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Fantasy favourites, satirical selections, historical highlights: Sarah Laing has 20 more fall picks you won't be able to put down
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By SARAH LAING
Special to The Globe and Mail
  
  

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Saturday, September 15, 2018 – Page P11

FOR DELICIOUS HALLOWEEN NIGHT TERRORS Melmoth by Sarah Perry For those whose autumnal traditions lean more Edgar Allan than pumpkin spice, this spine-tingling, gloriously creepy tale awaits for All Hallows Eve delectation. The author of gothic bestseller The Essex Serpent returns with the story of Melmoth, a shadowy figure who appears throughout time to the lonely and the lost. Catch is: She's not exactly there to offer comfort to the bereft souls she stalks ... and those souls aren't quite as innocent as they may first appear either. This is horror done masterfully, of the sort that is less about bangs that make you jump and more about (maybe) imagined breaths on the back of the neck from a presence that can't be real ... or could it?

More like this: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox Elevation by Stephen King FOR ROM-COM'ING LIKE IT'S 2005 AGAIN The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts Sometimes, one needs the entertainment equivalent of a glass of Whispering Angel - light, easily digestible fun that goes to your head just a touch.

This ex-Tatler editor's debut delivers such escapism (with a side of Nancy Mitford-ian wit) by the magnum-full. Polly Spencer has just turned 30, withering away at celebrity gossip rag Posh!, and, shades of Bridget Jones, is the perennial single in a sea of lefthand-rock-flashing friends. Enter Jasper, Marquess of Milton, a rakish aristocrat with a habit of getting photographed falling out of clubs. It all unfolds precisely as it should (flirty banter, visit to the old family castle, a last-minute wrench in the romance), and, praise be, without a hangover after the happily ever after.

More like this: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory FOR A STORY THAT'S A LITTLE BIT SCI-FI, A LITTLE BIT FANTASY An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green Hank Green, the brother of wildly successful YA author John Green (Looking For Alaska, Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars), originally envisioned this tale as a graphic novel. It's certainly the sort of dystopian subject matter that lends itself to that format: A young woman catapults to overnight fame after a video she shares of a potential extraterrestrial encounter goes viral. As with most great science-fiction, this amiable, often funny novel's great strength is in what it tells us about ourselves through the lens of the travails and foibles of an imagined world.

More like this: Trinity by Louisa Hall Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness FOR A LOVE STORY AS RELIABLE AS WATCHING THE NOTEBOOK A 900TH TIME Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks Nicholas Sparks is the sensible sedan of the romance world: Nothing flashy, nothing groundbreaking - but trustworthy, beloved by millions and guaranteed to do what it says on the box. In Spark's case that's delivering a pleasantly schmaltzy, comfortingly readable story about two people who fall in love. For his 21st book, Sparks takes his reader back to his beloved North Carolina and to Kindred Spirit, a mailbox on a remote island where people leave letters for others to read. One particular tear-stained missive is from a woman named (in classic Sparks fashion) Hope, and it's addressed to Tru (yep) the man who captured her heart on a lost weekend decades before and for whom she has pined these long, lonely years. Sparks, inserting himself into the narrative for a twist, traces the story of this love story's bittersweet conclusion. And yes, like clockwork, there were tears around page 250.

More like this: The Memory Collector by Fiona Harper Shell by Kristina Olsson FOR SKEWERING SOCIAL SATIRE Family Trust by Kathy Wang Family Trust is the story of the Huang clan, an Asian-American family grappling with the sudden announcement that Stanley, the family patriarch, has terminal cancer. So far, so Crazy Rich Asians, right? Well, ish.

Kathy Wang's prose is dryly cynical in a way that CRA author Kevin Kwan's isn't and she's far more interested in satirising Silicon Valley and contemporary American culture than she is chronicling the extravagant exploits of Asia's one per cent. That said, this, as with CRA, is a book about money and its power to make people do unexpected things.

Stanley has yet to write his will and the tussle to get him to put his wishes down on paper is the narrative engine of the book. The hook, however, lies in Wang's relatable portraits of the various members of the Huang family: Fred, the Harvard business grad son trying to be a tech god and succeeding middling-ly; Kate, mother and breadwinner while her (potentially deadbeat) husband is working on his killer app; Linda, the family matriarch (and brains behind their wealth), venturing out on the senior dating scene after finally divorcing Stanley.

More like this: The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning The Stylist by Rosie Nixon FOR THOSE TEMPTED BY THE SIREN CALL OF UNDER-THE-SEA The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi Mermaids were a thing in the beauty world recently and it seems that these creatures of myth have swum over to the literary landscape as well. A stand-out in the current crop of books about merfolk is The Oyster Thief, the fiction debut of Sonia Faruqi, best known for her food production exposé, Project Animal Farm. In its own way, Oyster Thief is an activist tale too: Greedy human Izar's quest for aquatic domination threatens the way of life (and actual lives) of Coralline and her fellow citizens of the idyllic mervillage she has grown up in. And while yes, things get epic and dramatic, the charm of this beguiling novel is in all the details of the underwater world that Faruqi has dreamed up - the complex mer social order, for instance, and the various remedies Coralline mixes up in her work as a pharmacist for the finned folk.

More like this: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar FOR HISTORICAL FICTION WITH DAUGHTER IN THE TITLE The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton A strange way to group things, yes, but there's a well-worn subgenre of the historical fiction world that's all about the generational saga, the sins of the mother being visited on the daughter, actions and their consequences, etc. etc. etc. The biggest of this sort of fall release is by Kate Morton, a master of the family secret story. The Clockmaker's Daughter cuts between the past (a tragic summer at an artist's retreat in 1862) and the present (the humdrum life of an archivist transformed by the discovery of etchings that depict a house she feels like she's been to somehow). Morton's great gift is evocation (the longing! the tension! the grief for things lost!) and giving her readers juicy, immersive worlds that can be fallen into and out of ... with a lot less strife (and maybe more star-crossed lovers) than exploring one's own real-life family drama.

More like this: The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor Daughters of Castle Deverill by Santa Montefiore Sarah Laing is a Toronto-based freelance writer.


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