For my recent program for the Adult Reading Round Table, “Top 5“, I revisited some of the categories and updated the “up and comers”. For Women’s Fiction, I added Kristina Riggle, who happens to have a new book out last month, and I’d like to showcase her first book here.

In Real Life and Liars,  Riggle tells the story of free-spirited Mirabelle, a 60-something woman who decides to not follow through with treatment when she’s diagnosed with breast cancer.  Needless to say, her biggest hurdle with that plan is how her dysfunctional family is going to take the news, consisting of her grown children who have returned to their hometown for Mirabelle and her husband’s 35th wedding anniversary.  Full of family secrets, funny moments, and realistic characters, this is a gem for readers looking for a new voice in Women’s Fiction.  It would also make a good choice for book discussion groups.

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This short story collection may be collecting dust on your library’s shelves, because it’s not genre short stories, it’s not a bestselling author, and it’s not even from a large publisher.  But oh, the stories.  Klage weaves the everyday with the slightly bizarre, giving her stories a hint of magic that doesn’t scream “magical realism” or “fantasy”.  (Bordering on, yes.  But not screaming.)  Think modern fairytales.

The opening tale, “Basement Magic”, is the story of a lonely little girl and the friendship she discovers with the family’s maid (and some electrifying revenge on her wicked stepmother).  And the final story, In the House of the Seven Librarians”, is a riff on Sleeping Beauty, with immortal librarians acting as the fairy godmothers.

Hand this one to someone looking for something different than their usual reading fare.  This is the kind of book that cries out for handselling.

(and a big shout out to Neil Hollands for mentioning this title on Book Group Buzz - I don’t think I would have ever come across it otherwise.  Ah, that’s what I love about book blogs!  Finding a gem.  Hopefully ShelfRenewal is doing that for some of you as well!)

 

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Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin made a good showing at the box office this weekend (go see it -it’s really cute, and John Krasinski is a doll.).  It’s chick lit with a bit of a twist – the chick cheating with her best friend’s fiancé is actually the sympathetic character here.  (When I read this back in 2004, I really, really wanted to hate it, because come on, who roots for the Other Woman??  But I couldn’t, because Giffin absolutely manages to tell the story in an engaging, charming way.)  Here’s some chick lit that features friends you wouldn’t want to have.

In Marisa De Los Santos’ Belong to Me, Cornelia and Teo are a happy suburban couple. When Cornelia meets the beguiling and mysterious free spirit Lake, the two women become fast friends. Unfortunately, Lake has ulterior motives and is keeping a big secret from her new friend.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah  is the story of Tully and Kate, inseparable childhood friends.  Kate, however, falls in love with Tully’s ex-boyfriend. Fast forward 30 years and Tully betrays Kate on live television when she accuses her of being a bad mother. Will their friendship ever recover?

Jane Heller’s Best Enemies finds Amy catching her fiancé and her best friend Tara in bed together.  In time, Tara marries the lout, and Amy becomes a top PR woman. When Tara writes a book about her perfect lifestyle—a total lie, by the way—Amy is, naturally, assigned to promote it.

Marian Keyes writes some of my favorite chick lit novels.  In The Other Side of the Story, Lily, an author, stole her best friend Gemma’s man.  Gemma starts writing funny emails about her breakup that land on the desk of Lily’s agent Jojo, much to Lily’s jealous dismay, since she is struggling to write her second book… and also finding that life with Gemma’s ex is not at all what she expected.

The Myth of You & Me by Leah Stewart is literary chick lit.  Cameron and Sonia were childhood best friends from until they had a huge falling out after college.  After not speaking for 10 years, Sonia sends Cameron a letter announcing her engagement, prompting Cameron to track her down and unravel the real reason behind the end of their friendship.

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Have you heard that there is a really important wedding coming up on Friday?  If your patrons are all jazzed up about weddings lately, send them home with some of these backlist beauties.

Beth Kendrick’s Nearlyweds offers a different take on typical bridal chick lit – three women discover that their marriage paperwork was never filed—so they aren’t really
married. Would they do it again or is this the perfect time to run out? Clever and well-written.

In Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella, Becky Bloomwood is finally getting married—twice even? Seems she can’t decide whether it’s to be at the Plaza in New York City or in her parent’s backyard in England . . . so she agrees to both on the same day.

Whose Wedding is it Anyway? by Melissa Senate is the story of a bride who is thrilled that working at a wedding magazine means she’ll get the whole shebang paid for and featured in an upcoming issue. But when her conniving boss starts to take over every last detail, she’s sees her dream wedding quickly become a nightmare.

The secret to control-freak Amy’s success has always been lists, so it’s no surprise that she ends up with 70 items on her wedding to-do list. Too bad the lists don’t actually help her make up her mind. Comic and fast-paced, Laura Wolf’s Diary of a Mad Bride is one heck of a Bridezilla novel.

In Galt Niederhoffer’s The Romantics,  nine college pals reunite at a wedding, only to have their already tenuous friendships put to the test. Lila and Tom are getting married, but Laura is not sure she wants to attend—she was Tom’s ex-girlfriend and sure that he was The One. She certainly shouldn’t be the maid of honor. Add three other couples to the mix, all in various stages of fighting, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

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This award-winning thriller by mother-daughter writing team Patricia and Traci Lambrecht, introduces Grace MacBride, founder of Monkeewrench, a game software company, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Still haunted by a violent past, Grace has assembled a group of computer whizzes who share her vision of creating complex video games where the bad guys always get caught. When their new serial killer game becomes the blueprint for a Twin Cities killer, the privacy-obsessed programmers must play nice with two different law enforcement teams trying to crack the case. Monkeewrench is a serial killer thriller with a great ensemble cast.

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Natalie Marx can’t forget the letter her mother received from the proprietor of Vermont’s Inn at Lake Devine, explaining that Gentile guests find themselves most comfortable there. She befriends the suitably WASPy Robin Fife at summer camp because Robin’s family spends part of the summer at the Inn. Natalie gets herself invited along on the Fife family vacation, but the friend and resort end up being pretty boring. So years later, it’s with mixed emotions that Natalie receives an invitation to attend Robin’s wedding to the Inn owner’s son. She goes and puts her chef’s training to the test when a wedding-day tragedy leaves the couple’s friends and family in need of comforting. Natalie, in turn, finds herself being looked after by the groom’s brother. “Literary women’s fiction” for lack of a better genre, The Inn at Lake Devine is a smart, sweet, and satisfying read.

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If the words “scrunchee,” “cassingle,” or “McDLT” mean anything to you, I don’t have to introduce you to the  delightfully stereotyped cast of the 1980s Sweet Valley High series. Francine Pascal’s update, Sweet Valley Confidential, catches the reader up on Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield (spoiler: Vampy Jessica did something bad and angelic Elizabeth swears she’s not going to forgive her this time.) We also get to see whether the years have been kind to Lila Fowler, Bruce Patman, and the rest of the gang. Here’s the thing about this book. It doesn’t matter if it’s good. (Entertainment Weekly put it pretty bluntly, “Make no mistake: This is a very bad book, bloated and silly and, worst of all, often quite boring.”) It doesn’t matter because it’s a book that gets people talking about books. This is the time to grab Lizzie Skurnick’s nostalgia fest Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading and do a display, booklist, blog post, or just have it at your service desk as a conversation starter for a day or two. (The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Daughters of Eve, Then Again Maybe I Won’t…. this book is a pimply time machine!) Imagine if you literally asked EVERY patron you deal with today, “And would you like me to put you on the waiting list for Sweet Valley Confidential?” I’m only half kidding. What a way to get your readers thinking back to those defining reading experiences. Skurnick’s last chapter, “Panty Lines: I Can’t Believe They Let Us Read This” discusses those adult books we borrowed from a friend’s older sister and read with flashlights, My Sweet Audrina, Wifey, Clan of the Cave Bear, Flowers in the Attic, and Domestic Arrangements. So make a fake yearbook page with book covers (Audrina, girl, you are totally most likely to write a tell-all!) or make your staff picks formative reads-themed for the week. Let the light of Sweet Valley shine down on your readers (and have fun!).

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In Baker Towers, Jennifer Haigh paints an evocative picture of a post-World World II mining town in Pennsylvania. After Stanley Novak dies unexpectedly, his widow and children  try to escape their dreary life.  Mother Rose struggles but can never escape the narrow-mindedness that goes along with small town life.  Her five children try to fit in to the world around them, awash in the many changes of the era.  Spanning three decades and a host of rich characters, this is a deep and true family story, and Haigh captures the hardscrabble era with grace and sympathy.  For fans of historical fiction (WW II era), family dramas, and those who simply enjoy  good writing.

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Oh lordy do I need a good laugh.  What with all the political strife going on, the mass destruction in Japan, and the scary threat of nuclear meltdown, I’ve just about had it with the real world. So I’m diving into my pool of happy books.  Here’s the book that made me laugh the loudest in 2008:

Driving Sideways is a laugh-out-loud road trip novel that takes on a serious subject – a young woman with a devastating disease gets a second chance at life thanks to a kidney transplant.  But instead of a sappy or issue-driven plot, Riley takes her characters on a crazy cross country trip, and pretty much made me laugh on every single page.  (Major bonus points for referencing the Menards jingle as well!  Midwestern readers, you get me.)

28-year-old Leigh is traveling across the country to visit the family of her organ donor. Diagnosed with kidney disease as as a teen, Leigh has always been a homebody, carefully choosing her next steps.  But ever since her transplant, she’s been trying all kinds of new things, throwing caution to the wind to set out on an adventure.  She’s convinced that this newfound free-spiritedness must be a trait her donor had, so she’s determined to find out more about this person, with unexpected results.   Witty dialogue, fun characters, and an fast-paced plot mark this debut novel, which by the way also puts an interesting spotlight on living with a chronic disease and the aftermath of organ transplantation.

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Of all of the 352 pages, my husband just had to decide to peak over my shoulder when Phoebe Millbury finally succumbs to her passion for the rogueish Rafe Marbrook, bastard brother of the Marquis of Brookhaven. We were on a plane, and he was so shocked that I would be reading such racy content in public that he literally sputtered. I just raised a libariany eyebrow and kept reading. The first in a trilogy, Celeste Bradley’s Desperately Seeking a Duke introduces three cousins who must be the first to marry a duke in order to inherit the family fortune. Pheobe, a vicar’s daughter, is the star of this saucy tale of love, lust, and ridiculous 19th-century inheritance law.

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