Ron Rash’s The Cove, goes on sale next week, but critics have already been vying to review the latest novel from the author of the acclaimed Serena. Two buzzed-about debuts will also arrive: Regina O’Melveny‘s historical novel The Book of Madness and Cures and Patrick Flanery‘s exploration of contemporary South Africa Absolution, plus a new novel from Katherine Howe. Usual suspects include John Grisham, Seth Grahame-Smith and Barbara Taylor Bradford. In nonfiction, there are new books from economist and foodie Tyler Cowen, Brad Meltzer and Edward O. Wilson.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Cove by Ron Rash (Harper/Ecco; Thorndike Large Print) features a love affair doomed by the turmoil of WWI, set in Appalachia. Critics have been competing to review it early: People gives it 4 out of 4 stars, saying “In Rash’s skilled hands, even farm chores take on a meditative beauty” and Entertainment Weekly gives it a straight A. However, the Washington Post‘s Ron Charles expresses disappointment: “Maybe anything Ron Rash published after Serena would seem pale… Only at the very end do these pages ignite, and suddenly we’re racing through a conflagration of violence that no one seems able to control except Rash.” The New York Times‘ Janet Maslin also doesn’t find it as good as the “ dazzling” Serena. In any case, the attention offers readers advisors the opportunity to lead people to the earlier book, which is being made into a movie, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; Thorndike Large Print) is a debut novel about a female doctor in 16th-century Italy that is one of BookPage’s most-buzzed about releases. As the Boston Globe‘s early review notes: “Women physicians playing the sleuth in hostile terrain have been a burgeoning club in the recent field of fiction, led by popular new works from Ann Patchett and Téa Obreht…. [This] story makes for a confounding hybrid, one that speaks to devotees of high-end historical romance from one side of its mouth and the fan base of Dr. Oliver Sacks from the other.”
Absolution by Patrick Flanery (Penguin/Riverhead) is a debut about a celebrated novelist in contemporary Cape Town, South Africa who believes she betrayed her anti-apartheid activist sister. It’s part literary detective story, part portrait of an uncertain society new to freedom. LJ notes that the author, an American living in London, has been called “the next J.M. Coetzee,” and declares that this “assured, atmospheric novel perfectly reflects the tenuous trust being forged among South Africans as they look to the future.”
The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe (Hyperion Books; Hyperion Audio; Thorndike Large Print) is a historical mystery with a romantic twist by the author of the 2009 debut hit The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Set in Boston in 1915, Boolklist says, “it offers a poignant look at spiritualism during the Great War and the comfort it brought to people who had lost loved ones.” LJ recommends it for fans of Tracy Chevalier and Diana Gabaldon.
Calico Joe by John Grisham (RH/Doubleday; Random House Large Print; Random House Audio) is a baseball-themed book timed for the opening of the season. Booklist calls it ”a solid baseball story but one that never delivers the emotional payoff readers will expect.”
Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith (Hachette/Grand Central; Hachette Audio) is the latest from the “master of the mashup,” as the Wall Street Journal calls him in a long feature today. Not so much a mashup, this new title plays with history, turning the Three Kings into escaped thieves who happen upon the manger and reluctantly help the Holy family escape to Egypt. Entertainment Weekly calls it “a fantasy action-adventure akin to fusing Game of Thrones with the Gospel of Luke…Grahame-Smith’s depiction of sacred figures as flawed humans that makes the book feel like a secret account of events that have been sanitized by legend.” Following in the footsteps of the author’s other books, this one has been optioned for the movies. The 3-D film based on his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter arrives in theaters in June.
Letter from a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford (St. Martin’s Press; Center Point Large Print; Macmillan Audio) is another of the author’s signature multigenerational novel. PW says, “Gardens, food, clothing, and accessories - everything in Bradford’s world shows taste. If the plot turns simplistic at times, loyal fans will still tear up at the descriptions of enduring friendship and familial love.”
The Calling (Darkness Rising Series #2) by Kelley Armstrong (HarperCollins) is the second installment in a teen fantasy series. Booklist says, “the lightning-fast plot leaves little room for character development, and Armstrong keeps the focus on the motion rather than the emotion while paving the way for the series finale. Fans of the first book, The Gathering (2011), won’t find any reason not to stay on board.”
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (Mysterious Benedict Society Series) by Trenton Lee Stewart (Hachette/LBYR; Listening Library) is a prequel to the popular series, focusing on the backstory of the narcoleptic genius founder of the Mysterious Benedict Society. Booklist says, “The novel is long, true, but many readers will find themselves reluctant to reach the end; and while Stewart leaves an opening for sequels about Nicholas as a child, this invigorating novel stands on its own.”
An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies by Tyler Cowen (RH/Dutton) is a gastronomic treatise by an economist best known for The Great Stagnation. PW says, “Cowen writes like your favorite wised-up food maven, folding encyclopedic knowledge and piquant food porn… into a breezy, conversational style; the result is mouth-watering food for thought.” According to Forbes, Cowen is “America’s hottest economist” (remember when that would have been an oxymoron?). Maybe it’s true; he’s spoken at TED. FastCompany recently listed a few of his intriguing “new rules.”
Heroes for My Daughter by Brad Meltzer (Harper) is a compilation by the popular thriller author, of stories of 55 people who dedicated their lives to improving the world, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank to Randy Pausch, Theodore Roosevelt to Lucille Ball, Rosa Parks to the passengers on United Flight 93. His Heroes for My Son was published in 2010.
The Social Conquest of Earth by Edward O. Wilson (Norton) is the Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard scientist’s answer to life’s big questions; “Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” Kirkus says, “Group selection–as opposed to kin selection, i.e., the ‘selfish gene’ a la Richard Dawkins–is the author’s big idea…Wilson succeeds in explaining his complex ideas, so attentive readers will receive a deeply satisfying exposure to a major scientific controversy.”