I have just returned from Austin, where I attended the Texas Library Association conference largely to finish out my second year as a member of the Lariat List task force. Twelve librarians from around the state met to craft the second annual Lariat List of Recommended Adult Fiction. And so it is my pleasure to present it below. Happy reading!
Belfer, Lauren. Fierce Radiance (HarperCollins.) On the eve of World War II, when Life photojournalist Claire Shipley files a story about the development of penicillin, she stumbles upon corporate espionage and murder. An enlightening look at life before antibiotics.
Billingsley, ReShonda Tate. Holy Rollers (Gallery/Simon and Schuster). Frustrated in their searches for Mr. Right, three women turn to the pulpit looking for love. Self reflection follows as the women realize that loving and living is serious business. Readers ride through the highs and lows of rejection, respect and relationships.
Bognanni, Peter. House of Tomorrow (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam/Penguin). Teenager Sebastian Prendergast is thrown from the sheltered world of his eccentric, Buckminster-Fuller-worshiping Nana into the life of a family struggling with monumental issues. An off-beat, humorous read.
Borodale, Jane. Book of Fires (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/Penguin). London, 1752. Seventeen year-old Agnes Trussel becomes an assistant to a master fireworks maker. What will happen when her pregnancy becomes known? Captivating and colorful historical fiction.
Burke, James Lee. Glass Rainbow (Simon and Schuster). Detective Dave Robicheaux is on the hunt for a serial killer in his own backyard of southern Louisiana. His daughter’s boyfriend might be one of the suspects. Strong, colorful characters drive this hard boiled thriller.
Cisneros, Carlos. The Name Partner (Arte Publico Press). Ambitious South Texas attorney Guillermo “Billy” Bravo struggles with ethics when a complex pharmaceutical case becomes personal. Fast-paced suspense with lots of twists and turns.
Cowell, Stephanie. Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet (Crown/Random House). Step into the world of French Impressionist painter Claude Monet and his wife/muse Camille. Amidst the colorful stories of their circle of struggling artists, their unruly love story unfolds. A deeply felt, vividly told tale of art history.
Donoghue, Emma. Room (Little, Brown and Co./Hachette). Five-year-old Jack and his mother live as resourceful prisoners in the small room that is their universe. Will they escape? A harrowing emotional drama you will never forget.
Ferraris, Zoe. City of Veils (Little, Brown and Co./Hachette). Saudi desert guide Nayir and forensic technician Katya link disparate events leading to kidnapping and murder. A thought provoking mystery revealing women’s lives beneath the veil. A fascinating read.
Fortier, Anne. Juliet (Ballantine/Random House). American Julie Jacobs is shocked to learn she is a descendant of Guiletta Tolomei immortalized by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. As she traces her ancestry she begins to fear that old curse, “A plague on both your houses!” is still at work – and she is the next target. An unusual premise in a beautiful setting.
Franklin, Tom. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (William Morrow/HarperCollins). Small town Mississippi Constable Silas Jones investigates the disappearance of a local girl. His former childhood friend Larry Ott is the main suspect. Racial tensions and family secrets abound in this tight psychological thriller.
Gardner, Lisa. Live To Tell (Bantam/ Random House). Detective D. D. Warren’s investigation of a family annihilation leads her to a juvenile psychiatric ward where personal demons come back to haunt her. An intense and fast-paced thriller.
Hornung, Eva. Dog Boy (Viking/Penguin). Abandoned and alone, 4 year old Romochka, finds both home and family with feral dogs in post- apocalyptic Moscow. Gritty, not for the faint of heart.
Hurwitz, Gregg Andrew. They’re Watching (St. Martin’s Press/ Macmillan). Patrick Davis is failing in his career and marriage; who would want to stalk him? But incoming mysterious DVDs and phone calls show someone is doing just that. Plot twists keep the reader guessing until the very end.
Koryta, Michael. So Cold the River. (Little, Brown and Co./Hachette). Washed-up filmmaker, Eric Shaw arrives in West Baden, Indiana to research the life of a reclusive billionaire. After sampling the town’s famous “Pluto Water” his nightmares begin. A gothic chiller.
Larson, Leslie. Breaking Out of Bedlam (Shaye Areheart/Random House). After her children put her in assisted living, feisty octogenarian Cora Sledge records her life story in a journal and plots her escape. Hilarious and heartwarming.
Mosley, Walter. Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (Riverhead/Penguin). During a reprieve from his dementia, Ptolemy Grey puts his life in order and darn near adopts a homeless girl. Great realistic dialog drives this novel about an unexpected relationship and the power of memory.
Orringer, Julie. Invisible Bridge (Knopf/Random House). A young Hungarian man moves to Paris to study architecture and falls in love with a ballet teacher nine years older. Both Jewish, their lives as well as their families are torn apart by World War II. A top-notch historical epic.
Pickard, Nancy. Scent of Rain and Lightning (Ballantine/Random House). The man who went to prison for killing her father 23 years ago is back on the streets. Should Jody Linder believe new rumors of his innocence? Surprise and suspense electrify a small town in Kansas.
Simonson, Helen. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (Random House). Major Pettigrew, a widower in a small English village, faces racism and resistance to change when he falls in love with a Pakistani shopkeeper. A sweet, leisurely paced comedy of manners.
Stevens, Chevy. Still Missing (St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan. Realtor Annie Sullivan is kidnapped and held captive in a secluded mountain cabin. Will she survive? A suspenseful debut novel with unpredictable elements.
Stuart, Julia. The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise (Doubleday/Random House). Living in the Tower of London with The Royal Menagerie and a cast of eccentric characters, Beefeater Balthazar Jones finds his life at a crossroads as he deals with the death of his son, his crumbling marriage and his 180-year-old runaway tortoise. Funny, touching and quirky.
Vantrease, Brenda Rickman. Heretic’s Wife (St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan). Kate Gough smuggles Lutheran bibles into Henry VIII’s England. To be caught by Thomas More would mean death at the stake. Tense and compelling historical fiction.
Verdon, John. Think of a Number. (Crown/Random House). A retired detective is drawn into a complex puzzle laid out by a killer who asks his victims to “think of a number.” This cunning perpetrator knows when your number is up. A brainy thriller.
Zepeda, Gwendolyn. Lone Star Legend. (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette). When Austin journalist Sandy Saavedra is reluctantly transformed into a successful gossip blogger, the resultant celebrity spillover into her real life leads to surprising outcomes. Laugh your way through a novel well seasoned with blog posts, emails and the advice column “Just ask the Chupacabra."