Saying goodbye to summer is so much easier when you’ve got a shelf full of books waiting for you. So don’t mind us as we look forward to the crisper weather so we can curl up with one of these titles.
“Manhattan Beach” / Jennifer Egan (Scribner)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “A Visit from the Goon Squad” is back with a new novel set in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Eleven-year-old Anna Kerrigan goes with her father to visit Dexter Styles, a rich and important man with whom her father makes a secretive agreement. Later on, her father disappears and America is at war. Anna works in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to support the war effort and becomes the first female diver sent down to repair the ships. Above the water, Anna supports her mother, a former Ziegfield girl, and her disabled sister. Anna meets Styles at a nightclub and it is then that she begins to realize that her missing father might not be the man she thought she knew. Egan’s novel is part historical, part noir thriller, and all masterful story.
“Smile” / Roddy Doyle (Viking)
Victor Forde, single again after many years, looks forward to his nightly pint at Donnelly’s. On one occasion, an old school mate from Christian Brothers joins him—and he is not thrilled. The mere presence of Fitzpatrick makes Victor think of the past and his wife, but it also brings up some rather painful old memories, particularly of a certain brother at his school. It is this memory that becomes a threat to his very sanity. This newest novel by the Booker Prize-winning author of “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” will make readers reflect on how humans react when confronted with the past.
“Uncommon Type: Some Stories” / Tom Hanks (Knopf)
If you didn’t know Oscar winner Tom Hanks could also write, you do now. In his fiction debut, Hanks gifts his readers with 17 memorable short stories and equally memorable characters. In one, an Eastern European immigrant must start over in New York after a civil war in his homeland destroyed his life and family. In another, a man who bowls for pleasure finds himself an unlikely ESPN star when he stuns everyone with multiple perfect games in a row. Fans of the actor will love this book, as will readers who enjoy a good tale.
“Best Day Ever” / Kaira Rouda (Graydon House)
Paul Strom is living the good life—a great career in advertising, gorgeous wife, two wonderful sons, and the big house to go along with it. He enjoys taking care of his family, and he’s thrilled to whisk his wife Mia off to their lake house for a romantic weekend. Like the title states, it’s meant to be the best day ever—until it’s not. On the drive to the house, tension ignites between the happy couple, leading them to question their marriage. Do these two people even know each other? This book builds like all dark thrillers should, so be prepared for a wallop of an ending.
“Coach Parenting: Raising Teenagers with Advice from Pro Football’s Greatest Head Coaches” / Erika Katz (River Grove Books)
Does this sound familiar? Erica Katz asked her teen son countless times to pick up the shoes he left in the living room. No luck. Yet at his game the following week, Katz saw with her very eyes that her son—as requested by the coach—not only picked up his sneakers, but those of his teammates. What was the trick? Katz set out to find out not just what made her son listen, but also other young players who obeyed their coaches rather than their parents. The author interviewed more than a dozen current and retired players and coaches, including NY Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, former NY Giants running back Tiki Barber, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, and even sportscaster Bob Costas. Katz uses their advice about successful coaching and spins it toward successful parenting.
“Best Friend for Hire” / Mary Carlomagno (Post Hill Press)
Jessie DeSalvo has worked hard for a promotion in a top New York publishing company. Instead, she gets let go. It’s back home to New Jersey and her Italian-American family to regroup and lick her wounds. There, Jessie discovers she has a knack for helping friends and even strangers figure out their lives. If there’s such a thing as a professional BFF, she’s it. She’s soon working to help others plan out their lives, like a bankrupt club owner whom she happens to fall for. It’s not her finest hour when she promises him that Bruce Springsteen would play at his club, which leads Jessie to realize she’s going to have to start helping herself–by becoming her own BFF–before she helps others.
Creative Freedom Through Fiction
Mary Carlomagno is a nationally recognized organizing expert and spokesperson with several published books on organization and simple living to her credit. An enviable career in its own right, but still: “I think I always in my heart wanted to write fiction,” she says. So Carlomagno got herself organized and began diversifying her writing. Having written her previous organizing book in the first person, it was natural that she would also write “Best Friend for Hire” from that perspective.
With a successful career that comes from being orderly and regimented, it’s not surprising that Carlomagno found the fiction-writing process freeing. She enjoyed creating characters, particularly her book’s main character, Jessie. “I like that she gets knocked down a lot but still gets up. I think sometimes we as humans want to dwell on that depression and on the not-getting-up part.”
Whether people are held back in life by mental clutter or actual clutter, Carlomagno thinks Jessie can be an inspiration: “She has that indomitable spirit.”
Thriller on the Rails
Hollywood seems a bit nostalgic these days with its remakes of classics–and we’re not complaining. In fact, we’re rereading Agatha Christie’s famous whodunit “Murder on the Orient Express” to prepare for the killer new movie coming out this November.
Here’s a taste of it: A billionaire’s body is found on a train. An avalanche prevents the train from getting any further, meaning that the murderer is still on the train. Luckily, detective extraordinaire Hercules Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is also on the train and on the case.
Everyone’s a suspect, and practically everyone is a star, too: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, and Willem Dafoe are just a few of the critically acclaimed actors along for the ride.
By Barbara Bellesi Zito