Early in Seeing Off the Johns, author Rene S. Perez II gives us the key word in the story: onus—a burden or responsibility, often an unpleasant one.
Decked out in the latest Parisian fashions for 1897, New York City debutantes and cousins Dacia and Lou are traveling on the Orient Express to their mothers’ native country, Romania. They should be thrilled, as everyone knows Bucharest is the vacation spot for wealthy Europeans. But why are there so many behind-closed-door arguments after the teens arrive?
When Burdock—a one-eyed cat named for the prickly burr seeds that inspired Velcro—discovers that Dewey Baxter is planning to burn down his barn, it becomes his mission to save the barn’s inhabitants. It isn’t long before the whole farm—workhorses Tug and Pull, Fluff the sheep, Figgy the pig, Mrs. Brown the cow, Nanny the goat and her kid, Tick—work with Burdock to concoct an escape plan.
Tamara Ellis Smith’s first novel sweeps readers up in a tale imbued with magical realism, a definitive mix of gritty realism and magic that allows the possibility for life-affirming choices.
Lois Lonsdale is an enigma to those around her. The British literature professor is a respected academic, but also something of a threat to others in the department. That’s partly due to the former spelling bee champion’s striking looks, but her publishing success and standoffish nature don’t help.
It’s hard to follow a debut that immediately became an international phenomenon, was published in 40 countries and is in the works to become a movie (hopefully with the same mind-blowing visual effects Warner Bros. brought to movies like Inception, The Lego Movie and The Matrix). The thing that made Ernest Cline’s first book, Ready Player One, so good was a nearly impossible balance between where-the-hell-did-that-come-from originality and the familiarity of Gen-X pop-culture references. There’s no such balance in his second novel, Armada. Familiarity surpasses originality—intentionally.
Janis Cooke Newman, author of Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln, once again brings history to life with her sophomore novel, A Master Plan for Rescue. Here, Newman explores New York City as World War II percolates across the Atlantic. Her remarkable novel is filled with stories within stories that recall the superhero serials that its gifted 12-year-old, Jack Quinlan, wholeheartedly believes in.
Raymond Chandler once said about writing fiction: “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” In his first novel, Bull Mountain, firefighter Brian Panowich seems to have taken Chandler’s advice to heart: His characters brandish weaponry in a way that Charlton Heston might have found disconcerting. The result is a fast-paced and intricate revenge story culminating in a Shakespearean bloodbath.
Canadian author Leah McLaren walks a fine line in A Better Man, and following along as she navigates it is part of what makes her novel worth reading. A Better Man is a deft blend of comedy, wisdom and character, and it’s one of the most entertaining books of its kind you’re likely to find.
Louisa Hall’s fascinating cautionary tale is about the role artificial intelligence can and should play in our society.