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Thursday, June 26,2014

Book reviews: Notes from Neil

Best of the First Half - FICTION

by Neil Rajala

Thursday, June 26I know, it hardly seems possible, right? Half of 2014 gone already. I'm going to take a quick look back and recap the best fiction I've read so far. The publishers' output has already been top quality, and there are a lot more great titles coming in the second half. Here's what we're reading:


THE MARTIAN - Andrew Weir
This one makes the list because it was the most frenetic page-turning, keep-me-up-too-late story I've come across in quite some time. A marvelously entertaining thriller about a member of a Mars expedition team accidently stranded on the planet's surface. The obstacles to survival are many, the solutions ingenious, and the pace never lets up.

THE INTERN'S HANDBOOK
- Shane Kuhn
The diary of a corporate assassin-for-hire on the verge of retirement - both the details of his final job and a how-to manual for for his replacement. This largely unheralded book turned out to be sleek, sexy and funny, with a lot of heart and soul beneath the flash. I can't think of a better summer vacation book. Highly recommended.


LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB
- Francine Prose
The French occupation and resistance during World War II has been the fodder for countless novels. Leave it to a writer as gifted as Ms. Prose to make a novel about the era fresh and moving. Multiple points of view, an uncertainty about what's true and what's not, and as original and compelling a main character as you're likely to find this year make for a tour-de-force that will stay with you for quite a while after you finish reading.

FOURTH OF JULY CREEK - Smith Henderson
Mr. Henderson's gripping novel about a child welfare worker in remote Montana, dealing with an elusive mountain man's family and his own runaway daughter is impressive enough. It's even more so when you consider that this is a debut novel. The maturity of the storytelling and characterization, and the author's pitch-perfect ear for local dialects makes me believe this is the arrival of a major new American author.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR - Joel Dicker
A murder mystery of the highest order. A smash hit in Europe before its release here, the Swiss author set this book-within-a-book-within-a-book on the U.S. upper east coast. Who killed the beautiful local teen Nola Kellergan? The story starts up thirty three years after the incident, when esteemed author Harry Quebert is finally charged with the murder. Confounding plot twists and false leads pop up and disappear again. I was certain I knew whodunit at least four times, and was always wrong. Just as Mr. Dicker planned, I'm sure.

Honorable Mentions:
THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE KING OF SWEDEN - Jonas Jonasson
ANDREW'S BRAIN - E.L. Doctorow
THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT POWERS - Tom Rachman


This week's question is an easy one, and one for which I'm particularly interested to see your answers: What's your favorite novel of 2014 so far? Let me know if you enjoyed one in particular that I mentioned, or if you found a gem that I missed.

Until next week,


Nei
l

NeilNeil Rajala is Currently Director of Community & Business Services for Schuler Books, Neil's decade with the company has included the wearing of many different hats - and lots and lots of reading.

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