City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Graywolf Press, $15)
Limerick-born Kevin Barry's first book, the story collection There Are Little Kingdoms, won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. His debut novel, City of Bohane--which recently won the IMPAC Dublin award--is set in a dystopian polyglot 2053 Ireland and is filled with language that reads like a perverted hybrid of A Clockwork Orange and Trainspotting. Readers can enter City of Bohane anywhere and enjoy the language and the descriptions without worrying about the fierce and destructive story.
Goldberg Variations by Susan Isaacs (Scribner, $16)
Susan Isaacs has created a perfect setup: Gloria Goldberg Goldberg Garrison (born Goldberg, married to Joe Goldberg, changed her name to Garrison) is looking for someone to take over Glory, Inc., her beauty makeover business. At 79, narcissistic Gloria is friendless, cranky, imperious, hyper-critical and unrepentant. Three grandchildren are summoned to her estate so she can look them over and offer one of them her fortune. Things do not go as planned.
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (Vintage, $15.95)
Dave Eggers plunges into the contradictions of Saudi Arabian life with Alan Clay, a one-man consulting firm traveling to King Abdullah Economic City to demonstrate a teleconference system to 85-year-old King Abdullah. When Alan accidentally sleeps late on the morning of his first royal appointment, he hires Yousef, a student driver, to rush him to the tent to await the no-show king. Yousef is a delightful comic creation; the bonding between sad, blundering Alan and cheerful Yousef becomes the heart of the novel.
The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye (Unbridled Books, $15)
Peter Geye's story of early settlers on the shores of Lake Superior is sprinkled with archaic language and immigrant Norwegian, but stay the course and you'll find a novel rich in character, moving back and forth in time between the orphaned Odd Einar Eide's difficult birth and his last hours ice fishing with his motherless son as the spring thaw rips a spider web of cracks across the big lake beneath them.
The Malice of Fortune: A Novel of the Renaissance by Michael Ennis (Anchor, $15.95)
Stieg Larsson and CSI meet Renaissance Italy in Michael Ennis's ambitious novel, in which Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli team up to investigate a series of grisly murders. All the victims are women; all are horribly mutilated. Anyone might be the next victim, including the beautiful golden-haired courtesan Damiata, with whom Machiavelli has fallen in love. The story occurs within a framework of historical events involving the notorious Cesare Borgia, and contains innumerable twists that culminate in a memorable, suspenseful conclusion.
One White Dolphin by Gill Lewis, illustrated by Raquel Aparicio (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 8-12)
"Each night I have this dream. Each night the white dolphin waits for me." Gill Lewis writes about the dreamer, Kara Wood, a child struggling with loss of her mother, who continues to love and care about her family and friends and the creatures that populate the sea. This life-affirming novel gets its depth from well-drawn characters such as Kara's father, her cousin Daisy, and Felix, a boy who has cerebral palsy. But the satisfying climax and believable ending come about because of Kara's indomitable and generous spirit.
Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers (Plume, $16)
Morgan Callan Rogers's debut novel begins with a deeply emotional jolt: Carlie Gilham goes missing during a weekend trip, leaving her daughter Florine to face adolescence in a hardscrabble Maine fishing community during the 1960s. Did Cassie meet an unthinkable fate? Should Florine feel bereaved or just abandoned? For all the situation's potential for existential angst, the tale is not moody or weighty. It is, instead, a languidly paced, absorbing coming-of-age story with an enticing sense of time and place and a likable heroine whose singular circumstances give way to the more universal strains and awakenings of growing up.
The Uninvited by Liz Jensen (Bloomsbury USA, $16)
When adults say "children are the future," it's usually a hopeful acknowledgement; in British novelist Liz Jensen's The Uninvited, it is a warning--and a terrifying inevitability. Hesketh Lock, a brilliant anthropologist with Asperger's, is dispatched to investigate a bizarre series of cases of corporate sabotage. These cases converge with a second alarming phenomenon: children around the world are attacking and killing adults, and Lock must confront a nightmarish global phenomenon in this smart, genre-bending thriller.
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (Vintage, $15)
We know Mary Ann Schwalbe will die of pancreatic cancer, and we mourn her from the opening pages. When her son, Will, offers to accompany her to appointments and treatments, he starts an waiting-room conversation with a familiar question: "What are you reading?" Thus, their book-club-for-two was born. This story of the two years of Schwalbe's mother's illness is an homage to her remarkable life and their shared passion for books.
Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen (Broadway Books, $15)
In a stunning and sobering account of growing up next door to the nation's biggest radioactive threat, Kristen Iversen tells the intertwined stories of her father's alcoholism and Rocky Flats, Colo.--for almost 40 years, the secret source of the plutonium "pits" at the center of hydrogen bombs. Iversen weaves her lucid, heart-wrenching memoir of a family struggling to keep itself together with a keen exploration of nuclear havoc. Together, the two tales create a powerful account of coming of age under a mushroom cloud.
Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death by Bernd Heinrich (Mariner Books, $15.95)
Naturalist Heinrich explains in fascinating detail that death is just a continuation of the life cycle, as the death of one animal provides life for other species--like Nicrophorus beetles that bury dead mice as a food source for their larvae. He also raises moral and philosophical concerns about the role humans have played in the death cycle, considering the effects of our "deliberate removal of carcasses that have, throughout evolutionary history, been left to return to the earth."
The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy (Simon & Schuster, $16)
Actor-turned-writer Andrew McCarthy's memoir of the convoluted travel adventures he took in a misguided attempt to find comfort in settling at home is a fascinating character study, offering a glimmer of McCarthy's insight into his own fairly antisocial, overly sensitive personality issues as they play out across the drama of his relationship and subsequent marriage in Ireland to his current wife, D. He recounts his struggle to balance his desire for an engaged family life with an equally intense longing for solitude with candor and self-awareness.