Soon to Be Science Fiction Favorites

Because who doesn’t enjoy asking yourself “What if..” and then letting your imagination run wild? This blog features a Fantastic Three:

TheaterTheater of Spies
SM Stirling 

Paperback, $16
On Street: May 7, 2019 / ACE Originals

Theater of Spies features good old Teddy roosevelt as president once again (instead of Woodrow Wilson) as World War I rages. On his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America’s back. (Black Chamber is the first book in this series and Theater of Spies is the sequel.) After foiling a German plot to devastate America’s coastal cities, agent Luz O’Malley Arostegui and technical genius Ciara Whelan go to California to recuperate. But their well-deserved rest is cut short by the discovery of a diabolical new weapon that could give the German Imperial Navy command of the North Sea.

Luz and Ciara must now go deep undercover in Berlin, while trailed by the dangerous German agent code-named Imperial Sword, and a band of stormtroopers led by the killer Ernst Rohm.

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • The Wall Street Journal thinks that as a spy thriller, this series stacks up against the old classics of Kipling and John Buchan, stating that “As sci-fi, it comes off as terribly plausible, with Tom-Clancy-like mastery of old weapons, and potential ones…”
  • For fans of Stirling’s fantastic alternate Nantucket series in which a mysterious event causes the island of Nantucket to be transported back in time to 1250 BC.

LastLast Day: A Novel
Domenica Ruta
Hardback: $27

On Street: May 28, 2019 / Spiegel & Grau

Set sometime in the future: Every May 28, humanity comes together to anticipate Earth’s demise–and celebrate as if the day were truly the last. Seemingly unconnected people will converge to make this ancient holiday celebration a fateful one: Sarah is a bookish teen infatuated with Kurt, the tattoo artist she met at her parents’ Last Day party last year. But Kurt is still haunted by guilt over his role in the death of his ex. Karen is a misfit who keeps getting into trouble, which only increases when she tries to find her long-lost brother. Karen and her friend Rosette end up at the Last Kingdom on Earth church for Last Day, after Rosette leaves the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Meanwhile, a group of international astronauts–one American, one Russian, and one Japanese–observe Last Day from space.

This profoundly original novel is described as sparkling with wit, verbal ingenuity, and wild imagination, a “dazzling, haunting love letter to humanity and to our planet.”

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • It has a fairly unique plot, at least in the details
  • For those who loved Station 11 and The Age of Miracles




The Title is Just Brilliant

BrilliantLiterally. The title of essayist Joel Golby’s latest is:

Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant Brilliant
Hardback: $16.00
On Street: March 5, 2019
Anchor Books / Penguin Random House LLC

Staffer Joel Golby writes columns for Vice and is famous for his dry humor and naked self-reflection. (Did you notice that the “birthday candles” on his cake are actually cigarettes?)

To say these essays are funny is like saying koalas are furry. In the writing, he:

  • travels to Saudi Arabia and attends a “Westminster Dog Show for camels”
  • examines his frenemy, alcohol, an on-again-off-again relationship that he thinks of as “running along beside the wagon”
  • goes head to-head with the unpredictable, unpitying subspecies of Londoner known as the dread Landlord

Why It’s Worth Choosing

Because gosh darn it, sometimes you just have to laugh so you don’t cry. As in the essay called “Things You Only Know When Both Your Parents Are Dead”. Call it gallows humor, black humor, or whistling in the dark, if you’re Joel Golby’s people, you will know it.

Two Other Works of Brilliant Non-Fiction

NightNight in the American Village
by Akemi Johnson
Hardcover, $27.99
On Street: June 18, 2019 / The New Press

Most Americans know that after WWII, our troops were stationed in the countries of our former Axis foes. But unlike Germany–where those bases closed after the fall of the Berlin Wall–Japan still has American soldiers stationed in its country. And many Japanese aren’t happy about it.

In addition to the naval bases  in Yokohama, the US maintains  a vast complex of bases in Okinawa, and they have been in the news repeatedly when local women turn up missing–or dead.

In this thought-provoking look at the cultural and sexual politics of the American military empire, Fulbright scholar Johnson ventures deep into the Okinawan “border towns” surrounding the bases. She hears from:

  • Okinawans whose families survived WWII
  • protesters
  • women who date and marry American servicemen
    • and the groups that help them when trouble arises

Note: While considered by the nation of Japan to be a subgroup of the majority Yamato (Japanese) people, Okinawans’ DNA differs by 20%. And Okinawans have some commonalities with the Ainu, an indigenous group who lived on the islands before the Yamato arrived. Okinawan culture has some matriarchal elements, unique spiritual traditions, and an indigenous cuisine to which rice was a fairly late introduction (12th century).

Why It’s Worth Choosing

  • It got good reviews from Anthony Swofford, the author of Jarhead
  • Johnson is a compelling storyteller, having written for NPR and The Nation, and she is a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop
  • You will be an interesting conversationalist at parties on this serious topic

BeautifulThe Beautiful No:
And Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence, and Transformation

by Sheri Salata
Hardback, $26.99 
On street: June 4, 2019 / Harper Wave, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers

How would you feel if you woke up one day and discovered that while you have had the career of your dreams, you don’t have the life of your dreams, and you are 57 years old. Is it too late? This author’s answer is a resounding NO.

The Career: For 20 years, Sheri Salata worked for a combination of:

  • the Oprah Winfrey Show
  • Harpo Studios
  • the OWN Network

And yes, you have sensed a theme.

The Dream: To have a loving partner and fulfilling relationship, to be happy with her body, and to have supporting and supportive friendships. Surely every woman on earth can identify with these goals (unless, of course, they are happy being single. Nothing wrong with that!) Sheri just wasn’t.

Follow her on her journey to a better life as she:

  • dries out in the desert (detoxing)
  • braves humiliation at Hollywood’s favorite fitness studio
  • grapples with losses and grief
  • reinvents friendships
  • bares her fears and hangups in sex therapy

Why It’s Worth Choosing

It’s hopeful and could be quite helpful for other women facing a mid-life or post-mid-life crisis. It is empowering; the book won the 2017 Feminist Press Power Award. And of course, it is totally relatable.





What Book Should I Read Next?

With Love, From Europe

From today’s Dublin Strand to the Ritz in 1940’s Paris; to a modern-day Dutch housing estate/isolated Scottish isle, these three novels will take you on a satisfying, if whirlwind, tour of Europe.

The one set in Ireland

LyingLying in Wait
by Liz Nugent
Paperback $16
On Street: February 2019
Scout Press / Simon & Schuster

Something’s rotten in the country of Ireland…it could be the dead body of Annie Doyle, a drug-addled prostitute, or it could be the creepy, overly-intimate relationship of the wife and son of the man who killed her.

Dad Andrew is a respected judge; he lives with his wealthy wife in Avalon, the five bedroom Georgian house in South County, Dublin, where she was raised. Son Laurence may be overweight, ungainly, and mercilessly bullied at school, but he’s more clever than he is given credit for, especially by his devoted mother. When Karen, the sister of the missing woman, crosses paths with Laurence, he already knows something is very wrong in his home–even if he doesn’t know about the body buried in the family’s tidy garden. Now he is determined to unearth the truth.

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • In addition to creating a chilling psychological thriller, the author has written a detailed study of the sinister sociopathic mind.
  • Liz Nugent was named Irish Woman of the Year in Literature for 2017.
    • Her first novel, Unraveling Oliver, was named Crime Novel of the Year by the Irish Book Awards.

The One Set in France

MistressMistress of the Ritz
Melanie Benjamin
Hardback: $28
On Street: May 21 / Delacorte Press

Famous occupants of Paris’s Ritz Hotel:

  • George Balanchine
  • Coco Chanel
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Doris Duke
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Cole Porter
  • the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Infamous occupants of Paris’s Ritz Hotel in March 1940:  Hermann Goering and his Nazi bullyboys. But Blanche, the manager’s Jewish American wife, isn’t about to give up without a fight. She and her patriotic husband join the Resistance, risking their marriage, their freedom, and ultimately their lives in the fight to liberate France.

Why it’s Worth Choosing
This novel is inspired by real WWII French Resistance heroes Blanche Auzello and her husband Claude. It is always a joy to read a novel in which a place like the luxurious Ritz Hotel, created in 1898, becomes a character. And nobody examines the complexities of women’s loves and lives like this author. For proof, read Melody Benjamin’s Swans of Fifth Avenue or The Aviator’s Wife.

The one set in Holland/Scotland

DarknessThe Darkness That Divides Us
Renate Dorrestein
Paperback, $16.99
On Street: May 21, 2019 / World Editions

Living on an idyllic Dutch housing estate, Lucy used to be the most popular girl in elementary school. But when a bizarre crime rocked her world and sent her mother to prison, Lucy’s childhood exploded into an ordeal of constant, vicious bullying. Now her mother is out of prison, so they decide to make a clean start on a rugged Scottish isle. But escaping your past is never that easy.

Told in the alternating voices of Lucy and her bullies, this darkly atmospheric and emotionally spellbinding story is part family drama and part mystery.

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • Award-winning author Dorrestein is known internationally for her unsentimental depiction of children and their flawed families.
  • Her wicked humor offsets the darkness of the subjects.
  • All the chapters have “Sue Grafton-inspired titles” (my observation) like A is for Abacus, B is for Beetles, C is for Crisis, etc. How fun is that?
  • It is translated from the Dutch, so we’re lucky to even be able to read it.



Now Let Us Discuss Famous Men

ChasingChasing Cosby: The Downfall of America’s Dad
by Nicole Weisensee Egan
Hardcover, $28.00 
On Street: April 23 / Seal Press / Hachette

Do you remember your favorite Bill Cosby comedy routine from the 1980s? Was it “Fat Albert” or “Noah and the Lord”, or maybe “Chocolate Cake”? You won’t hear many people quoting Cosby these days, and the author of this book is part of the reason why. In 2005, Egan was the first reporter to investigate Andrea Constand’s allegations that the Cos drugged and sexually assaulted her, and Egan has stayed on the case every since.  As an investigative journalist and senior writer, she has covered the trial for the Philadelphia Daily News, People magazine and The Daily Beast. She is also in development with ITV to make a documentary series about her reporting.

Why It’s Worth Choosing

  • This award-winning author is an expert who has spent years researching the case
  • Egan uses the narrowly-focused lens of the fall of one cultural icon to illuminate broader societal issues, such as:
    • media power
    • the criminal justice system
    • celebrity culture

Plus Two More Famous Men

I want to be clear that as far as I know, nobody has accused either Charles Darwin or Tom Hanks of sexual harassment. I was just looking for a theme for this post, and “Famous Men” seemed apropos.

The next two featured ARCs are novels:

DarwinThe Darwin Affair
by Tim Mason
Hardback, $27.95
On Street: June 11, 2019 / Algonquin / Workman Publishing

“The heat moved like a feral thing through the streets, fetid and inescapable.”

In 1860’s London, Chief Detective Inspector Charles Field must solve two simultaneous crimes: the gruesome murder of a petty thief, and an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria. Among the questions swarming around him like pesky midges:

  • Was Her Majesty really the assassin’s target?
  • Are those closest to the Crown hiding something?
  • Who is the shadowy figure witnesses describe as having lifeless coal-black eyes?

Soon Field’s investigation has uncovered  a shocking conspiracy in which the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species sets off a string of murders, arson, kidnapping and the pursuit of a diabolical madman called the Chorister.

Who it’s Worth Choosing For
Anglophiles, mystery-thriller lovers, and folks who enjoy the works of Anne Perry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Carlos Ruiz Zafon. And also those readers who appreciate the detailed and well-researched period settings of Hilary Mantel. This debut novel is rich, witty and satisfying.

Waiting.jpgWaiting for Tom Hanks
by Kerry Winfrey
Paperback, $15.00

On Street: June 11, 2019 / Berkley Jove

Annie Cassidy dreams of being the next Nora Ephron. (One assume this is the younger Nora, before she reached the age of hating her neck.) Anyway, Annie spends her days writing screenplays, binge-watching Sleepless in Seattle, and waiting for her movie- perfect man. If only she could find her own Tom Hanks–a sweet, sensitive man who possibly owns a houseboat.

When a movie starts filming in her neighborhood and Annie gets a job on set, it seems like a sign. But alas, the lead actor is a cocky prankster who couldn’t be less like Tom Hanks if he tried. Despite her initial reaction, Annie finds herself sharing some classic rom-com moments with Drew. You can probably write the rest of this script yourself, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be as satisfying as fresh peach ice cream on a summer day. It could be like coming home…to no home you’ve ever known. Kerry Winfrey, you had us at hello.

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • The author is a die-hard rom-com nut, with a romance obsession that easily qualifies her for Bachelor Nation
  • An entire scene in this book was inspired by the author’s friend Alicia’s “never-ending hatred for Billy Joel’s Pina Colada Song”
  • There are at least 3 real-life indie bookstores that serve as this novel’s inspiration:
    • Cover to Cover in Columbus, Ohio
    • Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio
    • The Book Loft  in Columbus, Ohio
      • 32 rooms in a pre-Civil war-era building




ARCs, mysteries

Nordic Noir and Glass Keys

Long before Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo won a Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel, Auntie’s Bookstore (where I work) was accumulating Scandinavian mysteries faster than snow in February. The Glass Key is named for the famous noir novel by Dashiell Hammett, and is an actual glass key given out every year by the Crime Writers of Scandinavia.

Note: All of Scandinavia is represented by the celebrated mysteries below—except Finland. Unfortunately, the only Finnish writer to ever receive the Glass Key has not been translated into English. That author is Matti Ronka, who was chosen in 2007 for their thriller Friends Far Away.


Glass Key Winners

  • Henning Mankell 1992
    • Sweden
      In this series, Detective Kurt Wallender is a passionate opera fan with a drinking problem whose personal and family struggles–especially with his daughter–as pronounced as his brilliance on the job.
  • Peter Hoeg 1993
    • Denmark
      Hoeg didn’t write a series, but his haunting mystery Smilla’s Sense of Snow, in which a young Inuit boy is murdered, was made into an evocative movie. It is set in Greenland. Dorothy Parker, widely praised for elevating the crime genre in her day, would have approved of Hoeg’s lyrical literary style.
  • Karin Fossum 1997
    • Norway
      Inspecter Sejur is a mild-mannered man who is comforted by order, authority and justice, and desires to understand the criminal mind. He also has a sweet Somalii grandson.
  • Jo Nesbo 1998
    • Norway
      Inspector Harry Hole is a tough and troubled detective who stars in dark, multi-layered and violent stories like The Snowman, which often feature women in peril.
  • Arnaldur Indridason 2002 & 2003
    • Iceland
      Brooding Reykjavik Detective Erlendur is as enigmatic as they come, and Jar City is now a popular movie. Fun fact: Indridason also wrote two thrillers set in Iceland during WWII.
  • Jussi Adler-Olson 2010
    • Denmark
      In Department Q, Chief Detective Carl Morck is haunted by the murder of two of his fellow homicide detectives—in which he personally took a bullet but didn’t draw his gun.
  • Camille Grebe 2018
    • Sweden
      Once a valued police asset, insightful psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön runs into personal and professional trouble after becoming a crime victim herself.

The Scandinavian Flags and the Countries They Represent

  1. Denmark
  2. Sweden
  3. Iceland
    1. Iceland is an autonomous country which declared independence from Denmark in 1944. Previously it was part of the kingdom of Denmark-Norway.
  4. Finland
  5. Norway
  6. Greenland
    1. Greenland is currently an “autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark”, although it has a large indigenous Inuit population. Independence is desired by many inhabitants including political parties and advocacy groups.