Now that summer has turned to fall, we can look past the amuse-bouche of “beach reads” to more intriguing fare. Consider adding these recommended titles to the stack on your nightstand or your e-reader library:
Big news for Stieg Larsson fans: Swedish writer David Lagercrantz continues Larsson’s “Girl” series with The Girl Who Takes an Eye For an Eye, starring the sociopathic hacker Lisbeth Salander. But first some context:
In the well-populated crime-thriller landscape, the Nordic noir sub-genre has increasingly found its way onto bookshelves over the past 15 or so years. The moody tales are characterized by enigmatic characters and complex plots, set in the frozen tundras of Scandinavia.
It was journalist Larsson who brought Nordic noir to the attention of American audiences in a big way with his “Millennium Series,” published posthumously—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005, made into a 2009 film), The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2007).
The books were global sensations that introduced two of crime fiction’s most intriguing characters—journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the brilliant but troubled Salander.
In 2015, Swedish writer Lagercrantz got permission from Larsson’s estate to write his first sequel, The Girl in the Spider's Web (look for the film next year).
Which brings us to The Girl Who Takes an Eye For an Eye, in which Salander and Blomkvist are on a quest to unlock “the most closely held secrets of her traumatic childhood.”
Along the way, they confront terrorists and a prison gang leader, have dark dealings with Salander’s twin sister, Camilla, and discover evidence of a “pseudoscientific experiment known as the Registry.” As Lisbeth Salander is fond of saying, “First you find out the truth. Then you take revenge.”
Walter Isaacson has spent much of his career dwelling in the histories of famous men. Now he follows his mega-selling biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger with a fascinating scrutiny of Italian Renaissance polymath Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519), who he calls “history’s consummate innovator.”
In Leonardo Da Vinci, the author points out that the genius inventor-artist-scientist didn’t play well with others, for which we can rejoice. He was “illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted and at times heretical.” In other words, a celebrity ahead of his time.
One mystery that continues to haunt scholars surrounds the famous portrait “Mona Lisa,” which merits its own chapter. Isaacson writes, “Never in a painting have motion and emotion—the touchstone of his art—been so intertwined.” Still: What’s she smiling about, and how is it that her eyes follow you everywhere?
“My message is about the triumph of the human spirit,” Alice Hoffman once told me. She’s proven the point in more than 30 novels, including Here On Earth and The Probable Future.
Now we have The Rules of Magic, the prequel to Practical Magic, the 1995 tale of witchcraft made into the 1998 movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as sisters, and Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest as their aunts Frances and Jet, respectively.
Rules takes us back to 1620 and the beginning of the Owens family curse (falling in love will end in tragedy), then flashes forward to 1960s New York, when Frances and Jet are children. As usual, Hoffman casts a magic spell over her readers. Visit her at www.alicehoffman.com.
Chris Enss of Grass Valley, Calif. likes to dress up in period costume when she appears each March at the Authors On the Move fundraiser with 40 other writers. Given her bibliography, she is not out of place.
Enss is a screenwriter and author of more than 40 true-tale books about the Old West, focused on the pioneering women who made their marks but who history has forgotten—mail-order brides, soldiers, saloonkeepers, doctors, entertainers.
Beyond those are biographies of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Annie Oakley, Gen. George Custer, John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Her latest is The Pinks, about “the first women detectives, operatives and spies with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.” Most of the quoted material is from primary source material, adding depth and authenticity.
“My family lived near Tombstone, Arizona, and I hung out there when I was a kid,” Enss said. She “got hooked” on the Old West and the idea of fearless people leaving their homes back East to “tame a rugged land.”
The last time I interviewed her, she said, “I was born 170 years too late.” Then paused and added, “Except I like modern plumbing.” Visit her at www.chrisenss.com.
Literature is full of villains (think of Gone Girl) but you haven’t met the truly evil Amber Patterson in The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine. The conniving “toxic friend” wants nothing less than to “become” the beautiful, wealthy Daphne Parrish, taking over her life and stealing her husband. Amber has a plan, and so far it seems to be working. Until it isn’t...
By the way, “Liv Constantine” is the pseudonym of sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine; this is their debut novel.
Young-adult fiction, or YA, is aimed at readers ages 12 to 18, yet it’s common for its readership to cross over into the adult world, a la “Harry Potter.”
YA titles regularly scorch bestseller lists, and their number has more than doubled in recent years. YA now takes a $4 billion slice of the $28 billion book industry, says the Association of American Publishers.
One of the stars of the movement is Marie Lu, 33, author of the “Legend” and the “Young Elites” series. She specializes in dramas set in a dystopian future, which is in keeping with her birth year—1984 (George Orwell’s 1984 is the definitive dystopian novel).
Warcross is book one in her new series of the same name, a New York Times bestseller. In the story, Warcross “isn’t just a game, but a way of life. Its fan base spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit.”
Enter teen hacker Emika Chen, a bounty hunter who “tracks down players who bet on the game illegally.” The intrigue begins when the billionaire inventor of the game asks her to go undercover at the Warcross World Tournament to “uncover a security problem.” Uh-oh, where’s the “refresh” button?
Two icons of American identity that emerged in the 1920s were seemingly made for each other—Route 66 and the shiny aluminum-skin Airstream trailer. As Airstream founder Wally Byam once noted, “We don’t sell trailers, we sell a way of life.”
That could have been the inspiration for Living the Airstream Life by Karen Flett, an homage to and update on a piece of Americana that still roams the landscape. Excellent photography captures the on-the-road spirit, with informative text and testimonials from the Airstream community. For more, go to www.livingtheairstreamlife.com.