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The Sirens of Suspense

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Notable 2014: item1
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SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY

 

A BETTER WORLD, Marcus Sakey (Brilliance Saga Book 2, Thomas & Mercer)

Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional...and the rest of us.Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose—because his opponents have their own vision of a better world. And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.

 

THE CATALAIN BOOK OF SECRETS, Jessica Lourey (Toadhouse Books)

Faith Falls is a snug little Minnesota town constructed over a mystery, a place where the most impressive building is a gorgeous Queen Anne with turrets, cantilevered gables, and a wraparound porch. In a concealed room beneath the twisting stairs of the Queen Anne lies the Catalain Book of Secrets, the repository of the wisdom the Catalain women have gathered since the beginning of time. Ursula Catalain, current keeper of the Book of Secrets, is content to concoct spells in her garden cottage until the ghost of the man she murdered when she was 12 appears at her door in a new form. His return pulls Jasmine, Ursula's daughter, back into the fold. Once believed to be the most powerful of the Catalains, she foreswore her gift years before to bury a shameful secret. The ghost of the murdered man also calls home Katrine, Jasmine's sister, who has been banished for fourteen years. Finally able to return to Faith Falls and the beloved Queen Anne, Katrine must claim her true Catalain power to save her mother and sister from the dark family curse.

(If you like THE CATALAIN BOOK OF SECRETS, try the Witching Savannah series by J.D. Horn.)

 

THE LAST TOWN, Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines Book 3, Thomas & Mercer)

Welcome to Wayward Pines, the last town.Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrived in Wayward Pines, Idaho, three weeks ago. In this town, people are told who to marry, where to live, where to work. Their children are taught that David Pilcher, the town’s creator, is god. No one is allowed to leave; even asking questions can get you killed.But Ethan has discovered the astonishing secret of what lies beyond the electrified fence that surrounds Wayward Pines and protects it from the terrifying world beyond. It is a secret that has the entire population completely under the control of a madman and his army of followers, a secret that is about to come storming through the fence to wipe out this last, fragile remnant of humanity.

(N.B. This series will be coming to TV in the fall.)

 

MAGIC KINGDOM FOR SALE - SOLD!, Terry Brooks (Magic Kingdom of Landover Book 1, Del Rey)

Chicago lawyer Ben Holiday can’t fathom what lies ahead when he purchases Landover–a magical kingdom of chivalry and sorcery–from Meeks, the mysterious seller who placed the ad. Weary and jaded, Ben clings to the ad’s promise: “Escape into your dreams.” But Landover is not the enchanted idyll he expected.The kingdom is in ruin. The barons refuse to recognize Ben as King, a dragon is decimating the countryside, and a demon lord has challenged any prospective ruler to a fatal duel. To make matters worse, the Paladin, renowned champion of the Kings of Landover, seems to be merely a legend.Ben’s only allies are a bumbling court magician, a talking dog turned court scribe, and the beautiful Willow, who is part girl, part tree. With his friends in tow, Ben sets out to claim the throne. But when Meeks decides he wants Landover back, Ben will face supernatural foes of every stripe to prove himself worthy of the kingship. The question is: Can he survive?

(I don’t know why it took me so long to discover this series.)

 

VISIONS, Kelley Armstrong (Cainsville Series Book 2, Dutton Adult)

Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes. Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most. Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder? Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.

 

ZOMBIES AND CALCULUS, Colin Adams (Princeton University Press)

The account of Craig Williams, a math professor at a small liberal arts college in New England, who, in the middle of a calculus class, finds himself suddenly confronted by a late-arriving student whose hunger is not for knowledge. As the zombie virus spreads and civilization crumbles, Williams uses calculus to help his small band of survivors defeat the hordes of the undead. Along the way, readers learn how to avoid being eaten by taking advantage of the fact that zombies always point their tangent vector toward their target, and how to use exponential growth to determine the rate at which the virus is spreading. Williams also covers topics such as logistic growth, gravitational acceleration, predator-prey models, pursuit problems, the physics of combat, and more. With the aid of his story, you too can survive the zombie onslaught.

(Caveat: You really have to like math for this one.)

 

HONORABLE MENTION (Not yet released)

THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST, Gigi Pandian (Midnight Ink)

Unpacking her belongings in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon, herbalist and reformed alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing three-and-half-foot gargoyle—not to mention a master of French cuisine—and he needs Zoe’s expertise to decipher a centuries-old text. Zoe, who’s trying to put her old life behind her, isn’t so sure she wants to reopen her alchemical past . . . until the dead man on her porch leaves her no choice.

 

NON-FICTION

 

DO ZOMBIES DREAM OF UNDEAD SHEEP? A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain, Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek (Princeton University Press)

Even if you’ve never seen a zombie movie or television show, you could identify an undead ghoul if you saw one. With their endless wandering, lumbering gait, insatiable hunger, antisocial behavior, and apparently memory-less existence, zombies are the walking nightmares of our deepest fears. What do these characteristic behaviors reveal about the inner workings of the zombie mind? Could we diagnose zombism as a neurological condition by studying their behavior? In Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?, neuroscientists and zombie enthusiasts Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek apply their neuro-know-how to dissect the puzzle of what has happened to the zombie brain to make the undead act differently than their human prey.

 

THE MORBID ANATOMY ANTHOLOGY, Chiara Ambrosio, Stephen Asma, Joanna Ebenstein and Colin Dickey (Morbid Anatomy Press)

The 500 page, lavishly illustrated, hardbound and full color book features 28 essays based on some of the most memorable lectures hosted by Morbid Anatomy since 2008. Included are essays by Evan Michelson (star of Science Channel’s hit show "Oddities") on the catacombs of Palermo, Simon Chaplin (head of the Wellcome Library) on public displays of corpses in Georgian England, mortician Caitlin Doughty on demonic children, and Paul Koudounaris (author of "Empire of Death") on a truck stop populated with human skulls.In addition are pieces on fin de siècle death-themed Parisian cafes, post-mortem photography, eroticized anatomical wax models, Santa Muerte, “artist of death” Frederik Ruysch, and much more.

(N.B. If you have a chance to visit Brooklyn, definitely stop by the museum or attend one of their lectures http://morbidanatomymuseum.org)

 

NAPOLEON’S HEMORRHOIDS: And Other Small Events That Changed History, Phil Mason (Skyhorse Publishing)

What were Albert Einstein’s last words? What was Hitler’s real name? What famous artist was mistakenly thought to be stillborn? What sport did Fidel Castro almost play professionally in America? These questions and more are answered in Napoleon’s Hemorrhoids, a roller coaster of historical information.

 

THE SECRET LIFE OF PRONOUNS: What Our Words Say About Us, James Pennebaker (Bloomsbury Press)

Partly a research journey, the book traces the discovery of the links between function words and social and psychological states. Written for a general audience, the book takes the reader on a remarkable and often unexpected journey into the minds of authors, poets, lyricists, politicians, and everyday people through their use of words. At the heart of this book is the idea that our words leave indelible fingerprints of personality, our relationships and backgrounds, and even our plans for the future.

(Caveat: The premise of the research is interesting, but becomes repetitive, and some conclusions vague and unsupported.)

 

SEVERED: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found, Frances Larson (Liveright)

The human head is exceptional. It accommodates four of our five senses, encases the brain, and boasts the most expressive set of muscles in the body. It is our most distinctive attribute and connects our inner selves to the outer world. Yet there is a dark side to the head’s preeminence, one that has, in the course of human history, manifested itself in everything from decapitation to headhunting. So explains anthropologist Frances Larson in this fascinating history of decapitated human heads. From the Western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred massacres to Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of the Japanese home to their girlfriends, from Madame Tussaud modeling the guillotined head of Robespierre to Damien Hirst photographing decapitated heads in city morgues, from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores our macabre fixation with severed heads.

(If you like SEVERED, try REST IN PIECES: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy.)

 

SHOCKED: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead, David Casarett, M.D. (Current Hardcover)

Casarett chronicles his exploration of the cutting edge of resuscitation and reveals just how far science has come. He begins in the eighteenth century, when early attempts at resuscitation involved public displays of barrel rolling, horseback riding (sort of), and blowing smoke up the patient’s various orifices. He then takes us inside a sophisticated cryonics facility in the Arizona desert, a darkroom full of hibernating lemurs in North Carolina, and a laboratory that puts mice into a state of suspended animation. The result is a spectacular tour of the bizarre world of doctors, engineers, animal biologists, and cryogenics enthusiasts trying to bring the recently dead back to life.

(If you like SHOCKED, try STIFF by Mary Roach.)

 

STORIES IN STONE: A FIELD GUIDE TO CEMETERY SYMBOLISM AND ICONOGRAPHY, Douglas Keister (Gibbs Smith)

Stories in Stone provides history along with images of a wide variety of common and not-so-common cemetery symbols, and offers an in-depth examination of stone relics and the personal and intimate details they display-flora and fauna, religious icons, society symbols, and final impressions of how the deceased wished to be remembered. Douglas Keister has created a practical field guide that is compact and portable, perfect for those interested in family histories and genealogical research, and is the only book of its kind that unlocks the language of symbols in a comprehensive and easy-to-understand manner.

 

SUSPICIOUS MINDS: How Culture Shapes Madness, Joel Gold and Ian Gold (Free Press)

The current view of delusions is that they are the result of biology gone awry, of neurons in the brain misfiring. In contrast, the Golds argue that delusions are the result of the interaction between the brain and the social world. By exploring the major categories of delusion through fascinating case studies and marshaling the latest research in schizophrenia, the brothers reveal the role of culture and the social world in the development of psychosis—delusions in particular.

 

THE TALE OF THE DUELING NEUROSURGEONS: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness and Recovery, Sam Kean (Little Brown and Company)

Sam Kean travels through time with stories of neurological curiosities: phantom limbs, Siamese twin brains, viruses that eat patients' memories, blind people who see through their tongues. He weaves these narratives together with prose that makes the pages fly by, to create a story of discovery that reaches back to the 1500s and the high-profile jousting accident that inspired this book's title.* With the lucid, masterful explanations and razor-sharp wit his fans have come to expect, Kean explores the brain's secret passageways and recounts the forgotten tales of the ordinary people whose struggles, resilience, and deep humanity made neuroscience possible.

 

 

TELL US YOUR FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY OR NON-FICTION READ OF 2014 by using the Comments box further down on this page, or on our Facebook page and be entered to win one of the books mentioned above! (U.S. entrants only.)