A fiction book recommendation: Music of the Ghosts: A Novel by Vaddey Ratner

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h6uoHX.
Once again a writer, a female one, finds no other way to end a woman’s story without giving her a prince charming and a child to help her find her way to renewed hope, identify and resilience. Given Ratner’s personal experience of escape from the Cambodian genocide, such a critique may seem unkind.
Book description from Google Books:
An astonishing and powerful new novel from PEN/Hemingway finalist Vaddey Ratner.Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as “the Old Musician” and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago. In Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of unfathomable violence live side by side, striving to mend their still beloved country. She meets a young doctor who begins to open her heart, immerses herself in long-buried memories and prepares to learn her father’s fate. Meanwhile, the Old Musician, who earns his modest keep playing ceremonial music at a temple, awaits Teera’s visit with great trepidation. He will have to confess the bonds he shared with her parents, the passion with which they all embraced the Khmer Rouge’s illusory promise of a democratic society, and the truth about her father’s end. A love story for things lost and things restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness, Music of the Ghosts is an unforgettable journey through the embattled geography of the heart and its hidden chambers where love can be reborn.
The book is rated 3.84/5 at goodreads.com, from 425 ratings. See 131 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h6uz65.
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A fiction book recommendation: Tilly and the Time Machine by Adrian Edmondson

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h61kQN.
Folksy, funny illustrations by newcomer Danny Noble (who Edmondson signed up after spotting her on Twitter) add to the charm. But the book also provides a touching examination of childhood loss.
Book description from Google Books:
Special signed edition! Tilly is seven and a half. She lives with her dad, a scientist who used to invent things for the government. They are very happy, but they are both missing Mummy, who died about a year ago. So when Tilly’s dad creates a time machine in their back garden, there’s only one place that Tilly really wants to go- back to her sixth birthday party, when she ate too many cupcakes and her mummy was there. There’s only one problem. Tilly’s dad has got stuck in the past, and she must follow him through history, from battles on boats to Buckingham Palace, to get him back. Encountering all sorts of interesting people along the way,Tilly and the Time Machine is a funny and heartwarming adventure.

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A fiction book recommendation: My Italian Bulldozer: A Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h7aOLW.
And this is one important reason his readers love McCall Smith: He presents us with gentle stories that ask profound questions and leave us not with all the answers, but with a smile on our face and a lot more to think about than when we began.
Book description from Google Books:
The best-selling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series returns with an irresistible new novel about one man’s adventures in the Italian countryside. Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded, until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer. With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts the offer, and as he journeys (well, slowly trundles) into the idyllic hillside town of Montalcino, he discovers that the bulldozer may be the least of the surprises that await him. What follows is a delightful romp through the lush sights and flavors of the Tuscan countryside, as Paul encounters a rich cast of characters, including a young American woman who awakens in him something unexpected. A feast for the senses and a poignant meditation on the complexity of human relationships, My Italian Bulldozer is a charming and intensely satisfying love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of a fresh start.
The book is rated 3.59/5 at goodreads.com, from 2818 ratings. See 627 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2ixG1bh.
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A fiction book recommendation: Cockfosters: Stories by Helen Simpson

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h5j2nt.
What more does one want in a short story besides memorable characters, comic timing, originality, economy and poignancy? And heart. All there. Done. The reader thanks Simpson’s eye and ear for such generosity.
Book description from Google Books:
A wickedly wry, tender new collection from one of our finest internationally acclaimed short story writers. Nine virtuoso stories that take up the preoccupations and fixations of time’s passing and of middle age and that take us from today’s London and Berlin to the wild west of the USA and the wilder shores of Mother Russia; stories finely balanced between devastation and optimism. In the title story, long-ago school pals take the London Underground to the end of the Piccadilly line–Cockfosters Station–to retrieve a lost pair of newly prescribed bifocals (“The worst thing about needing glasses is the bumbling,” says Julie. “I’ve turned into a bumbler overnight. Me! I run marathons!”); each station stop prompting reflections on their shared past, present, and possible futures . . . In “Erewhon,” a gender-role flip: after having sex with his wife, who has turned over and instantly fallen asleep, a man lies awake fretting about his body shape, his dissatisfaction with sex, his children, his role in the marriage . . . In “Kythera,” lemon drizzle cake is a mother’s ritual preparation for her (now grown) daughter’s birthday as she conjures up memories of all the birthday cakes she has made for her, each one more poignant than the last; this new cake becoming a memento mori, an act of love, and a symbol of transformation … And in “Berlin,” a fiftysomething couple on a “Ring package” to Germany spend four evenings watching Wagner’s epic, recalling their life together, reckoning with the husband’s infidelity, the wife noting the similarity between their marriage and the Ring Cycle itself: “I’m glad I stuck it out but I’d never want to sit through it again.”
The book is rated 3.43/5 at goodreads.com, from 178 ratings. See 43 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iwrVGZ.
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A fiction book recommendation: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iyjRpe.
If Mrs. Richardson lacks the humanity and complexity that Ng granted to Marilyn Lee (the demanding, stern mother in Everything I Never Told You), this second novel is nevertheless an equally compelling read, starting with an equally breathtaking first sentence…
Book description from Google Books:
The instant New York Times bestseller!Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Must-Read Book for Fall * Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Selection * #1 Library Reads Pick * September IndieNext Pick   “I am loving Little Fires Everywhere. Maybe my favorite novel I’ve read this year.”—John Green   “I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting.” –Jodi Picoult “Witty, wise, and tender. It’s a marvel.” – Paula HawkinsFrom the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
The book is rated 4.13/5 at goodreads.com, from 25480 ratings. See 2880 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h7txXI.
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A fiction book recommendation: A Legacy of Spies: A Novel by John le Carré

A critic review (source Blog Critics) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2hbb24p.
A Legacy Of Spies is the final proof, if any other was needed, that Le Carre was one of the few writers able to elevate the spy novel, a genre previously considered close to pulp fiction, and turn it into an art form.
Book description from Google Books:
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The undisputed master returns with a riveting new book–his first Smiley novel in more than twenty-five years  Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.   Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carr� has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carr� and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new.
The book is rated 4.07/5 at goodreads.com, from 4543 ratings. See 572 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2haO6ST.
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A fiction book recommendation: The End of Eddy: A Novel by Édouard Louis

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2ztc4kz.
Just released in a highly readable translation by Michael Lucey, this painfully insightful tale of entrapment and escape could’ve easily been set in Michigan or West Virginia.
Book description from Google Books:
An autobiographical novel about growing up gay in a working-class town in Picardy.“Every morning in the bathroom I would repeat the same phrase to myself over and over again . . . Today I’m really gonna be a tough guy.” Growing up in a poor village in northern France, all Eddy Bellegueule wanted was to be a man in the eyes of his family and neighbors. But from childhood, he was different—“girlish,” intellectually precocious, and attracted to other men.Already translated into twenty languages, The End of Eddy captures the violence and desperation of life in a French factory town. It is also a sensitive, universal portrait of boyhood and sexual awakening. Like Karl Ove Knausgaard or Edmund White, Édouard Louis writes from his own undisguised experience, but he writes with an openness and a compassionate intelligence that are all his own. The result—a critical and popular triumph—has made him the most celebrated French writer of his generation.
The book is rated 3.81/5 at goodreads.com, from 3854 ratings. See 492 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iIG6J9.
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A fiction book recommendation: The Ice by LALINE PAULL

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iDCbxf.
It’s a rousing passage that, in its simultaneity and its resistance to simple causative relationships, brings the novel closer to the complexity and truth of life and of nature.
Book description from Google Books:
An electrifying story of friendship, power and betrayal by the bestselling, Baileys-prize shortlisted author of The Bees. It’s the day after tomorrow and the Arctic sea ice has melted. While global business carves up the new frontier, cruise ships race each other to ever-rarer wildlife sightings. The passengers of the Vanir have come seeking a polar bear. What they find is even more astonishing: a dead body. It is Tom Harding, lost in an accident three years ago and now revealed by the melting ice of Midgard glacier. Tom had come to Midgard to help launch the new venture of his best friend of thirty years, Sean Cawson, a man whose business relies on discretion and powerful connections – and who was the last person to see him alive. Their friendship had been forged by a shared obsession with Arctic exploration. And although Tom’s need to save the world often clashed with Sean’s desire to conquer it, Sean has always believed that underneath it all, they shared the same goals. But as the inquest into Tom’s death begins, the choices made by both men – in love and in life – are put on the stand. And when cracks appear in the foundations of Sean’s glamorous world, he is forced to question what price he has really paid for a seat at the establishment’s table. Just how deep do the lies go?
The book is rated 3.73/5 at goodreads.com, from 227 ratings. See 77 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2hcLQKR.
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A fiction book recommendation: Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway

A critic review (source Washington Times) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iGvL0i.
My advice: Be indulgent. Read it in a single afternoon. Don’t look up until you finish. And when you do, take a deep breath before returning back to reality. It would do us all some good.
Book description from Google Books:
CLASSIC SHORT STORIES FROM THE MASTER OF AMERICAN FICTION First published in 1927, Men Without Women represents some of Hemingway’s most important and compelling early writing. In these fourteen stories, Hemingway begins to examine the themes that would occupy his later works: the casualties of war, the often uneasy relationship between men and women, sport and sportsmanship. In “Banal Story,” Hemingway offers a lasting tribute to the famed matador Maera. “In Another Country” tells of an Italian major recovering from war wounds as he mourns the untimely death of his wife. “The Killers” is the hard-edged story about two Chicago gunmen and their potential victim. Nick Adams makes an appearance in “Ten Indians,” in which he is presumably betrayed by his Indian girlfriend, Prudence. And “Hills Like White Elephants” is a young couple’s subtle, heartwrenching discussion of abortion. Pared down, gritty, and subtly expressive, these stories show the young Hemingway emerging as America’s finest short story writer.
The book is rated 3.67/5 at goodreads.com, from 6900 ratings. See 455 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2zw3eTh.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iGn8Tw.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A fiction book recommendation: The Answers: A Novel by Catherine Lacey

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h9W7aB.
As this book slides forward, it shifts from first person to third. Lacey moves us in and out of the minds of several other characters, some of them vastly different from Mary, without for a moment breaking that spell.
Book description from Google Books:
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and a finalist for the Chicago Review of Books Fiction Award”Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, [The Answers] is also a novel about a subjugated woman, in this case not to a totalitarian theocracy but to subtler forces its heroine is only beginning to understand and fears she is complicit with.” –Dwight Garner, New York TimesMary Parsons is broke. Dead broke, really: between an onslaught of medical bills and a mountain of credit card debt, she has been pushed to the brink. Hounded by bill collectors and still plagued by the painful and bizarre symptoms that doctors couldn’t diagnose, Mary seeks relief from a holistic treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia—PAKing, for short. Miraculously, it works. But PAKing is prohibitively expensive. Like so many young adults trying to make ends meet in New York City, Mary scours Craigslist and bulletin boards for a second job, and eventually lands an interview for a high-paying gig that’s even stranger than her symptoms or the New Agey PAKing. Mary’s new job title is Emotional Girlfriend in the “Girlfriend Experiment”—the brainchild of a wealthy and infamous actor, Kurt Sky, who has hired a team of biotech researchers to solve the problem of how to build and maintain the perfect romantic relationship, cast – ing himself as the experiment’s only constant. Around Kurt, several women orbit as his girlfriends with spe – cific functions. There’s a Maternal Girlfriend who folds his laundry, an Anger Girlfriend who fights with him, a Mundanity Girlfriend who just hangs around his loft, and a whole team of girlfriends to take care of Intimacy. With so little to lose, Mary falls headfirst into Kurt’s messy, ego-driven simulacrum of human connection. Told in Catherine Lacey’s signature spiraling, hypnotic prose, The Answers is both a mesmerizing dive into the depths of one woman’s psyche and a critical look at the conventions and institutions that infiltrate our most personal, private moments. As Mary struggles to understand herself—her body, her city, the trials of her past, the uncertainty of her future—the reader must confront the impossible questions that fuel Catherine Lacey’s work: How do you measure love? Can you truly know someone else? Do we even know ourselves? And listen for Lacey’s uncanny answers.
The book is rated 3.36/5 at goodreads.com, from 1412 ratings. See 237 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iAfxWv.
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