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2017 Book List - Fiction

The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver. “This novel which takes place in 2029, examines a family in New York after the United States - it’s currency, government, etc. - has collapsed. The book follows an upper middle class family that has been counting on a family fortune, and examines how they deal with their new dystopian reality. More in depth than a true beach book, but I read it last summer and it was a great read”.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. "A sweeping novel of 4 generations of Koreans in Japan during WWII.  It is a story of love, war, and family.  Difficult to sum up, but an interesting read".

Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe.  5 stars for sheer enjoyment. This is a wonderful follow up to Stibbe's Man at the Helm. The Paradise Lodge nursing home is the perfect setting for quirky characters and hysterical observations from 15 year old Lizzie in 1970's Britain. I love Lizzie's voice and laughed out loud multiple times throughout the book which I consider to be high praise (pushing this from 4 to 5 stars). If you've enjoyed Stibbe's earlier books, you'll love this one. If you haven't read her yet (and you like Adrian Mole style British humor) then add this to your TBR.

Redemption RoadRedemption Road by John Hart.  "Several friends have mentioned this as the best thriller they've read recently, though I haven't read it yet.  John Hart is a southern writer sometimes compared to Pat Conroy.  From Amazon:  'A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother.  A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.  After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free as deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, a body cools in pale linen…  This is a town on the brink.  This is Redemption Road.Brimming with tension, secrets, and betrayal, Redemption Road proves again that John Hart is a master of the literary thriller.'"

Saints for All Occasions by Courtney J. Sullivan.  “At its simplest, it is an engrossing story about family, secrets, faith, the immigrant experience (Irish) and living with the choices we make.  But it is also wise, funny, perceptive and at times deeply moving.  The characters are multi-dimensional and feel real -- and I find myself thinking about them when I am not reading.  A great summer read!”  Sullivan also wrote Maine, which came out a couple of years ago.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday.  By Susan Rivers.  "A debuty epistolary novel about seventeen-year-old Placida, who meets the much older Gryffth Hockaday, a Major in the Confederate Army, while he's on leave. They marry quickly and he takes her back to his farm.  When he is called back to duty, he leaves Placida in charge of his young son, slaves and the farm.  He returns two years later to find out that Placida stands accused of a terrible crime.  What happened in his absence?  You'll turn the pages to find the answer."

The Shadowland by Elizabeth Kostova. "This is a novel that goes back and forth between present day and the period  in Bulgaria during the Communist regime that came to power after WWII.  It's part mystery and part history and tells the story of a talented violinist and his family and what they face during this challenging period.  People may be familiar with the author, who also wrote The Historian.  I appreciated the good writing, the strong story, and learning about Bulgaria - a country I don't know much about."

The Smart One by Jennifer Close. "Jennifer Close is a DC-area fiction writer who teaches creative writing at GWU.  I found her through her latest book, The Hopefuls, which I liked, so I read her other two books.  This one is about two sisters and a brother, and their worrywart mother.  I read this in an afternoon while at a family retreat.  Enjoyed it a lot".

Startup by Doree Shafrir. "Debut novel from Buzzed writer/editor Doree Shafrir chronicles start-up life in NY.  Office hookups, tech journalism, smoke breaks … a quick and easy read.  Well written".

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. “Sweetbitter is a charming story about a young woman who moves to New York in her early twenties and happens into a job at an unnamed restaurant (which is actually The Union Square Café).  She climbs the ladder from the lowest level of employee to the inner circle.  It’s a very nostalgic story of coming to New York as a young person in the 80’s”. "A fictional portrayal of  the life of a young woman moving her way up the ranks of New York City’s hottest restaurant based on the author’s experience at the Union Square Cafe.  “Sweetbitter” is a wild ride through grueling 80 hour work weeks, backstabbing co-workers, and drug-fueled ragers going into the early morning hours.   The depictions of post-9/11New York and every trend  (“I’m obsessed with Campari right now”) are spot on.  Danler is a technically gifted writer, which allows a story that may seem insipid on its surface to be surprisingly deep".

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham. "This suspenseful novel is the first in a series by Bingham featuring Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths, Cambridge-educated and idiosyncratic (to say the least). Fiona frequently obliges the reader (if not her bosses) by going rogue. The whole series is good, but start with the first."  Editor's note: As of this writing, the kindle version of this book is FREE.  if, like me, you are perversely put off by free books (or by the cheesy cover) don't be.  It's an excellent series.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See.  "Li-yan's family farms tea.  Through a series of events, Li-yan separates herself from the rigid rules that have dictated life in their remote village. She has a baby out of wedlock and leaves it in a city. An American family adopts the baby and names her Haley. Haley is happy but wants to know more about her origins, and her mother aches to find her.  They both go on a quest, and find the answers in tea."

Things will be Different by Maria Semple. “While not as hilarious as her earlier book “Where did you go Bernadette”, this book is charming and funny story of a middle aged wife and mom dealing with the hilarious and touching reality of her life”.

The Trespasser by Tana French.   “Tana French is the best of both worlds - consistently good writing and consistently good stories.  That said, I was a little disappointed in The Secret Place, which came out immediately prior to The Trespasser.  I'm happy to report she is back in form."  "If you haven’t read any of the other novels in French's Dublin Detective series, you are missing out. This is the sixth. It isn’t necessary to read them in order, however. She’s a fantastic writer."  [Ed:  If you're just starting out with Tana French, I recommend reading Faithful Place first].

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