Lisa Sandlin's debut mystery opens in 1973, 14 years after Delpha Wade was convicted of killing one of two men who were raping her. Delpha's just been released on parole, and she takes the first job she can get, as secretary for Tom Phelan’s brand new detective agency. Their first case is all classic noir, with a missing boy, the stakeout of a cheating husband and a mysteriously poisoned dog.
I can't think of a better book to recommend to fans of J.K. Rowling's Robert Galbraith mystery series (The Cuckoo's Calling), as Delpha and Phelan are the toughest, most unforgettable detective team since Robin and Cormoran Strike. Sandlin's prose is as well crafted as it is readable, and there's something about The Do-Right that feels like a classic mystery that has been brilliantly contemporized.
"Have to be honest with you, Miss Wade. Think I already found a secretary."
No disappointment in those blue eyes, no hope either. She just passed a certificate with a gold seal across the desk. The paper said she typed seventy words a minute, spoke shorthand, could do double entry. The brunette with the Dusty Springfield voice claimed all that too, but she'd backed it up with a giggle, not a diploma from Gatesville.
"Your first choice of a job a P.I.'s office?"
"My first choice is a job."
Touché. "What number interview would this be for you?"
"I'm flattered. Get off the bus, you come here."
The blue eyes let in a smidgen of light. "That doesn't count the eleven place I applied 'fore they showed me the door. And one other that didn't have what you could call an interview."
No wonder Joe was pushing her. "Had your druthers, where'd you work, Miss Wade?"
"Library. I like libraries. It's what I did there."
There being Gatesville Women's Prison. Now that she'd brought it up. "How many you do?"
Phelan quelled the whistle welling up. That let out check kiting, forgery, embezzling from the till, and dope. He was aabout to ask her the delicate when she handed it to him on a foil tray. "Voluntary manslaughter."
"And you did fourteen?"
"He was very dead, Mr. Phelan."
What are you reading today?
Eva Leigh, who also writes paranormal romance under the name Zoë Archer, tries her hand at Regency romance with great success in Forever Your Earl, the first in her Wicked Quills of London series. The opener in the series delves into the scandalous world of gossip rags in Regency England.
In this guest post, Leigh tells us about the history behind today's celebrity gossip obsession and how it inspired her latest novel.
Scandal and gossip aren’t 21st-century inventions. Hundreds of years before TMZ, people loved to hear and read about the exciting, outrageous, titillating exploits of the rich and famous. Gossip sheets and scandal rags were hugely popular, all operating under the pretense that by exposing others’ misdeeds readers could see what not to do and learn by example. Most likely, nobody believed that fiction, but it made for a convenient excuse when pouring over the adventures of “Lady S—” and “Lord T—”.
Why do we love hearing about celebrities like the Kardashians and the latest pop sensations behaving badly? Maybe part of it is schadenfreude, pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune. And if that person is somebody with more money, more fame, more privilege than us—so much the better. We like to revel in a world of excess that most people don’t get to experience: getting thrown out of exclusive nightclubs, making scenes in wildly expensive restaurants, fast cars, designer clothing . . . We can’t seem to get enough of this fantasy world. And now, with the Internet, information on the latest gossip is instantaneous.
In Forever Your Earl, heroine Eleanor Hawke owns and runs a Regency-era scandal sheet called The Hawk’s Eye. She herself is something of a scandal, given that she’s a woman in possession and in charge of her own business. But for Eleanor, the story isn’t herself. She’s much more interested in the misadventures of notorious rakes like Daniel Balfour, Lord Ashford. Yet Eleanor’s reportorial skills are put to the test when Lord Ashford invites her to accompany him on his wild nights—and she soon finds herself not just writing about scandal, but being part of it.
Thank you, Eva! Check out our review of Forever Your Earl.
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It's Jane Austen week on the paperback aisle, with a sparkling new edition of one of her classic novels and a charming new story about young Jane herself:
By Charlie Lovett
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143127727
In two parallel narratives, Lovett portrays Jane Austen's friendship with a young clergyman in Hampshire in 1796 and a modern-day bookseller in Oxfordshire who begins to suspect that Austen was not the actual author of Pride and Prejudice. This inventive novel is a treat for Austen fans and readers who enjoy literary mysteries.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
By Caitlin Doughty
Norton • $15.95 • ISBN 9780393351903
As Doughty points out, we all die, so there's no use shrouding the process in secrecy. In this thoughtful and engaging memoir, the licensed mortician pulls back the curtain to reveal all the details of what happens to a corpse between death and burial (or cremation).
By Jane Austen
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143107712
This Penguin Classics Deluxe edition honors the 200th anniversary of the original publication of Jane Austen's beloved novel in 1815. The paperback has a new cover by illustrator Dadu Shin, an introduction by Austen scholar Juliette Wells, maps of England, a glossary of 18th-century words and other materials to provide context for today's readers.
This fall is filled with great books, and LibraryReads has put together a list featuring the 10 books coming out next month that librarians across the country are the most excited about putting on their shelves.
After You, Jojo Moyes' sequel to her bestseller Me Before You, makes the list, as well as our October cover! Margaret Atwood's futuristic The Heart Goes Last is highly anticipated, as is Geraldine Brooks' historical novel about the Biblical King David, The Secret Chord. Welcome to Nightvale, based on Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor's quirky podcast about a strange, small American town, is also on the list.
See LibraryReads full list here. What book are you most excited about reading in October?
For this month’s Locker Combinations, I took some time to talk with Jackie Kulesa, Teen Services Librarian at the main branch of Old Bridge Public Library in Old Bridge, NJ. I frequent OBPL to get my regular fix of YA lit, but this section of the library has a lot more happening than just lending books! Jackie and I talked about her role as a YA librarian, the challenges and rewards of keeping up with teen culture and the setup of her space—which is part New Jersey diner and part giant game board.
Can you tell me a little about the YA section of your library and the teens that use it?
Sure! The physical section of the library houses all materials for teens: fiction, nonfiction, biography, magazines, graphic novels and manga. This includes other formats such as audiobooks and playaways (audiobooks that come with their own player). We also have reference textbooks for teens to use while doing homework. We often have groups working in the teen area so there are a variety of tables in different sizes, including large tables and smaller diner-style booths that everybody loves! We also have three Chromebases (desktop computers) for teens to use and hope to add more in the future.
We get a lot of students of all ages in the afternoon and evening doing homework, studying and using the space for tutoring, so we try to make it useful for those purposes.
There is fun stuff too, of course! There are columns between the bookshelves along one wall that feature murals painted by Old Bridge teens, and bulletin boards in the back with useful information on upcoming programs and volunteering. And we have our beloved Desert Island Death Match game, where teens can vote on who would win in various matchups.
Desert Island Death Match?
The game asks teens to vote on who would win if two celebrities/characters were stuck on a desert island together and only one can survive. Our current matchup is from "Teen Wolf," a show that a lot of kids here are very into. Reading the DIDM votes is always fun because you get such a great range of answers; some kids reason it out logically to an amazing degree, and some kids go for funny or sarcastic responses. Past heated battles include the Avengers vs. Justice League, Katniss vs. Tris, and Taylor Swift vs. Grumpy Cat.
OK, now I need to know. Who won, Taylor Swift or Grumpy Cat?
I believe Grumpy Cat won. I guess Taylor is just not ruthless enough! The general consensus was that Grumpy Cat's aggressive attitude would be an asset to help her be the survivor.
How does the game work?
Winners are picked by number of votes, although I do get rid of any obvious “troll” answers that are put in just to be rude. I pick the matchups and it can be really tough! I choose based on what's popular at the moment, like characters from a book everyone is reading, if a big movie just came out, or celebrities who are feuding. You have to be very current on your teen-friendly pop culture, a challenge for sure.
Tell me more about those blue diner-style booths. Do they get a lot of use?
They really do—and from people of all ages. It can be a bit of a competition to see who gets the booths! They are used for students working in groups, kids being tutored, people relaxing. We’ve even taken them over for special events like video game setups or a Batman Day hangout. The library’s Teen Services has a Tumblr that features volunteer information and other teen news, book reviews, etc. that is named The Blue Booth!
What's your favorite part of being a YA librarian?
There’s a lot of things I love about being a YA librarian so I’ll try to narrow it down! The one thing you have to start with is the teens: they are at a great age where they are excited and passionate about things, have endless hobbies and interests, and are coming into their own as independent young adults. I have had so many great conversations with teens about what they love and what they want to pursue in life and it’s awesome. Also, being a teen librarian means you have the perfect outlet to share all your geeky interests because they are into that stuff too! I love that my job lets me have a Hunger Games party, play anime-related games, and organize a Comic Con. I love that I’ve had serious discussions about what Hogwarts house certain people belong in. When teens find out that you actually know and care about some of the same things they do it definitely opens up a whole new world of respect there. I also do really enjoy reading YA books and comics, which is, of course, extremely helpful for recommending titles to patrons.
Thanks, Jackie! Now I'm wondering who'd win in a matchup between Grumpy Cat and Snape. . . .
Locker Combinations is a Book Case feature by BookPage contributor and young adult (YA) literature expert Jill Ratzan. Using a variety of literary, cultural and educational perspectives, Jill guest blogs about the latest in YA lit and the general direction, trends and changes of the field. Read more BookPage reviews, interviews and posts by Jill here.
In Parnaz Foroutan's debut novel, The Girl from the Garden, an elderly woman ambles through her garden, remembering her youth in Iran at the turn of the 20th century. Our reviewer writes, "Though the reader gets a taste of what the Iranian Jewish community was like, this is really a novel about the culture of women, from the ritual baths and other religious traditions to the gardens and distinctly gendered spaces of the home." (Read the full review.)
We asked Foroutan to tell us about three books she's been reading.
City by Alessandro Baricco
Baricco is a master storyteller, and this book is perhaps the modern day—and more playful version—of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!. The story is about a young boy who is a child genius, his caretaker and their adventures. Baricco weaves in and out of this boy’s psyche with such ease and grace. He completely ignores the notion that an author has to hold the reader’s hand and walk them gently through the chronological steps of a story in some sort of simplistic manner, and he just dances in and out of time and thought and sequence. Magnificent. A beautiful story; writing that is utterly poetic. A style that is unique, complex, brilliant.
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Another fantastic approach to constructing narrative, Harding writes about the moment before a man’s death and the story of that man’s father’s life as a traveling peddler. The reader shifts between a classic narrative style, which Harding uses to tell the peddler’s story, and a more innovative narrative approach, describing the delusions, memories and dreamscapes of a man on his deathbed. What expert weaving of stories and what courage to tell it, thusly. And I am in utter awe of Harding’s ability to write. There is a passage in the book where Harding describes the wood of a porch, and that description is so vivid, so beautifully wrought, that it moved me to tears. I tell you, if a writer can move you to tears by describing a porch, you know you’ve got the real thing in your hands.
The Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis
De Robertis is a brave, brave writer. It is the first time I’ve read a story that explores so courageously the ideas of gender and sexual identity. The book is about a woman in the early parts of the 20th century who immigrates to Argentina and dresses as a man in order to participate as a violinist in the underground world of the tango. De Robertis is a powerful storyteller, and this topic is so timely. I can see this author blazing a trail, so to speak, and opening the sanctimonious Canon of American Literature to these historically silenced voices.
Thank you, Parnaz! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Debbie Formoso)
Heidi Swanson takes readers on a vegetarian-focused tour of the world's best dishes in our September Top Pick in Cookbooks, Near & Far. This Almond Cake has just the right hint of amaro, a popular spirit regularly found in Italian cafes and sipped as an aperitivo.
Herbal, sweet, and bitter; some versions weak, others strong—not everyone loves amaro, the widely varied Italian digestif originally sold as a health tonic in the early 19th century. You still see bottles lining enoteca shelves. I love it, and often sip it straight or over a cube or two of ice. It’s invigorating like an alcoholic wheatgrass shot. On the culinary front, I use it for flavor, primarily in sweet preparations—sometimes with creams or granitas, and other times in baking: this cake, for example, where amaro’s green herbaceousness melds beautifully with a thick almond paste batter and glaze accent.
Makes one 8-inch / 20 cm cake or multiple smaller ones
Preheat the oven to 350°F | 180°C. Butter an 8-inch | 20cm pan, generously and evenly sprinkle with flour, and tap out any excess. (Alternatively, you can use multiple smaller pans for a cluster of tiny cakes; see Notes, page 230.)
Break the almond paste into a food processor and give a few quick pulses; you’re looking for medium-size, pebbly pieces. Add the eggs and process until very smooth. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and salt and pulse a few times, then add the butter and amaro. Blend once more before transferring to the prepared pan(s). Bake until deeply golden and set in the center; you’re going to want to test this cake—a toothpick should come out clean before pulling it from the oven—for tiny cakes, this is usually 40 to 45 minutes, longer for larger cakes. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 20 to 30 minutes (very small cakes can be turned out after about 5 minutes), then transfer directly to the cooling rack. Let cool completely before glazing.
To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and amaro. Keep whisking until the glaze is free of lumps. Flood the top(s) of the cake(s), allowing the glaze to run over the sides. Alternatively, you can top each slice of cake with berries that have been tossed with a splash of amaro and sprinkled with brown sugar.
Be sure to buy almond paste, not marzipan. There is a difference.
This recipe makes about 3 cups | 710 ml of cake batter. You can bake one 8-inch | 20cm cake or multiple smaller ones. Adjust your baking time accordingly and use a cake tester to decide when to pull the cake(s) from the oven—smaller cakes take less time to bake.
I haven't done much research into this, but I'm going to declare that this is a first: Harlequin, the book publishing house known for its romance novels, is launching a line of wines called Vintages by Harlequin today.
Developed with the Northern California-based Vintage Wine Estates, the line will feature three varietals: a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a red wine blend. Available exclusively on Amazon.com now, the wines are available to U.S. customers only.
Considering the fact that I do most of my reading with a glass of wine in hand, this may be a match made in heaven. Because what goes better with romance than wine?
What do you think of Harlequin's new business venture?
Okparanta's debut novel is a touching coming-of-age story set during and after the Nigerian Civil War.
After her father dies in a bombing, Ijeoma is sent away to safety by her widowed mother. The only bright side of her exile is that Ijeoma falls in love—but the fellow displaced teenager who wins her heart is not only from a different ethic community, but also another girl. When she returns to her mother after the war, in disgrace after her romance is discovered, this defiance of custom results in extensive study of the Bible, with emphasis on the book of Leviticus.
By the end of all those lessons, all that praying, if anyone had asked how I felt, I would have told them that I was exhausted. Not angry, not confused, not even penitent. Just exhausted.
A week before I was to leave to board at the secondary school, two or three days after that last Bible study session, Mama turned to me again and asked, "Do you still think of her in that way?"
I looked into her eyes, knowing better than to tell the truth, but I could not get myself to speak the lie. I shook my head. I forced myself to shake it with authority, making sure not to blink. It was the first time that I had lied to Mama. I comforted myself with the thought that at least I had not spoken the lie.
Mama smiled, patted me on the shoulder. "Very good, my child. Very, very good." She signed, then she said, "The power of God! The wonderful power of our glorious and almighty God!"
What are you reading this week?