September marks the start of the fall content frenzy, the most glorious time of the year! Here’s what I’m most excited about.
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
After I finish a book I love, I get serious book heartbreak. For days or weeks I can’t settle into a new book because I’m still hung up on the last one, and not being immersed in a book throws my whole life off—I get cranky and impatient and lethargic. This lasts until I either find another book that soothes away the heartbreak or until enough time has passed that I can finally move on with my life. So this fall I have a plan to seamlessly transition from one book to the next so that I can take full advantage of the fall book bounty: each time I finish a book I’ll just immediately follow it up with one of the stories from Atwood’s new collection, like a rebound date before my next big book relationship. If anyone can make me forget my old loves, it’s Atwood. Kirkus describes this story collection as, “Clever tales about writers, lovers and other weirdos.” What’s not to love about that? This fall, I’ll be relying on Atwood’s signature dark humor to put my tiny life back into perspective.
Audio published by Random House Audio. Available 9/16/2014.
Rooms by Lauren Oliver
Acclaimed for her YA novels, this is Lauren Oliver’s adult debut. It’s a ghost story, but not your typical ghost story. No rattling chains or heart-thumping midnight moments. Really, it seems more like a character-driven family story in which some of the characters happen to be ghosts. That intrigues me. It doesn’t hurt that the characters seem to be wonderfully flawed and even unlikable—I always like to see a writer successfully write characters that I want to read about even though I’d never want them in my house. I also like that there’s an element of mystery without it being a “mystery novel.” I’m curious to see if Oliver can pull it off.
Audio published by HarperCollins. Read by Orlagh Cassidy. Available 9/23/2014.
Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
Cue 11-year-old-me squealing. Here’s the thing, even though the mere mention of Gregory Maguire makes me squeal and feel like a sixth grader with whole summers to do nothing but read, the truth is I was in college when I read the adult novels Wicked (squee!) and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (OK, not nearly as good as Wicked but still enjoyable). Even though I was 20, not 12, when I think of Maguire’s signature fairy tale remixes I get a serious case of nostalgia. With Egg & Spoon, Maguire returns to writing for children, which suits my yearning to return to those languorous days of reading. I love everything about the description for this book: the Russian countryside, the surprisingly pronounceable and musical Russian names (Elena Rudina, Ekaterina, Baba Yaga), mistaken identity, and the delightful image of Baba Yaga, the witch of Russian folklore, in “an ambulatory house perched on chicken legs.” I’m hopeful that Maguire has captured the sense of misty magic of both the Czarist Russian countryside and of being a young girl. With starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, it seems likely that he has.
Audio published by Brilliance Audio. Read by Michael Page. Available 9/9/2014.
Dash by Kirby Larson
I’m going to admit it, no matter how many enemies it makes me: I am not a dog person. I’m barely even a cat person, despite having had three in my life. But even I get a little choked up at the description of Kirby Larson’s upcoming book for late elementary readers. Dash is the story of a Japanese-American girl who is separated from her dog when she and her family are sent to an incarceration camp during World War II. What I love about this is that it takes ones of the ugliest chapters in American history, wraps it in a sweet story of a girl and her dog, and makes something that is probably distant and unimaginable to 8-year-olds accessible and real. Being torn from one’s home and forced into a crowded camp surrounded by barbed wire is hard to imagine as something that really happened. Losing one’s dog isn’t. And since everyone else is jumping on the Common Core bandwagon, I’ll do it, too—I can easily see reading this alongside period newspaper articles or other nonfiction pieces that put it into historical context.
Audio published by Scholastic Audio. Available 9/1/2014.
An Italian Wife by Ann Hood
From the author of The Obituary Writer, this one sounds like it will slowly rip out my heart until I’m an empty shell, weeping on my bed. And the beautiful thing about life and fiction is that sometimes that’s exactly how I want to feel. Following the life of Josephine Rimaldi, a 15-year-old Italian bride, through her immigration to America, her loveless marriage, passionate affair, legitimate and illegitimate children, and the disappointments of each succeeding generation, culminating with Josephine’s 100th birthday, I imagine this as a story that so often happens but rarely gets told—the American dream unfulfilled or at the least complicated by love and reality.
Audio published by Blackstone Audio. Available 9/2/2014.
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie
New Hercule Poirot. Need I say more? I’m always skeptical when writers are tapped to recreate a beloved character and world, to mimic the style of a prolific and singular writer, but it’s impossible not to get a little tingly with excitement at the idea of a new Hercule Poirot mystery. Sophie Hannah takes on the daunting challenge of writing in Agatha Christie’s style. I think I’ll save this one for one of those dismally cold, rainy fall weekends when I can curl up with it and read it in one go.
Audio published by HarperCollins. Read by Julian Rhind-Tutt. Available 9/9/2014.