New Title Radar – Week of June 27

On tap next week, a controversial UK novel that has received early attention here, the first novel by singer/songwriter Josh Ritter, plus several titles from repeat authors, poised for best seller lists.

Watch List

Untold Story by Monica Ali (Scribner) finds Princess Diana alive and well, living incognito in an ordinary American town, in this fourth novel from the British author who was named by Granta as one of Britain’s 20 best young novelists in 2003. Her first novel, “Brick Lane,” was on the shortlist for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

Its big rollout in the UK, just before the William/Kate Royal wedding, brought accusations that the timing was poor and the subject beneath a literary writer. Perhaps because of this attention, it got an early review from Michiko Kakutani the 6/13 NYT. She points out that this book seems “quite a departure from the subject matter of Ms. Ali’s earlier work; both Brick Lane and her second novel, In the Kitchen, drew portraits of a gritty, multicultural London,” yet it allows Ali to “address some of the same questions of identity and exile that animated her earlier work.” In the end, however, she finds it “preposterously gimmicky.”

Ali defends the book in an interview in the Wall Street Journal today. In the 6/25 NYT Book Review, Curtis Settenfeld, who reimagined Laura Bush’s life in the novel American Wife, also finds Untold Story falls short. Entertainment Weekly gives it a solid B, saying the story is told with “empathetic energy that puts a literary gloss on a beachread subject.” It is on O magazine’s Summer Reading List. Holds are building in some libraries.

The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbi Ann Mason (Random House) is the story of an American World War II pilot shot down in Occupied Europe, inspired by the wartime experiences of the novelist’s late father-in-law. LJ says, “the rich setting, detail, and intimate character nuances ring true. Great crossover appeal for fans of the award-winning author, World War II fiction, and novels with French settings.”

Bright’s Passage by Josh Ritter (Dial Press) is the story of a soldier who returns to West Virginia to take care of his infant son after his wife’s death, by a singer and songwriter Entertainment Weekly declared one of the “Ten Most Exciting Artists Now.” Library Journal says, “This expressive and darkly humorous tale of a man desperately attempting to salvage his future while coping with his past will attract Ritter’s fans and readers who enjoy a bit of magical realism in their fiction.”

Usual Suspects

Flashback by Dan Simmons (Regan Arthur Books) is set in an America in near-total collapse, where the citizens are addicted to a drug that allows them to rexperience the best moments of their lives. LJ finds it “believable in a grim sort of way. As always, Simmons keeps the reader’s attention from start to finish. Midway between science ficion and detective fiction, this will appeal to aficionados of both genres.”

Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Little, Brown) is a thriller about a lawyer and mother, who must finally tell the truth about her past when an innocent man is framed for murder.

Thunder of Heaven: A Joshua Jordan Novel by Tim LeHaye and Craig Parshall (Zondervan) Library Journal says, “this fast-paced novel is in its own right a strong one with a multidimensional hero. Ripped right from today’s headlines, it will attract fans of the “Left Behind” series and other apocalyptic fiction.”

Young Adult

Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson with Chris Tebbetts (Little, Brown) is about a middle schooler who decides to break every one of his school’s rules. Publishers Weekly says, “the book’s ultrashort chapters, dynamic artwork, and message that “normal is boring” should go a long way toward assuring kids who don’t fit the mold that there’s a place for them, too.”

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