping him heal, must keep her feelings in check after they add benefits to their friendship. The romance of the Christmas holiday season is enhanced by the backdrop of small-town Colorado. It's a steamy and engaging sports romance with well developed characters.

As sweet as a holiday treat -
Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
With her family, the holidays, and  her difficult, by-the-book  boss all demanding her attention, Merry  Knight, a temp at a consulting firm, has no time for a social life. Her mother and  brother take matters into their own hands and  sign her up for an online dating site (under a pseudonym, with the family dog as her photo), leaving Merry  annoyed, then curious, and  finally amazed when she connects with a kindred spirit. But her cyberbeau is none other than her overworked, difficult boss Jayson Bright , something neither of them knows until they have almost fallen in love. It's a mildly sensuous and tender holiday delight and sure to please romance lovers of all ages.

Expect to shed a tear or two -
Holiday Spice by Samantha Chase
Ben Tanner is happiest alone in his woodworking studio, but he needs help writing a book . A friend suggests Darcy Shaughnessy, and they are instantly attracted but unable to act until a huge snowstorm forces them to face their concerns, including Ben’s difficulties with celebrating Christmas.
It's highly engaging and one of the strongest in Chase’s (A Sky Full of Stars, 2016) excellent Shaughnessy Brothers series. Though it's light and fun, it's an emotionally complex contemporary holiday romance.

Hope you find that these new romances can warm even the coldest heart!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

When we typically think of time travel, we envision hulking machines (or maybe just hulking Deloreans), blinking lights, and beeping alarms.  But sometimes, time travel isn't all whirring motors, blinking lights, and science fictional leaps through time and space.  Sometimes, you just happen to accidentally find yourself traveling through time, no extra equipment required.

Below are some of my favorite books dealing with unconventional time travel.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless.

TV writer Georgie McCool can't actually visit the past -- all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up.
And hope he picks up.
Because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants to do is make things right with her husband, Neal.
Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving her a chance to start over ...

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town.  Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke…Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

After Kivrin Engles, a twenty-first century Oxford University history student, is accidentally sent back through time to medieval England during the time of the Black Death, she becomes stranded in the past.

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

Waking up in a modern London hospital 200 years after meeting his death on a Napoleonic battlefield, Nick Falcott is indoctrinated into a time-traveling society and returned to the side of a woman he loves to reclaim a vital talisman, a mission that places the fate of the future in his hands.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The love story of Henry and Claire whose lives are punctuated by Henry's disappearance to different points in time--sometimes even back to visit Claire as a young woman. When Henry meets Claire, he is twenty-eight, and she is twenty. He's a hip, handsome librarian; she is an art student with Botticelli hair. Henry has never met Claire before; Claire has known Henry since she was six...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mysteries for Christmas Part 1

Some folks like their mysteries all year round. Here are some suggestions for some newer Christmas titles.

When her holiday float is sabotaged, Merry Wilkinson, the owner of Mrs. Claus's Treasures, must discover who the Scrooge is in Christmas Town after the dead body of a reporter is found and the evidence points to her best friend, Vicky.

Death by Eggnog by Alex Erickson

When a murder halts the production of the local holiday musical extravaganza, bookstore-café owner Krissy Hancock, deciding to investigate, is faced with a pageant of suspects and must find the its curtains for someone else.

While serving as an assistant to the hostess of a large Christmas house party in Tiddleton-under-Lovey, Georgie gets the attention of her retired detective grandfather after dead bodies begin showing up. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Good Reads, Offbeat Characters

One of my favorite reads of the reads of the year thus far has been Eleanor Oliphant  is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

"Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. That, combined with her unusual appearance (scarred cheek, tendency to wear the same clothes year in, year out), means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy."

She was such an enjoyable character that I sought out some other novels with other unique characters.  If you enjoyed Eleanor here are some other books with interesting and quirky characters you might also enjoy:

The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr: A Novel  - Frances Maynard
 "Elvira Carr believes in crisp schedules, clear guidelines, and taking people at face value. She lives at home with her overbearing mother, who has deemed her unfit to interact with the rest of society. But when her mother has a stroke, Ellie is suddenly forced to look after herself. She quickly comes up with an ingenious way of coping with the world: the seven social rules spreadsheet. Unfortunately, Ellie soon discovers that most people don't live their lives within a set of rules. As she experiences social missteps and awkward encounters, Ellie continues to learn - about herself, and the people around her. And she'll need this new knowledge if she hopes to pave the way to living life on her own terms."

Britt-Marie Was Here - Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie is a socially awkward, fussy busybody who is used to being organized. When she walks out on her cheating husband and gets a job as caretaker of the dilapidated recreation center in Borg, she is woefully unprepared for the changes. But as she takes on the task of leading the supremely untalented children's soccer team to victory, she just might find a place she belongs.

Courting Greta - Ramsey Hootman
A tender, cheer-inducing debut novel about two lonely people who don't believe in romance, but who finally decide to give love a chance.

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! - Jonathan Evison
With her husband Bernard two years in the grave, seventy-nine-year-old Harriet Chance sets sail on an ill-conceived Alaskan cruise only to discover through a series of revelations that she's been living the past sixty years of her life under entirely false pretenses. There, amid the buffets and lounge singers, between the imagined appearance of her late husband and the very real arrival of her estranged daughter midway through the cruise, Harriet is forced to take a long look back.

Monday, November 20, 2017

After the Movie Theater, Try...

Now in theaters:

After checking out the latest hits at the movie theater, try something similar listed below.

Lady Bird: "Lady Bird" McPherson, a teenager in Sacramento, tries to make her own way in the world. 
  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl: A 15-year-old aspiring comic book artist comes of age in 1970's San Francisco. Based on the novel. 
  • Frances Ha: Greta Gerwig, director of Lady Bird, stars as the title character in this black-and-white comedy about an aspiring dancer trying to work her life out in New York. 
  • The Edge of Seventeen: Two high school girls are best friends until one dates the other's older brother. 
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: A mother rents three billboards to send a message to the police after her daughter's murder goes unsolved. 
  • In BrugesDirector Martin McDonagh demonstrated his knack for black humor in this crime caper set in Belgium. 
  • FargoFrances McDormand is determined to catch the criminal in both Three Billboards and Fargo. 
  • PrisonersA darker take on the conflict between parents of victims and the police, from director Denis Villeneuve. 
  • Flannery O'ConnorThree Billboards borrows from O'Connor's Southern Gothic style. 
The Killing of a Sacred Deer: A teenager's attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family take an unexpected turn. 
  • The Lobster: Director Yorgos Lanthimos also directed this surreal science fiction romance, which also stars Colin Farrell. 
  • Blue Velvet: Is Lanthimos the new David Lynch? Both mix the surreal with the everyday, and offer little in the way of explanation. 
  • Funny Games: Two psychotic young men take a family hostage in this sadistic thriller that also plays with reality. 
  • Eyes Wide Shut: Nicole Kidman also stars in this dream-like drama. 

Murder on the Orient Express: A brilliant detective investigates a murder aboard a stalled train in this adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel.
  • Murder on the Orient Express (1974): Compare director Branagh's modern take to acclaimed director Sidney Lumet's take from the 70's: both feature star-studded casts! 
  • Henry V: Try another film from Branagh's directing filmography - this acclaimed Shakespeare adaptation shows his attention to lush detail. 
  • Agatha Christie's Poirot: Need more Agatha Christie, or Poirot? David Suchet's performance of the famed detective is iconic. 
  • L.A. Confidential: A twisting mystery unfolds as three detectives unravel the conspiracy behind a killing at a diner.