Elena Ferrante" rel="bookmark">

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

It is a fetid place that refuses to take a back seat to her characters, even though it is the seven families of the neighborhood that quickly draw you in and keep you turning the pages.  Ms. Ferrante demonstrates a deep understanding of how places shape people, which is displayed in her opening scene, which takes place between Elena Greco, the series’ narrator, and the son of her closest friend, Lila Cerulla.


Genre: contemporary, fiction, literary fiction, postmodernism
Margaret Atwood" rel="bookmark">Book cover: The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

Marian McAlpin is a sensible career girl, not “the other kind” that only dreams of catching a man and marrying him. So when she meets Peter, a handsome up-and-coming lawyer at a party, he quickly asks her out. Several months into their relationship, he loses his last unmarried friend to those scheming wifely types and, in a panic, asks Marian to marry him.


Genre: fiction, literary fiction, postmodernism

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A boy, a nameless boy, lives in a large and rambling old house in rural England. His father’s business is failing and, to keep money coming in, the family begins letting out rooms. One of these lodgers is an aggressive opal miner from South Africa, who runs over the boy’s cat on his way to the house. The next night, he steals the family’s car and drives it to the end of the road and kills himself. When the car is discovered, with the body in it, the boy is sent to the neighboring Hempstock farmhouse while his father calls the police.


Genre: adventure, fantasy, fiction, magic realism

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

Prepare yourself, readers, for a book that is as much about place as people.  The 2013 novel, The Burgess Boys, written by Elizabeth Strout, is as much about the internal culture clash of being from two places as it is about the Burgess siblings, who are brought together when Susan Burgess’s teenaged son commits a hate crime in their home town of Shirley Falls, Maine.


Genre: fiction, literary fiction

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place did not disappoint, by which I mean that it took over my life in the week that it took me to read it. If you’re not familiar with French’s style, her Dublin Murder Squad series is a collection of first-person character-driven classic detective novels told through the eyes of various Dublin Murder detectives that are inevitably assigned to the case of a lifetime. I do not read a lot of crime fiction because of its tendency to be more focused on the details of the mystery than the characters of the story, but French combines the detective genre with thoughtful character development and the sort of poetic prose that reminds me of Margaret Atwood. And did I mention how Irish her novels are? French was raised all over the world, but she lives in Dublin, which is obvious in the faithful and delightful representation of Irish speech and culture. Having an Irish spouse makes reading her dialogue a delight, because it’s so faithful that it almost feels like a private joke.


Genre: contemporary, crime, fiction, mystery

In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

Can love span death? This is the big question that Julie Christine Johnson asks us in her debut novel In Another Life. Johnson sets her novel in the Languedoc region of southern France and almost immediately throws the reader back 800 years to one of the darker periods of Christian history, when the Catholic Church led a successful crusade against the native Cathar sect of southern France.


Genre: contemporary, fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction

Her Name Is Rose by Christine Breen

Iris Bowen has just been sacked. It’s not her fault, as the author of a weekly gardening column in a regional newspaper, that the publishing industry has been in decline and budgets are being slashed everywhere.  Her work is good.  A lifelong gardener and natural writer, she has been performing well, despite having lost her […]


Genre: chick lit, fiction, women’s fiction

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

Throughout the adventure, Tinti also plays with the idea of morality — her good thief is a twelve-year-old orphan that is brought into a world of petty criminals, where he finds himself repeatedly tested. As Ren observes the bizarre workings of the adult world around him, he must decide where his own moral compass lies. Is it wrong to steal, if stealing feeds you? It is wrong to lie, if lying can save your life?


Genre: adventure, fiction, historical fiction
Ernest Hemingway" rel="bookmark">

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Written in 1940, Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is a 500+ page diary of the four days leading up to an assault on Segovia in the Spanish Civil War.  The hero of the novel is Robert Jordan, an American professor whose Communist sympathies have led him to volunteer to fight for the Republic, […]


Genre: classics, fiction

Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

In Sisters of Heart and Snow, Margaret Dilloway returns to the central theme of her award-winning novel An American Housewife; the biracial and first generation Japanese-American experience. Sisters Rachel and Drew Snow are the daughters of a merciless American businessman and his Japanese catalogue bride Hikari, who are thrown together as adults to take care of their declining mother after nearly two decades of estrangement.


Genre: chick lit, contemporary, fiction