Next Chapter Top 20 Spring 2012 Reads

09 Apr

This is a list of great new books selected especially to appeal to OUR customers by Tresa, Diane and Annie, with lots of input from our extensive network of expert readers. We don’t pretend that these are necessarily the most important books of the season, or that these will all become classics, but they are all great reads we hope will keep you entertained and enriched for the next few months at least!  Enjoy!

ImageA Good American by Alex George

Amy Einhorn Books, $25.95, Fiction

A moving, sweeping novel about the immigrant experience of the last century, about family, and what it really means to be an American. A young German couple makes the perilous journey to America in 1904.  If you get around to one book this season, this should be the one!  Read More.

Titanic First Accounts by Tim Maltin

Penguin Classics, $16.00, History

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, the publishing companies are rolling out lots of Titanic-themed books.  We think Titanic First Accounts is one of the best, with fascinating first-hand accounts taken from survivors sometimes just after their rescue, sometimes years later, and from newspaper articles and more.  [Also of note are Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster, a history of the first class passengers and their world and The LIfeboat by Charlotte Rogan, a novel based on the idea of a group of people doing what they must to survive in a lifeboat during this type of disaster. Another notable entry into the field is a young adult novel called The Time-Traveling Fashionista on Board the Titanic by Bianca Turetsky, which is getting thumbs up from our teen readers.  Read more about Titanic First Accounts.

Hinterland by Caroline Brothers

Bloomsbury, $15.00, Fiction

One of Annie’s must reads of the year, this is the compelling story of two orphaned Afghani brothers who struggle to make their way alone across Europe, surviving human trafikkers and predators of other kinds, encountering the occasional decent citizen, but often encountering governmental persecution instead of the help they so desperately need. Disturbing, suspenseful, and beautifully written.  Read the review here on our blog.  Read more.

Day of Honey : A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezlado

Free Press, $15.00, Memoir

Part war reporting, part travelogue, part food writing, this is one of the most intimate memoirs I’ve read in years. Ciezlado gives us a look at how people in the middle east survive perpetual war and turmoil by something so simple and basic as sharing food with each other.  A beautifully-written story about love and resilience, and the ties that bind us all together more than the wars can tear us apart. Read more.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Little Brown & Company, $24.99, Fiction

A beautiful, magical tale of a childless couple who homestead in Alaska in the 1920s, and quietly nurse their grief over the loss of a child, as they work themselves into oblivion to establish their new home.  One day, in a moment of fun, they build a snow child.  The next day, although their snow child is gone, they begin to see glimpses of a young girl running in the trees.  They wonder if she is alone out there, and if so, how is she surviving?  Populated by a wonderful cast of characters, a group of genuinely good people who understand that helping one another is the only way to survive, and written in luminous prose, this is a treasure of a book, and not to be missed!  Read more

Far from Here, Nicole Baart

Howard Books, $16.00, Fiction

This is a lovely page-turner about a young Iowa woman who falls for a pilot, despite the fact that she has a profound fear of flying.  They make their happy new home in Black Hawk county, Iowa, until the day her husband gets an offer to take his dream job — flying in the back country of Alaska.  He accepts the offer, which is only for a few weeks, but on his last flight before returning home, her husband disappears.  Is she now a widow? An abandoned wife? Her path to discovering what happened to her husband will push her to her own limits, and teach her things she never imagined about love and loss and about starting over. As an added bonus, this great writer is one of Iowa’s own!  Read more.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Harper Collins, $26.99, Fiction

A vibrant retelling of Jane Eyre set in 1960s Scotland, this is the story of Gemma Hardy, orphaned and raised first by a cruel aunt, and then in a cold orphanage, before she finds a position as a tutor for a wealthy family on the lonely Orkney Islands.  Of course, not everything is as it seems there, and the indomitable Gemma will learn about love and passion and secrets, just as her predecessor, Jane did in her own time and place. Beautifully written, this book is as much homage as redux, and is a lovely choice for a leisurely lounge-chair read. Read more.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Random House, $15.00, Fiction

This is the story of Clara Driscoll, the woman who worked for the Tiffany company and designed the famous stained-glass lamps manufactured in the early 20th century.  Because she was a woman, Clara was never publicly recognized for her work, and faced difficult restrictions on her personal life — Mr. Tiffany would not employ married women, for example.  Set in the first decades of the 20th century, Vreeland lovingly chronicles Clara’s struggle to reconcile the work of her hands with the leanings of her heart in an environment that barely tolerates a woman’s presence, much less her life as a wife and mother.  Another spot on examination of a little known corner of the art world, from Vreeland, who also wrote Girl in Hyacinth Blue.  Read more.

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Viking, $25.95, Fiction

In this mystical and loving family epic, Tuccelli takes us from pre-World War II Washington DC to rural Georgia over a span of a century as she follows the fates of a community of free African Americans, Cherokees, and Scots Irish, as they grapple with survival, racism, and the vagaries of history. Glow is told from the viewpoints of two young girls — a mother and her daughter — one from the 1940s and one from the 1920s, both of whom are victims of racial crimes, and who meet the world head-on with courage and joy.  I was reminded of Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons by the theme of Cherokee people dealing with the invasion of their homeland in various creative ways, while still maintaining some last shreds of their culture, and also by the atmospheric evocation of time and place.  I’ve never been to the mountain region of Georgia, but after reading Glow, I feel like I might know my way around a bit.  Highly recommended!  Read more.

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

Plume, $15.00, Fiction

From the author of Violets in March comes a love story spanning decades, about a young American woman named Anne, who volunteers during WWII and is sent to the Pacific island of Bora-Bora to serve as an Army nurse. Once there, she meets an enigmatic soldier named Westry, and they form a deep bond, whiling away their private hours in a hidden bungalow on the beach.  But a horrifying murder, a jealous friend, and the vagaries of war separate them, and they each move on to their respective duties, and in time, their civilian lives.  But Anne never forgets Westry, and she never stops wondering about the events she witnessed in the bungalow, and she cannot rest until she learns the truth about what happened and comes to terms with the losses she suffered.  With lush locations and enough romance for the most demanding romantics, this will be the best beach read of the summer!  Read more.

The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele

NAL, $15.00, Fiction

Another great WWII tale, this time set in a small village in Tuscany.  This is the story of Giovanna Bellinni, an aristocratic 17 year old girl, who comes of age in the midst of the war.  When the Nazis occupy her village, and take over her ancestral home, Giovanna’s brother joins the Resistance.  As the war and its terrible choices comes ever closer, the Giovanna begins to grow up, and learns more about the Nazis and what they have done to the Jews, and what role her own family has had in the Italian Fascist party, and she will have to make her own choices.  Along the way, she will find wisdom, hardship, and perhaps even love.   Read more.

A Covert Affair by Jennett Conant

Simon & Schuster, $16.00, History

This page-turner history is the riveting account of Julia and Paul Child’s experiences as members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during WWII, and the tumultuous later years when they were caught up in the McCarthy communist spy hunt in the 1950s.  Filled with intimate details of this fascinating couple’s life, this book gave me a sense of what it must have been like to find yourself the target of those investigations, and of the times and fears that made the McCarthy investigations possible.  A fresh new look at this beloved couple, and at a frightening time in a not-so-distant past.  Read more.

Mrs Kennedy and Me : An Intimate Memoir by Clint Hill

Gallery Books, $26.00, Memoir

The memoir of Clint Hill, the secret service man assigned to protect Jacqueline Kennedy during her husband’s term as president, from 1960 to 1964.  Hill went from being a reluctant guard dog, to being a fierce protector of the First Lady, and perhaps her closest friend.  This is a moving story of loyalty written by a remarkable gentleman who waited 50 years to tell his story about a woman he very much came to admire.  This gets top ratings from Kennedy fans everywhere!  Read More.

Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow

St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, Mystery

The newest entry in Stabenow’s long running mystery series brings together her two popular protagonists, Aleut private investigator Kate Shugak and Alaska state trooper Liam Campbell, in one story for the first time!  If you haven’t read Stabenow, this is a great entry point into the series, as the two detectives work together to solve a murder, as they navigate the web of conspiracy they find behind the death of a very unpopular aviation entrepreneur.  Stabenow’s characters are always meticulously developed, and her arctic settings are always compelling — if you love a solid, smart mystery, discover this writer today!  Read more

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Delacorte Press, $26.00, Mystery

This is an unusual and taught legal thriller that doubles as a family drama, in which Andy Barber, an assistant district attorney must deal with helping his teenaged son face the accusation that he murdered another child.  As the accusations and denials fly, the trial intensifies, his marriage begins to crumble, and Andy must find a way to stand by his son, no matter what.  Think Jody Picoult meets John Grisham — with a bit of a sharper edge!  And we have to admit that we really enjoyed visiting with Mr. Landay at the MIBA meetings last fall — his discussion of the process of thinking about and writing this story was fascinating.  We think you’ll all love it.  Read more.

Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry

Broadway Books, $15.00, Suspense

“If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn’t, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water.”

With an opening gambit like this one, how could we resist?  And the book delivered, with enough suspense, mystery, and twists and turns to keep you up late at night!  Learning to Swim is the story of Troy Chance who makes a split second decision one evening as she rides the ferry across Lake Champlain, and jumpes into the frigid waters to save a small boy.  When she gets to him, she finds that he is understandably terrified and that he speaks only French. She saves him from drowning, and when they reach shore, she realizes that no one is looking for him!  From there, she makes a fateful decision and takes the boy home to care for him until she can find his family.  But no one is coming forward looking for him, no pleas on the media, no police investigations, nothing.  As she works to discover what happened to the young boy, she uncovers a tangled web of privilege, money, power, and ruthlessness.  Read more.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose (The Reincarnationist #4)

Simon & Schuster, $24.00, Suspense

The fourth in her Reincarnationist series about a group of artifacts that can help the user access past life memories, and the man obsessed with finding them, wherever they may be.  In this entry, we meet Jac L’Etoile, the daughter of a French perfume house in crisis, who begins to experience ‘flashbacks’ to Cleopatra’s Egypt associated with a particular ancient scent that no one has been able to identify, she is dragged into a maelstrom of international intrigue involving Tibetan dissidents, Chinese nationalists, and the relentless Dr. Malachi who will stop at nothing to possess the scent itself.  The books in this series stay with you, and the twist of the past life memories and how they help solve each mystery is an added intriguing bonus!  Read more.

Expats by Chris Pavone

Crown Books, $26.00, Thriller

When American wife and mother Kate Moore’s husband gets a great new job, the family moves to Luxembourg where Kate hopes she can start anew, and leave her old life behind.  But things in Luxembourg are not always what they seem, and Kate soon discovers that her past cannot be outrun, and that her husband has a secret life of his own that will put everything she loves in jeopardy.  This is a stylish, smart thriller and great fun to read!  Read more.

The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

Knopf, $25.95, Fantasy

Oh, yeah, Rice is back!  After a period during which she wrote about different types of subjects, the author of Interview with the Vampire has returned to her former paranormal themes with this thick, satisfying tale of a young journalist who visits a fantastic old mansion in northern California where he is brutally attacked and transformed into, you guessed it, a werewolf.  Lush detail, settings you feel you could step into, a magnificent personal transformation, and a driving plot make this the perfect book to get lost in this summer. Read more

By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair

Scribner, $24.00, Memoir

The searingly honest memoir of an Iowa man grappling with fleeting youth, his marriage, his four children — including one autistic son — and a flood that tears everything down to its essence.  A compelling voice from a promising young writer.  Read Bob Leonard’s review on this blog and more information here.

Pioneer Woman Cooks : Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

William Morrow and Co., $29.99, Cooking

This great cookbook from the engaging ‘Pioneer Woman’ is so popular with our customers that it has been hard to keep in stock!  We understand, because this is not only a great learning resource for beginning cooks like graduating seniors and newlyweds, with step-by-step photos and clear instructions, but it is also a tremendously fun read, and a peek at an appealing rural lifestyle, as this former city girl does her part in running her ‘Marlboro Man’s’ cattle ranch in Oklahoma.  Read more.


Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Book News, Books, Reviews


4 responses to “Next Chapter Top 20 Spring 2012 Reads

  1. Cheryl

    April 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    This is the first time I’ve gotten to a Spring Reads review. It was a great time — went way too fast! I had seen a friend’s notes from a previous “Reads” review. It’s just fun to hear your enthusiasm for the books. I’ve already finished the Hinterland. You’re right, Annie. It’s a vivid picture of Afghani kids and a glimpse of our world — not a pretty picture!

  2. Dana Stabenow (@danastabenow)

    April 20, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Nice company I’m keeping there. Thanks!

  3. thenextchapterbooks

    April 21, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Thanks for the comment! We love your stories — thanks for writing them!


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