Landline by Rainbow Rowell (2014)

landlineGeorgie McCool has just gotten the opportunity of a lifetime: a pilot for her very own TV show, which she co-writes with her best friend. There’s a catch, though: it’s due next week. Right after Christmas. When Georgie decides to skip the holidays and stay in LA to finish writing scripts, her husband Neal takes their two daughters to Omaha without her, leaving her alone for a week. Georgie can’t get Neal to answer her calls until she uses the landline at her mother’s house…but ends up reaching Neal in the past, just before he’s supposed to propose!

Landline explores the length of a relationship from beginning to end, but not necessarily in that order, through the use of slight magical realism in the form of a phone that can call the past. The reader can connect with Georgie in her moments of love and longing, and explore the full spectrum of emotions through this unusual will-they/won’t-they scenario, all the while rooting for Georgie and Neal to come together in both the past and present and fearing the consequences if they don’t. The fantasy element is minimal and the focus here is on Georgie’s life and relationship with her husband Neal. With half its story rooted in the 80s and 90s, Rainbow Rowell’s latest novel is a great choice for GenLit readers, as well as readers of women’s fiction.

Rowell recently did a Q&A session with readers on Goodreads about Landline and her previous books, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner (2014)

fearnothingThis is a fast-paced psychological suspense thriller, filled with many twists and turn. An added bonus is the interesting cast of characters, especially a woman who has an extremely rare genetic mutation wherein she cannot feel pain. This is an actual condition that I found fascinating to learn more about. Although there are some graphic, gory descriptions of the murder victims, I feel that these are outweighed by the interesting character studies and absorbing, edgy storyline. If you enjoy Fear Nothing, you can try other books in Lisa Gardner’s Detective D.D. Warren series.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (2014)

museumofextraordinarythingsIn New York City in 1911, a fire devastated both the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village and destroyed the amusement park Dreamland being constructed above Coney Island.

These public events are the framework for a spellbinding tale in which the author weaves realism and fairy tale. This novel, a romance and a tightly plotted mystery, is set among carnival sideshows, freak shows, and the midway of Coney Island. Her portrayal of New York City during a pivotal year in the city’s history turns the city a character in its own right.

Alice Hoffman’s storytelling magic is here in The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a love story rich with history and a sense of place.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P. S. Duffy (2013)

cartographerNova Scotia fisherman and amateur artist Angus MacGrath leaves his wife and son to enlist in the army during WWI. MacGrath has been lead to believe that his skills as an artist will be put to use as a cartographer. Instead he finds himself in the middle of the fight, witnessing horrors he never imagined. At home his emotionally distant wife and young son must deal with his absence and that of a beloved brother and uncle. MacGrath returns to his beloved Nova Scotia a man changed, perhaps forever.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P. S. Duffy is a beautiful balance between realistic characters and setting and dream-like quality adopted by some of the characters to survive. For other modern novels about WWI see our bibliography.

Join us! Our Novel Idea book discussion group will discuss the book on Wednesday, September 10 at 7pm.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey (2014)

buzzkillIn this witty teen mystery, Millie Ostermeyer investigates the murder of the successful (yet unpopular) high school football coach in small town Honeywell. Aided by the enigmatic quarterback Chase Albright, Millie battles her archnemesis – the newspaper editor and cheerleading captain Viv – and the bumbling town detective in her pursuit to uncover the truth and clear her father’s name.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey is a great fit for fans of Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mysteries, or Lisa Lutz’s Spellman family.

Double Exposure by Michael Lister (2009)

doubleexposureRemington James abandoned a successful advertising career to pursue his true passion—nature photography. Late on a fall evening, he checks his camera trap on the northern Florida property which he inherited from his father. As he reviews the footage, he is horrified when he views a brutal murder that the film captured. Soon the killers appear, and Remington is on the run in the dark, cold woods trying to make his way safely to the river.

Michael Lister’s Double Exposure has suspense, unique writing, beautiful descriptions of northern Florida’s endangered wildlife and fauna, and Remington’s musing on the best photographs of the last century.

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain (2013)

index.aspxIn this fascinating and well-researched novel, Diane Chamberlain tackles many social issues, including the controversial, but real, subject of state-mandated sterilizations, known as the “Eugenics Sterilization Program” in North Carolina that took place from 1929 to 1974.

Necessary Lies starts out briefly in present day, then flashes back to 1960, where we meet Jane, an idealistic young college graduate just starting out as a social worker for the NC Department of Public Welfare. The story and characters are made richer by the alternating narration between Jane, and Ivy, a 15-year old client of Jane’s from rural NC who lives and works on a tobacco farm.

The author vividly transports the reader into the 1960s through many well-developed and true-to-life characters and their heartrending stories and situations. I was so invested in each of the characters that I couldn’t put this book down, anxious to read how their lives would evolve.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I just want to say that I loved how the story ends by returning us to present day.