Wednesday, March 29, 2017
What The Library Staff Are Reading Now
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, September 2017
I wish I had started this book on the weekend, so I could have read it uninterrupted, in one sitting. It was agony to put it down at bedtime and leave it in the morning to go to work. I can't write a review that will do this book justice. It's perfect. That's all you really have to know. "Little Fires Everywhere", Ng's sophomore novel, confirms that Ng is a literary force to be reckoned with. Set in the upscale community of "The Shaker Country Estates", two very different families collide and find their lives simultaneously enriched and threatened by the other. With sharp insight into the human condition, Ng examines the great cost of motherhood; how we often fail and alienate our children; how love becomes a cage of our own making.
I loved this book and highly recommend "Little Fires Everywhere" for all readers who enjoy great literary fiction. (MV)
The Leavers, by Lisa Ko, May 2017.
Immigration is a real hot button topic these days and engenders strong opinions. Ko’s novel, The Leavers, is a story of a young Chinese-American boy, Deming Guo, who at age 11comes home from school one day to find his undocumented mother, Polly, missing. No one knows what really happened to Polly, but Deming ends up being fostered and then adopted by a well- meaning professional couple. However, Deming, now renamed Daniel by his new parents, never loses the feeling of abandonment and in his young adult years develops a gambling addiction, drops out of college and drifts aimlessly while trying to discover himself.
“He recalled how she and Peter had insisted on English, his new name, the right education. How better and more hinged on their ideas of success, their plans. Mama, Chinese, the Bronx, and Deming: they had never been enough. He shivered, and for a brief, horrible moment, he could see himself the way he realized they saw him - as someone who needed to be saved.”
Even educated, well-intentioned parents will struggle raising a child, but Deming’s heartbreak is never forgotten and healing is a long journey which will take him back to Fuzhou, China. I recommend this novel for anyone who is interested in knowing what it is like to be an undocumented immigrant. I think it’s important to know how these people are treated by our government and then to ask ourselves if we can’t find a solution that treats all humans with dignity and respect. Are we not our brother’s keeper?
Winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged fiction, Ko’s novel is a thought –provoking assessment of today’s immigration issues. I highly recommend it for all readers of contemporary fiction. (MV)
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson, May 2017
Tyson writing style is always approachable and entertaining. And his latest book is no exception. Clear and concise, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, gives readers exactly what the title promises, a basic understanding of a deeply fascinating subject. Highly recommended for readers who want to understand our universe better. (MV)
Borne, by Jeff VanderMeer, May 2017
I’m a huge fan of VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy and readers familiar with his style know to expect that they will be in the dark as much as his characters. The novel’s protagonist, Rachel, is a scavenger who discovers a creature she names Borne. Rachel is unsure if Borne is animal or plant, but nurtures her foundling as they both struggle to survive in an apocalyptic word where bizarre biotech animals roam. VanderMeer’s creativity knows no boundary in this toxic world, ruined by The Company and climate change. His world-building is filled with a nightmarish giant flying bear, Mord, mutated children with fangs and wings, and terrifying technology. Part horror, part sci-fi, and completely consuming, this is a page turner fans will not want to miss. (MV)
The Wanderers, by Meg Howrey, March 2017
Helen, Sergei, and Yoshi, three of the world’s best astronauts, are chosen for a 17 month simulation of Mars exploration by Prime Space, a private aerospace company. The Wanderers is a captivating look at what astronauts will endure during a journey to Mars and the physical and mental toll such travel exerts on the individual astronauts and their families. The three astronauts and family members alternate their viewpoints, making this a novel that is primarily character-driven. Howrey’s research clearly lends this novel a very authentic feel, but its pace may be too protracted for those who are expecting a reading experience like “The Martian” or “Station Eleven”. I thoroughly enjoyed The Wanderers and look forward to Meg Howrey’s next work (MV).
The Thirst: Harry Hole #11, by Jo Nesbo, May 2017
If you know me, you know I think Jo Nesbo is THE crème de la crème of Scandinavian crime fiction. I like my detectives flawed. Deeply flawed. And I have missed Harry’s absence these past years. So, you will understand my excitement/joy/elation at getting my hands on a galley of The Thirst: Harry Hole #11. Since the last novel ended, Harry has been teaching at the Police Academy and is happily married to Rakel. But we know happiness can’t last, right? A serial killer emerges once again in Oslo and Harry is called in to assist. Actually, Harry is more or less blackmailed by the nefarious Police Chief Mikael Bellman who wants Harry to solve the crime quickly so he can continue his climb up the ladder to Justice Minister. Nesbo thrills and teases his readers as Harry’s fate hangs by a delicate thread. It’s great news for fans that Harry’s back along with all our other favorite characters that we love and hate. The Thirst’s hints there will be a Harry Hole novel #12 and I, for one, can’t wait! I highly recommended The Thirst for all Jo Nesbo fans and readers who like their Scandinavian mysteries with a fix of high octane adrenalin. (MV)
The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School: Recipes and Inspiration to Build a Lifetime of Confidence in the Kitchen, by Alison Cayne, April 2017
Destined to become a classic, this cookbook is my new go-to gift for showers and weddings. Beautifully illustrated, The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School is well organized and perfect for the beginner and experienced cook alike. Teaching essential skills for success in the kitchen with lots of gorgeous photos and step by step clear, concise directions. Charming illustrations of necessary kitchen tools utilized in the recipes is also a nice touch and I learned quite a bit reading through the tool descriptions. For instance, “a ‘spider’ is the professional kitchen’s slotted spoon. A shallow wire basket secured to a handle, the ‘spider’ is a great tool for scooping items from hot oil when deep frying, or removing vegetables from hot water.” Highly recommended. (MV).
Waking Gods, by Sylvain Neuvel, April 2017
Nuevel’s exciting sequel to Sleeping Giants is filled with even more giant, alien robots.
What’s not to love? Rose Franklin returns to a world she doesn’t quite remember, but she is determined to save humanity from the alien invasion. Waking Gods is fast-paced action and great fun! (MV).
Commonwealth, by Anne Patchett, 2016
Two families are pulled asunder when Bert Cousins, uninvited, brings a bottle of gin to Franny Keating’s’ christening party and lays eyes on her beautiful mother, Beverly Keating. The two Keating daughters will live in Virginia with Bert and Bev, while the four Cousins children remain in Los Angeles with their abandoned, exhausted mother. This is a reality tale which is often difficult to read because of the children’s deep sadness. The six step-siblings form a close alliance when every summer, the four Keating children fly to Virginia to spend three months with their father and step-mother. The story flips backs and forth in time, giving the reader a sense of how loss and pain have informed the adult lives of the six children. Few authors can create characters as real as Patchett’s and by the time the novel ends, this dysfunctional family will have become part of the reader. Commonwealth is beautifully written and there is a great deal to ponder long after the story has ended. (MV)
Touch, by Courtney Maum, June 2017
Courtney Maum’s comic genius is in full display in her second novel, Touch. Fleeing to France, after her fathers’ sudden death, protagonist Sloane Jacobson, a leading trend forecaster has recently accepted a position to lead the tech industry’s forerunner Mammoths’ annual conference. Anxious about her return to the states after a ten year absence, Sloane is prepared to make some tenuous overtures to her estranged family. Also complicating her homecoming is Sloane’s French partner Roman Bellard, a handsome, neo-sensualist and spandex wearing Zentai enthusiast, who has written a viral NYT’s op-ed piece on the death of penetrative sex. Maum’s brilliant expose’ of life in the age of technology is laugh-out-loud funny and poignant as Sloane discovers that her job and her current relationship is at odds with her belief in the importance of human interaction and her desired for intimacy. Readers will root for Sloane as she strives to reconnect with her family and forge a new future. (MV)
What to do About the Solomons, by Bethany Ball, April 2017
Tolstoy’s quote from Anna Karenina “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” is certainly applicable to the Solomon family. Yakov Solomon, a successful construction entrepreneur and his beautiful wife Vivienne, raise their five children during the aftermath of WWll in an Israeli kibbutz, not far from Jerusalem. Ball’s debut is a madcap tragi-comedy masterpiece with the screwball Solomon family drama at center-stage. I devoured this in one afternoon; I was simply unable to put it down. (MV)
Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach, Feb. 2017
Dolan-Leach’s debut is a story about two estranged, identical 25 yr. old twins, Ava and Zelda, who have had a falling out two years previous over a young man. Ava, furious with her sister and her dysfunctional, alcoholic parents, leaves her family behind and takes off for Paris. Surprised by an overwrought email from her detached mother, Ava is informed that Zelda has perished in a fire. Or has she? Ava can’t quite feel that her twin is dead, plus shortly after her mother’s email, Ava begins receiving cryptic emails from her sister, goading her, and leading her on an alphabetical scavenger hunt of sorts which unleashes all kinds of family secrets. At center-stage throughout the novel are the circumstances leading up to the death (or disappearance of Zelda), and Ava’s subsequent quest to discover and decipher the clues Zelda has left behind for her twin. Dolan-Leach skillfully maintains the tension in this fast-paced psychological novel which will keep readers flipping pages as fast as they can. (MV)
The Possessions, by Sara Flannery Murphy, Feb. 2017
Eurydice (Edie) works as a “body” for the Elysian Society, an establishment, set in the near future, which allows the grief stricken to connect with deceased loved ones. Edie has worked for the Elysian Society for five years and holds the record for longest employment. Bodies don’t seem to last long at the Elysian Society, but Edie’s uncanny success relies on her ability to completely vacate her body, detach and allow the deceased to fully possess her. All the bodies use a pill, called a lotus, to facilitate this transfer, but it is not without risk: enter handsome widower Patrick Braddock who has lost Sylvia, his young, beautiful wife in a swimming accident. Edie finds herself drawn to Patrick and Sylvia doesn’t exactly disappear when the effects of the lotus wear off…”she still might stay inside me, metastasizing through my organs until nobody can tell us apart, or she might leave. A parasite deserting a starving host…”
Murphy has an intriguing premise for her novel and I had a hard time putting ‘The Possessions’ down. Deep, dark secrets are slowing revealed as Edie’s obsession with the seemingly perfect couple cause her to circumvent her own careful rules and those of the Elysian Society. Recommended for readers of psychological fiction. (MV)
Dreams Before the Start of Time, by Anne Charnock, April 2017
Charnock takes the reader into the future with intertwined stories of close friends, Millie and Toni, and several generations of their families. Spun snippets inform the narrative of what it means to be a family. Parenting, of course, seems as challenging in the future as it has always been, but Charnock adds a complex layer of futuristic parental options that demand consideration. Society advances to the point where women who choose to conceive and carry their babies to term are considered abusive because they haven’t chosen the expensive artificial womb to nurture their embryos. There are many interesting medical science scenarios to ponder in Dreams Before the Start of Time, such as a fathers ability to choose only his own DNA to create a child, genetic enhancements, and the elimination of infertility altogether. Sci-fi fans will find a great deal to contemplate within these pages. (MV)
The Sleepwalker, by Chris Bojahlian, 2017
Annalee Ahlberg suffers from parasomnia, a disorder characterized by a variety of abnormal behaviors during sleep such as sleepwalking, night terrors, REM sleep behavior disorder, sleep aggression, and sleep –related eating disorder, just to name a few. One morning Annalee’s daughters, Paige and Lianna, awaken to find their mother missing. It’s been three years since Annalee’s last episode of sleepwalking when Lianna saved her mother from leaping off a bridge in the middle of the night. Bojahlian has written a fascinating study of a family under terrible stress trying to discover if Annalee has fled, perished accidently, or been murdered. Many clues are offered along with the requisite red herrings to keep readers on their toes. I read this mesmerizing novel in one sitting; truly unputdownable. I highly recommend it for fans of literary mysteries. (MV)
The Nearness of You, by Amanda Eyre Ward, 2017
Suzette Kendall, a brilliant heart surgeon, has never wanted children; fearful of the mental illness that runs in her family. However, after 15 years of marriage, her husband, Hyland has decided he really wants a baby. They search and find Dorrie, a young and willing surrogate, who has been accepted to Rice University, but can’t attend without funds. The money from the surrogacy will allow her to attend college, but Dorrie decides she can’t give up the baby. This is a story of family, a mother’s love and sacrifice, and the lengths we will go to for our children. The Nearness of You is told from the varying perspectives of the two mothers and of the child, Eloise. Ward’s novel deals with tough, contemporary social issues: child neglect, drug use, prostitution, PTSD, suicide, and surrogacy, all the while carefully presenting both sides of the issue in measured and precise writing. Absolutely unputdownable. If you haven’t read Ward before you are missing out. Highly recommended for fans of Jodi Picoult. (mv)
Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout, April 2017
Elizabeth Strout does not disappoint with her newest work, Anything is Possible. Strout continues to awe with her brilliant collection that takes up where her novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, leaves off. Similar to Olive Kitteridge, the chapters read like short stories with Lucy Barton, as the thread that runs between them. The characters populate Lucy Barton’s home town of Amgash, Illinois, situated an hour from Chicago and their stories are woven together carefully and wonderfully. No one captures the inner workings of small town characters minds better than Strout. Written to be read and enjoyed many times, Strout’s latest stands alone and does not require having read her previous works. I read this in one sitting and highly recommend Anything is Possible for all readers of fine literary fiction. (mv)
The Stars are Fire, by Anita Shreve, April 2017
The Maine summer of 1947 was one of extreme drought that produced such dry conditions that by October, wildfire raced through the eastern coast of Maine laying waste to over 200,000 acres. The fires began inland in the forests and blew towards the ocean destroying a dozen towns in their wake and killing 16 people. Grace Harrow is the mother of two young toddlers who runs to the frigid beach to escape the flames which consume their home and all possessions. Grace’s husband Gene is fighting the fire with volunteers and is nowhere to be found after the fires have been extinguished. Shreve’s story is a fast moving chronicle of survival and of one woman’s determination and resilience to make a life for her family after all appears lost. Shreve is the author of several best sellers, perhaps most notably, The Pilot’s Wife, an Oprah Book Club selection. Highly recommended. (mv)
Knit Blankets and Throws with Mademoiselle Sophie, by Mlle. Sophie, Feb. 2017
Knit Blankets and Throws with Mademoiselle Sophie is an excellent choice for beginning knitters, but also with enough variety to appeal to intermediate knitters as well. Mlle. Sophie has chosen 18 patterns, teamed with beautiful photographs and luscious yarns which will be sure to inspire gift-giving. "Knit Blankets and Throws" begins with basic knitting lessons that include casting on, increases and decreases, chart reading, and blocking. Each pattern includes a skill level with abbreviations that are well explained, and suggestions for yarn. A recommended choice, and an especially handy resource for the ever -needed baby blanket gift. (mv)
Mosaic & Lace Knits: 20 Innovative Patterns Combining Slip-Stitch Colorwork and Lace Techniques, by Barbara Benson, March 2017
Benson's patterns are both beautiful and colorful, with excellent photos and instructions. This book of patterns is geared towards the intermediate or advanced knitter, but Benson has included many pages of how-to's which will be helpful for the beginning knitter who is ready for a challenge. The twenty patterns included ensure that every knitter will find something tempting to try. Highly recommended. (mv)
The Dry, by Jane Harper, 2016
It’s hot and it’s dry. The severe drought has frayed the nerves of the small, rural Kiewarra, Australia community, where the fire alert warnings have been posted at “severe” for over two years. Melbourne-based Federal Agent, Aaron Falk has been called back to Kiewarra for the funeral of his best childhood mate, Luke Hadler, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gun-shot following the murder of his wife Karen, and seven year old son, Billy. “Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral”, read the missive to Aaron from Luke’s father.
Harper’s sense of place and her description of Kiewarra are mesmerizing. It’s difficult to believe this is a debut novel. Harper never drops the thread of the two tragic events (the current murder – suicide and the earlier tragic death of young Ellie Deacon) that inform this tightly written novel. Falk and his father left Kiewarra twenty years prior, following the suspicious death of a young neighbor girl. Memories are long in Kiewarra and Falk is not welcomed back by many of the residents who suspect that Falk or his father had something to do with Ellie’s drowning. Luke’s parents are not convinced that their son could commit the heinous act and beg Aaron to investigate. He reluctantly agrees and quickly learns that things are not at all as they seem.
The reader feels the heat, the dust, the flies, and the dispirited, dwindling hope of the community. I loved the fabulous story-telling and could literally not put this down. Highly recommended for mystery and crime aficionados and fingers crossed that Harper will follow with a crime series featuring Aaron Falk (MV).
The Troll Bridge, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Colleen Doran, 2016
Here is Neil Gaiman at what he does best: crafting a dark modern fairytale of young man's coming of age. Colleen Doran illustrations are fabulous. Highly recommended for Gaiman fans (MV).
Faithful, by Alice Hoffman, 2016
A car accident changes everything in one tragic moment for high school seniors, Shelby and her best friend Helene. Hoffman again crafts an unputdownable tale of grief, guilt, and loss. But ultimately “Faithful" is a novel of love, forgiveness, and hope. A compulsive read; I was hooked from the beginning. Highly recommended for all Hoffman fans (MV).
Warp, by Lev Grossman, 1997; reprint 2016
Warp is Lev Grossman's debut novel. It's now being reissued and touted as the prequel to his bestselling Magicians series. I'm not sure what this publisher’s idea of a prequel is, but this slim novel does not meet my qualifications for a prequel. There is no magic in these pages, literal or figurative. Warp tells the story of disaffected, upwardly mobile youth, Hollis, who upon graduation from college is at a complete loss as to what to do with his future. Hollis and his friends entertain themselves by breaking into their wealthy family friends homes while they are off in Europe. Like Hollis's stultifying life, nothing much is happening in these pages.
Only recommended for Lev Grossman's fans that are curious about his first novel (MV).
Abyss Beyond Dreams, by Peter F. Hamilton, 2014
Big book. Big ideas. Solid sci- fi read. There is a planet in the void which has trapped an earthling spaceship. The year is 3326 and in the void, humans have psychic powers, but are hunted by the Fallers. The Fallers are alien pods which fall from trees in the forest and absorb the DNA of their prey as they consume them, creating a horrendous, deadly duplicate of the human they absorb. Creative world building at its best. Highly recommended for all sci-fi fans (MV).
Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough, 2017
This really is the next Gone Girl. I know publishers say this all the time, but this is a very legitimate comparison. I will also add that I liked it a heck of a lot more too, because the characters are more like-able. Louise, a divorcee, meets a charming man in a bar one evening and is truly smitten. The attraction is mutual, but alas, David confesses he is married and has never cheated. So they part & go their separate ways...at least until the next morning when Louise goes to work at her receptionist job and realizes that the new psychiatrist who has been hired by the practice is David. Adele, David's stunningly beautiful wife, is struggling to keep their marriage alive, but David has tired of her manipulation and lies. Soon, a friendship begins between Adele and Louise. The women decide to keep their relationship hidden from David. Meanwhile, the attraction between David and Louise continues to grow and strengthen. And so the triangle is complete. This is not your average psychological thriller. It is absolutely riveting and unputdownable. Highly recommended for all Gone Girl & Girl on the Train fans! And ooh- la-la, you will not believe the twist at the end! A very fun read! (MV).
On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan, 2007
Ian McEwan's “On Chesil Beach is a perfectly encapsulated portrait of a marriage. I don't think I have ever read anything quite so sad, or heartbreaking. Two young and inexperienced newlyweds are celebrating their wedding at a hotel on Chesil Beach. Their inability to communicate tragically prevents them from expressing their true feelings. Ian McEwan is a master writer, but if you must have a happy outcome, then this book is not for you. On Chesil Beach will make you grieve for what might have been. (MV)
All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai, 2017
Tom makes a mess of everything and time travel has not done him any favors, or has it? In losing his life in a perfect world, Tom finds true love and familial happiness in the imperfect when he impulsively uses time travel without his physicist fathers' permission.
A wild ride and unputdownable! Highly recommended, especially for fans of The Time Travelers Wife (MV).
Sea Change, by Joanna Rossiter, 2013
Sea Change tells the story of Alice and her mother Violet in alternating chapters. Vi's story is set during the time preceding and during WWII. Alice's story is set in the early 70's as Hippie youth are traveling the world; Alice's journey ending in India where she experiences a devastating Tsunami. At heart, in this novel, are the struggle of Mother and Daughter to connect; the secrets families and lovers keep and the deep pain we cause each other. Rossiter's use of setting portions of her story in Imber recalls the little known and tragic history of an English village sacrificed to war. Recommended for fans of historical fiction. (MV)
The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney, 2017
The house at One Folgate Street has seen many young women come and go. They all look surprisingly similar and have all suffered from a recent trauma. A very detailed and intrusive questionnaire must be filled out by prospective renters and only a luck few are chosen. One Folgate Street is a special house, a house of the future, a minimalist’s dream, and wired throughout with fancy technology to recognize its inhabitants. The Girl Before is written in two voices: Emma (then) and Jane (now). How the fates of these two young women are wound together unravels in the short alternating chapters. Will Jane suffer the same sad fate as Emma? Is the genius architect, Edward Monkford, responsible for the tragedies that have occurred at his prize winning creation? This super-fast psychological thriller is sure to please fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. (MV)
Angel Catbird, by Margaret Atwood; illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, 2016
I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but I will read anything that is written by Margaret Atwood.
Angel Catbird, the eponymous hero, is a chemist who is run over by his boss and breaks a vial of the serum he is carrying while chasing his poor cat who has escaped from his apartment. I can relate easily to having an indoor cat who is an escape artist, but this novel was not my cup of tea. However, I did appreciate Atwood's efforts on educating the public concerning cat/pet welfare. Tips and facts are sprinkled throughout the volume: Neuter your pets and keep them safe from predators and parasites by keeping them inside. Responsible pet owners should spay or neuter their pets. Indoor cats live long & healthy lives and do not endanger songbirds.
I can't tell you how it pains me to say this, but Angel Catbird was a weak and uninteresting story. (MV)
Normal, by Warren Ellis, 2016
Genius! Adam Dearden has been ferried to Normal Head, an asylum dedicated to treating only futurists. "Everyone here gazed into the abyss for a living". Normal is filled with those "who have tried to look into the future in order to try to save the world and have been driven insane by it."
Witty and insightful, Ellis's writing has much to say about technology. Adam has worked as both a "civil futurist (smart city planning) and as a strategic forecaster , or spook futurist ( drone warfare & world- wide political upheaval), and the stress of the job has undone him. Shortly after Adam arrives at Normal, a patient disappears from his locked room, leaving only a huge pile of insects behind. Adam unearths a conspiracy that will have readers flipping pages quickly, reminding us that "we have quite literally no idea what is loose in the world, looking at and listening to us, and who it is looking and listening for.... We are now in a place where we will never again have a private conversation." Ellis gives readers much to think about in this brief novel. Highly recommended. (mv)
Flying Couch, by Amy Kurzweil, 2016
Kurzweil's graphic memoir is a moving tribute to the two most important women in her life: her mother and her maternal grandmother. Kurzweil’s grandmother was a blond 13 year old in 1939, and she survived the holocaust by posing as a Christian when her family was forced into the concentration camps. “Humor is mortar. It binds the bridge between the real and the unimaginable, between all we’ve lost…and what we can’t get rid of.” Kurzweil use of humor flows throughout “Flying Couch”, but also focuses on what binds family together through shared stories, tradition, and a deep familial love. Flying Couch is highly recommended for all, but especially for those who enjoy graphic memoirs like Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home”. Great YA appeal.
Under The Harrow, by Flynn Berry
This is a debut novel for Flynn Berry. The story is written from the point of view of Nora who goes to visit her sister in the countryside of London only to find her dead. Nora is distraught and stunned as she searches for answers with minimal faith in the police.
The audio novel is read by Fiona Hardingham who does a tremendous job at expressing the emotion and confusion of Nora as she uncovers truth behind her sisters life and death. (AT)
Nine Island, by Jane Alison, 2016
J’s quest for lasting romantic love has been fraught with disaster. “Such a sickness, wanting…Hunger whistles and whirls into your room at night, crouches on your chest, glues her nasty mouth to yours, and breathes her neediness into you. From then on you are full of want…Wanting is exactly what I’ve never wanted…If you retire from love, N once told me, then you retire from life…”
Nine Island begins as J has returned from a month long visit with Sir Gold, her first true love, having recently reconnected with her after a 3o year absence. Now, that visit has ended without the outcome J hoped for. Alison’s prose is mesmerizing and poetic as she unravels J’s quest for a meaningful and fulfilling relationship. “The sky this evening, as the sun set, as colors arced from shale far at sea, up to deep blue, then falling through sheer blue to pure glow to lime, coral, and rose, there was suddenly a radiance high in the clouds to the north: light struck clouds far higher than sunlit clouds can ever be.” Nine Island is set in a crumbling 80’s Miami high rise, which J dubs the Love Boat, and inhabited by a number of fading personalities who populate the apartment building and her life. A humorous study in the perversity of love and age, Alison’s slim novel is well worth dipping into. Highly recommended. (MV)
El Paso, by Winston Groom, 2016
Winston Groom’s latest novel, El Paso, has all the action and imagery that you expect from a good western: a cattle drive, a road trip race via airplane and train, cold-blooded murders, tense battlefield exploits, multiple kidnappings, complete with villains and heroes. Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, Groom’s handful of historical figures populates El Paso: Poncho Villa, President Wilson, Tom Mix, Ambrose Bierce, and Generals Pershing and Patton. Recommended for those who enjoy rip-roaring adventure.
The Red Car, by Marcy Dermansky, 2016
Leah receives a phone call notifying her that her former boss, mentor, & friend Judy, has died suddenly in a car accident. Judy was driving her beloved red sports car when she was t- boned, and her will stipulates that the red car is bequeathed to Leah, along with some money and a painting. Judy's spirit offers a running commentary as Leah flies back to San Francisco for Judy's funeral and has a series of adventures while trying to finally get her life back on track.
For readers who enjoy coLeah receives a phone call notifying her that her former boss, mentor, & friend Judy, has died suddenly in a car accident. Judy was driving her beloved red sports car when she was t- boned, and her will stipulates that the red car is bequeathed to Leah, along with some money and a painting. Judy's spirit offers a running commentary as Leah flies back to San Francisco for Judy's funeral and has a series of adventures while trying to finally get her life back on track.
For readers who enjoy coming-of-age and self-discovery fiction. (MV)
When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, MD., 2016
At 36 years of age, Dr. Paul Kalanithi was just months away from finishing his 7 yr. long neurosurgery residency, when he received the debilitating diagnosis of stage 4 incurable lung cancer.
As a cancer survivor myself, I think that Dr. Kalanithi does an admirable job of capturing the cancer patients state of mind and the knowledge that "even when the cancer is in retreat, it casts long shadows."
Kalanithi shares with the reader his desire to live a meaningful life with courage and grace in the fAt 36 years of age, Dr. Paul Kalanithi was just months away from finishing his 7 yr. residency in Neurosurgery, when he received the debilitating diagnosis of stage 4 incurable lung cancer.
As a cancer survivor myself, I think that Dr. Kalanithi does an admirable job of capturing the cancer patients state of mind and the knowledge that "even when the cancer is in retreat, it casts long shadows."
Kalanithi shares with the reader his desire to live a meaningful life with courage and grace in the face of death. This slim book is proof he succeeded
Recommended for all, especially readers who enjoyed Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture. (MV)
The Cleaner of Chartres, by Salley Vickers, 2013
Agnes Morel was abandoned at birth, raised by nuns, raped at fourteen, and forced by the nuns to give up her infant son at age 15. Vickers unfolds Agnes’s story slowly, retreating into her youthful upbringing by the nuns, and then jumping forward twenty years; expertly piecing together the mystery and tragedy that seems to follow Agnes.
In the present day, Agnes has discovered peace and solace in the village of Chartres. Contentedly cleaning the grand gothic cathedral Agnes also works as a housekeeper for many of the town’s characters, until a vicious rumor threatens her peaceful, uncomplicated life. Vickers has a commanding voice and her characters are complex beings set amid the charming French landscape of Chartres.
Recommended for readers who enjoyed Muriel Barbery’s “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”. (MV)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J. K Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany, 2016
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a play based on a story by J. K. Rowling, but written by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany for the stage. Set in the present, Harry, now a father of three is struggling with his relationship to his youngest son, Albus Serverus. Harry, it turns out, is not quite the perfect parent. But really, who is? Albus, in my view is a pretty typical teenager, unhappy and embarrassed by his famous father. In a misguided attempt to win his father’s approval, Albus and his best bud Scorpius Malfoy get themselves in a real pickle. As always, friendship is at the heart of any Harry Potter story, and I loved that the friendship between Albus and Scorpius was a strong factor in the plot. Scorpius is a delight and has some great scene-stealing lines. I don’t view this play as Harry Potter #8. It’s really just a short story that’s been turned into a play. I know there is a lot of outrage by some fans, who feel this work falls short of Rowling’s best, but I quite enjoyed the play; how could I not? It allowed me the opportunity to visit Hogwarts and all my favorite characters again.
Highly recommended for Potter fans everywhere. (MV)
Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson, 2016
"This is memory." Woodson's slim novel is pure poetry on the page. An award winning author for her youth books and poetry, Woodson's second adult novel, "Another Brooklyn" begins with 35 year old August returning home to bury her father. Recalling her childhood in 1970's Brooklyn, August and her 3 best friends, Angela, Silvia, and Gigi offer each other strength & comfort in what is otherwise an unsafe world for little girls.
Highly recommended. (MV)
Children of the New World: Stories, by Alexander Weinstein, 2016
Bradbury would greatly approve of Weinstein’s imaginative short-story collection, heralding a bleak future where people no longer connect to each other or the physical world, but instead choose to reside in a virtual reality.
Technology runs amok throughout Weinstein’s visionary stories, in the form of manufactured memories, virtual reality, clone children, and perspicacious robots. In my favorite story, “Saying Goodbye to Yang”, a family cannot afford to repair or replace their robotic son, and only in his absence do they realize how very real he was to them. “The Cartographers” looks at the danger of manufactured memories and the reader witnesses Adam, a memory-creator, slowly slip into an addiction to the very memories he writes, while failing to seek real and meaningful relationships. These stories are a disturbing look at how technology may slowly erode our connection to the planet and each other.
Highly recommended for fans of speculative and sci-fi fiction. (MV)
News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, 2016
Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd ekes out a living by traveling throughout Texas in the years following the Civil War, reading news articles from a plethora of local, state and international newspapers. Hungry for news of the world, Texans flock to hear the distinguished, silver –haired, cranky septuagenarian, whenever he appears in their midst.
On one such evening in Wichita Falls, after reading the news, the Captain is approached by a freed slave, Britt Johnson, who is traveling with a 10 year old orphan German-American girl. Johanna Leonberger was taken captive at age six, when her parents and younger sister were slaughtered by a Kiowa raiding party. Now, four years later, she has been returned (sold) by the Kiowa to the Army for a few blankets and some old silverware. The child must somehow be returned to her Aunt and Uncle who live, west of San Antonio, a trip of over 400 miles, and Johnson, as a black man, is reluctant to be traveling with a white girl child through territory still reeling from the aftermath of the Civil War. Capt. Kipp like Johnson, so despite his better instincts, he agrees to convey the brave and spirited Johanna back to her only surviving relatives. Their journey is filled with danger,
In News of the World, Jiles paints with a fine brush the land, the era, the characters and a population on the cusp of transition from Native American, Spanish and European powers. Johanna is not an easy child. She remembers nothing of her previous life and now, separated from her Kiowa family is rebellious, angry and frightened. “"Torn from her parents, adopted by a strange culture, given new parents, then sold for a few blankets and some old silverware, now sent to stranger after stranger, crushed into peculiar clothing, surrounded by people of an unknown language and an unknown culture, only ten years old, and now she could not even eat her food without having to use outlandish instruments."
I loved this book. It’s simply the perfect Western, and a story that can be enjoyed by all.
Highly recommended. (MV)
I’m Just a Person, by Tig Nataro, 2016
Comedian Tig Nataro relates her most hellacious year in this slim memoir which covers much of Nataro’s popular (Grammy nominated) Largo performance where she announced to fans that she had cancer. Nataro fans will not find much new in the retelling of Nataro’s trifecta of disastrous events befalling her in 2012 which began with her life threatening C. Diff infection, her mother’s death from a freak fall, and her romantic breakup. Four months later, still recovering from C. Diff and grieving her mother, Nataro receives the devastating diagnosis of invasive breast cancer and must undergo a bilateral mastectomy. Nataro’s all-consuming grief over her Mother’s death is a moving tribute to an unconventional, free-spirited parent who was also self-absorbed and often absent.
Ultimately Tig’s message can be summed up in her own words: “The other scary beauty of life, which I probably should have expected to discover in all of this, was how heightened circumstances, such as overlapping tragedy and success, sharpens your vision and shortens your patience for baloney and hogwash.” Nataro’s wry humor and honesty in the face of overwhelming pain make this memoir well worth the reading for all. Highly recommended. (MV)
The Midnight Assassin, by Skip Hollandsworth, 2016
In 1884, forty-five years after becoming the Texas Capital, the city of Austin was terrorized by America’s first serial killer, who was dubbed “The Midnight Assassin” by the press. Author Skip Hollandsworth has done extensive research and examines all possibilities in an effort to solve this very ‘cold’ case. Occurring several years before Jack the Ripper emerged in London; Austin’s Midnight Assassin terrified and panicked the population. It appeared at first that Black working women were targeted, but before a year had passed, the killer had slaughtered more women without regard to race or class. This is a fascinating look at police work before the advent of modern criminology and highly recommended for Texan historians and true crime enthusiasts.
The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore, 2016
Paul Cravath, the young lawyer who strategized George Westinghouse's legal battles with Thomas Edison (312 lawsuits, to be exact) narrates Moore’s novel of the fight over which kind of electricity would ultimately power the nation: A/C or D/C. The Last Days of Night is a fascinating look at the sparks that flew between Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla, three of America’s greatest inventors. Moore brings these great personalities to life, warts and all. I highly recommend this electrifying historical fiction! (MV)
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett, 2016
Bennet's powerful and beautiful debut asks the question "what if?" Perhaps everyone has one critical decision that impacts their life? A decision whose incumbent secrecy lends an even greater importance to their future. Nadia's grief over the sudden suicide of her mother leaves her reeling and searching desperately to escape her pain. What she finds is Luke, the Pastor's son, who is suffering the loss of his promising football career due to a crushing injury. Audrey, Nadia's best friend, has also lost her mother, not through death, but by necessity. These three young people will capture your heart as surely as they break each other's. Book clubs will find much to discuss. Highly recommended. (MV)
The Hatching, by Ezekiel Boone, 2016
Unputdownable horror! Yes, I read until late at night, despite the creepy crawlies. The Hatching is first in a series about an ancient species of flesh-eating arachnids, sleeping for eons, suddenly awake and ready to colonize the planet. Chapters are short and told from the perspective of many important players in the novel.
A scary good read! (MV)
A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab, 2015
This was my first time reading a V.E. Schwab book and now I know why she's so popular. Schwab's world in A Darker Shade of Magic is simply amazing. There are four different versions of London, Grey London (ours), Red London (totally amazing magical place), White London (a ruthless world where magic is starting to dissipate), and Black London (closed off, and forbidden). Kell is Antari, one of the few people who can still travel between the different worlds. Kell is an amazing character. He wants to do what he has to for his family, his royal family who he isn't actually related to, but at the same time, he wants freedom. In the midst of a crazy adventure he runs into Lila Bard, a thief of Grey London who just wants to get away and go on an adventure. They're thrown together in one wild adventure that takes them through the many Londons. The plot keeps you on the edge of your seat through this rather dark book. The characters are vivid and I want them both as my friends. I can't wait to pick up book two! (AW)
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous, by G. Willow Wilson, 2016
This graphic novel is a great follow up to the crazy happenings in volume 4. Kamala Khan has to deal with so much in this book and her journey is simply amazing. I think this is my favorite volume to date because it shows us that super heroes have lives too and sometimes it can be hard to balance. Everyone goes through the issues of having too much on their plate. Kamala goes through this and we get to see how exactly she decides to deal with it, along with some consequences. This volume is also great because it features a lot of really big superheroes. What I loved most about this graphic novel was Kamala's story and the toughness of people moving on with their lives while she feels like she's running herself dry and missing everything. It's a great story about the importance of friends, family, and taking care of yourself. If you haven't picked up this series, definitely give it a read. It's a fun read and one that gets at some bigger issues. Kamala Khan is a hero I'd love to have. (AW)
Darktown, by Thomas Mullen, 2016
1948. The city of Atlanta has just hired its first eight African-American police officers, incurring great resistance from the Atlanta Police Department. Mullens' nourish-crime novel paints a harsh picture indeed, of the challenges faced by these first black officers who are forbidden to arrest offenders. Black officers are also not allowed guns, patrol cars, or even entrance into the Atlanta police station. The new officers are segregated in the leaky, mildewed basement of the black YMCA. One summer evening while patrolling Darktown, Boggs and Smith witness a white man crashing his car into one of the few new street lamps in Darktown. Pursuing the car on foot, Boggs and Smith realize that a young black girl is being battered in the car and watch as she jumps, runs from the still moving vehicle, and disappears into the dark. Days later the same young woman's body is discovered in a garbage dump and it becomes clear that Boggs and Smith are the only officers interested in solving her murder. Mullens' novel is complete with the racial epithets of the era and at times overwhelming depressive, considering the multitude of obstacles which these officers faced on a daily basis. Highly recommended for all crime & mystery readers. (MV)
Versions of Us, by Laura Barnett, 2015
"...to know happiness for what it is: brief and fleeting, not a state to strive for, to live in, but to catch and hold on to for as long as you can."
Barnett has created three very different scenarios for Eva and Jim who meet as young students on a Cambridge path when Eva's bike gets a flat. Life’s trajectory hinges on the little decisions, moments captured, and opportunities missed. Thoughtful and nuanced, Barnett's theme is very similar to Kate Atkins' Life After Life. Recommended for fans of Atkins and literary fiction. (MV)
The Nix, by Nathan Hill, 2016
Abandoned by his mother as a child, Samuel Andresen-Anderson's life as a failed writer and college professor, gets a jolt when his mother suddenly reappears on the national news and requires his help. A humorous look at academia, gaming, publishing, politics and family secrets, The Nix combines great entertainment and thoughtful introspection. Recommended for readers who enjoyed Schumacher's "Dear Committee Members" or Zadie Smith's "On Beauty". (MV)
The Three-body Problem, by Liu Cixin, 2008
Cixin won the Hugo for The Three - body Problem which takes place over the span of several decades; from the time of China's Cultural Revolution to the present day. Cixin poses the question of whether we "should be engaged in contacting alien life forms while we are so busy killing each other?" I have often wondered why we think aliens might put up with mankind's ignorant savagery. I did not find this novel to be easy reading. Recommended for fans of science heavy sci- fi, like "The Martian". (MV)
Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry, 2016
This slim psychological thriller is a quick, but gritty read. Nora discovers the gruesomely murdered body of her elder sister Rachel, when she arrives for a weekend stay. Overcome with grief, Nora is determined to find the murder, only to find herself a prime suspect. Under the Harrow is a good who- done- it debut, which is well plotted. I would have awarded four stars, but I found the writing too choppy for my tastes. An excellent novel for fans of Gone Girl and Girl on a Train. (MV)
Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine, 2016
I loved this book as much as the first book. My favorite aspect about this series is the world itself. This world provides so many great thinking points. The biggest point is on how knowledge is controlled. Too many people don’t realize the importance of free speech, being able to publish books whenever, and especially access to the web which has globalized our society.This book makes you think about all of that. Especially this book because it goes so much deeper than the last book. It brings the world more into our perspective to see where it is technologically and everything. Caine has created some strong and diverse characters in this series and developed them nicely in this book. The characters in this book have to go through so much more than they did the last time. This time, they have to watch their backs, literally. When you’re surrounded by people who want to stop you from thinking and doing anything that they don’t like, then you’re bound to experience some whiplash as you look behind you. If you loved Ink and Bone then this book is bound to get your adventurous mind racing. (AW)
The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares, by Blumhouse, 2015
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves horror and a variety of it. Horror is not always blood and gore, but there's some of that here as well. I love that this book is a collection from different authors, but with a given theme (read the prologue). These stores will keep you reading and wondering what the next one will hold. Don't forget to pause at the end to allow your mind to absorb what crazy occurrence just happened in the world of books. (AT)
Winter, by Marissa Meyer, 2015
This book was a great ending to The Lunar Chronicles. It's a fascinating world and this book closes everything out really well. Things get rather crazy in this book, as last books tend to go, but the way it ultimately ends is perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better ending. I loved the convergence of all of the different fairy tales and the characters. This series is definitely worth the read and I'm so glad I decided to pick it up, finally. Cinder is such a powerful character and I couldn't have imagined a better ending for her or the rest of the characters. The Lunar Chronicles are amazing books that bring together four different fairy-tales in one awesome science fiction story. You won't be disappointed to pick it up. (AW)
Ninth City Burning, by J. Patrick Black, 2016
Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, Ninth City Burning portrays an alien invasion which has spilt the human population into separate factions, many of whom remain unaware of the desperate battles waging in parallel universes for over 500 years. The “Valentines”, so called for the day the invasion began, wield a terrible weapon, ‘thelemity’, which Earth has learned to use against them.
A pitch-perfect debut begins this exciting new series, which will leave fans of Red Rising and The Hunger Games anxiously awaiting the next volume. Ninth City Burning has great YA cross-over appeal, but will satisfy any reader of Sci-fi. (MV)
The Far Empty, by J. Todd Scott, 2016
Chris Cherry had a great future, until he blew out his knee and ended his football career. Now, Chris has returned to his hometown (the mythical Murfee TX) to take a job as Deputy Sheriff, working under “the Judge”. This nourish, atmospheric thriller, set in Big Bend Country, is the work of debut author and DEA agent, J. Todd Scott. Corruption in the Sheriff’s Dept. and Border Control, drug runners, and missing persons fuel the tough as nails action. Much like life, not all of the mystery is wrapped up tight at the end, but that’s ok. The Far Empty is a great read. Scott’s work is being compared to Cormac McCarthy, James Lee Burke and Don Winslow. I’m looking forward to reading more by J. Todd Scott. (MV)
A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler, 2015
No one does multi-generational family stories better than Anne Tyler. My problem with this book is not the writing, but the sequencing structure and the ending felt rushed and unsatisfactory to me. The story begins in the present day with Abby and Red in their senior years suffering from the effects of aging. The kids pow-wow the problem of Mom and Dad who can no longer be trusted to be alone. The youngest son and his family of three boys move in to help out and the usual clashes ensue and are further complicated when the oldest son also moves home to take what he feels is his rightful place as caregiver. The second part of the book goes back in time to when Abby and Red first started dating and then the third part of the book tells the story of Red's parents, Linnie May & Junior's courtship. The novels ending then flips back to the present.
An engaging story, recommended Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg fans and for those who enjoy cozy family sagas. (MV)
Arrowood, by Laura McHugh, 2016
Arden Arrowood returns to the family home, Arrowood, a stately Second Empire mansion, after the death of her father, she is hoping to find some peace and possibly an answer to the decades old mystery of her twin sisters kidnapping. Arden, at age 8, was the only witness to their disappearance, but memory is a tricky thing. “Time split in two, and from there we started a new calendar, our lives forever divided into before and after.” The spooky old house, the setting on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River Bluffs, the small town atmosphere, a creepy caretaker, and many family secrets make this novel Unputdownable! Highly recommended. (MV)
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay, 2016
Keep the lights on! Warning: Don't read Disappearance at Devil's Rock late at night, when alone in the house. Tremblay's spooky thriller about the mysterious disappearance of 14 year old Tommy Sanderson, late one night, is the nightmare of every parent. Read it with the lights on! (MV)
Mothering Sunday, by Graham Swift, 2016
Mothering Sunday starts off at a leisurely pace, but this character-driven novella is well worth the effort. Jane Fairchild, an accomplished author in her eighties, recollects a perfect and beautiful spring day in 1924, when she was a young maid meeting her secret paramour. Few books capture the essence of the world in 1924 so perfectly. Swift pens "the very feel of being alive". Highly recommended for the beautiful prose. (MV)
The Fireman, by Joe Hill, 2016
The Fireman is a quick, unputdownable 700 + page novel that will keep you up reading all night and make you want to call in unable to work. Noone really knows where the Dragonscale spore originated. Many and various theories abound, the most likely is, that as the ice caps melt and the planet heats up, the spore is released into the atmosphere (Natures’ own safety valve to save earth from mankind’s destructive tendencies). This is one of the most creative takes on apocalyptic literature that I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The protagonist, Harper Willowes, is a young, pregnant nurse who risks her own health to tend others. This is her story and I loved it! Highly recommended for all Hill and King fans. (MV)
Summer, by Edith Wharton, 1917.
Summer by Edith Wharton is a very accessible classic whose protagonist, Charity Royall, experiences first love. It is a coming of age story that is brutally honest, tragic and ultimately quite depressing.
Wharton's lovely prose makes this an easy read, were it not for the bleak descriptions of poverty and the fearsome lack of choices women faced at the turn of the twentieth century. Charity Royall was brought 'down from the mountain' as a baby by her foster father, Lawyer Royall, of North Dormer. Charity is raised knowing that she must be grateful for being raised in North Dormer, which 'represents all the blessings of the most refined civilization.' Her dilemma is that she is too good for the local boys, but not good enough for society gentlemen. Her options are practically non-existent. As the book begins, Charity has just begun her first job as town librarian, which she secured, thanks to her foster father. The North Dormer Library is in poor condition, with no new books purchased for the last twenty years, and it is here, the moldering book stacks, that she meets the young gentleman who captures her heart.
Wharton's sense of humor shows in her descriptions of Charity, whose lack of education and customer service skills make her eligible as one of the worst literary librarians ever to grace a novel.
Highly recommended for classic readers who enjoy Theodore Dreiser, and Thomas Hardy,
Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner, 2016
Susie Steiner has written a near perfect British police procedural. As you might predict from the title, Missing, Presumed, tells the story of a beautiful young Cambridge student, Edith Hind, who disappears without a trace one evening from her flat. Catching the case on her scanner, Detective Manon Bradshaw, age 39, is soon entrenched questioning suspects who may have wished young Edith harm. Steiner has created an appealing cast of police officers who are carefully drawn. This mystery novel has a bit more in- depth characterization and description than most, which I enjoyed. Unputdownable with a nice twist at the end. For fans of Kate Atkinson. (MV)
I'm Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid, Expected publication: June 14, 2016
I'm Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid is a creepy, psychological thriller that borders on horror. It begins with a road trip to meet the boyfriend's parents who live on a remote farm in the middle of nowhere. As many readers have commented, this book is not for everyone. I felt a bit played and a tad resentful about the ending. Recommended for Horror fans who don’t mind a bit of a twisty ending. (MV)
LaRose, by Louise Erdrich, 2016
LaRose, is yet another masterpiece from Louise Erdrich who has woven a story of unbearable loss, forgiveness, and healing. A seasoned and skillful hunter accidentally shoots a neighbor’s five year old son. As a follower of the ancient Ojibwe law, Landreaux Iron gives his own five year old son, LaRose, to the grieving parents. Erdrich’s words sing on the page, as the reader is unable to extricate themselves from this tragic, but ultimately redeeming tale. Not to be missed! (MV)
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch, Expected publication: July 26, 2016
Physics is Fascinating! Blake Crouch has spun another fast-paced thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and up late! Physics professor Jason Dessen, is a happily married family man, until the night he is kidnapped, drugged, and loses everything. I don't pretend to understand everything about the multiverse and the possibility that we live in a fifth-dimensional probability space, where every choice we make creates a fork in the road, which leads into a parallel world.
But, take my word for it, this mind-bending novel will suck you into a new world. Highly recommended for sci-fi /horror fans. (MV)
The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3), by Justin Cronin, Expected publication: June 7, 2016
Justin Cronin's satisfying conclusion to his Passage Trilogy does not disappoint. After a twenty year reprieve, the territories are being repopulated and there have been no ‘Viral’ sightings for two decades. Amy and Carter have successfully hidden themselves from Zero/ Fanning on an oil tanker, waiting for the moment they will be needed to fight for the survival of the human race. Highly recommended for fans of horror, sci-fi and, of course, all of Cronin's fans. (MV)
Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley, Expected publication: May 31, 2016
Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley, examines the aftermath of a private luxury jet crash and the impossible survival of two of its passengers, a middle-aged artist and a 4 year toddler. Was the accident mechanical, human error, or was it an act of terrorism. Who stands to benefit from the death of two powerful men who were on the flight? Hawley's novel is unputdownable. And don't plan on getting anything done once you start reading. One part mystery, one part psychological thriller, Hawley's novel is sure to be THE Beach Read of 2016.
The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva, 2016
The Last One is a fast- paced debut novel that combines a reality TV show, similar to Survivor, with the sudden plague which depletes the planets population by 50%. Left alone on a solo challenge, the reader follows Zoo, as she blindly continues the game, unaware of what is happening across the globe. Unputdownable! Great for fans of Dystopian adventure like The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller, & Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. (MV)
Redshirts, by John Scalzi, 2012
This is a humorous take on the “Star Trek” universe and their expendable red shirts with many laugh out loud situations. Andrew Dahl is the main character, and red shirt, who begins to question the numerous deaths of low rank staff on “away missions”, while others look away and find ways to avoid them. A theory on ending numerous pointless deaths leads them on a high risk “away mission” to save their own lives. (AT)
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfield, 2016 (audiobook)
Eligible is a modern retelling of the classic, Pride and Prejudice. I honestly did not expect to like this as I love my classics just as they are. However, I found myself getting more and more in to it as the story drew on. Regardless of how many times you may have read, listened to, or watched the TV adaptation, this fresh take will keep your interest. My only critique, as I listened to the audio book, was the speakers attempt at impersonating a male voice. It didn’t take long to overlook this, though. (AT)
The Big Fear, by Andrew Case, 2016
New York City in August. Feel the heat. Smell the garbage. Case hooked me from page one in this exciting debut thriller that reads like a movie. An aging detective, Mulino, is called out in the middle of the night to investigate a disturbance call that has no details. He finds a dead body on the freighter and shoots at a runner brandishing a gun. On the darkened ship, Mulino has shot another cop and the mystery begins to look like a frame- up when the gun in the dead cops hand disappears and is not visible in any of the crime scene photos. Leonard Mitchell, DIMAC investigator, catches the case investigating Mulino's shooting, and soon finds himself a target. Great character development combined with a sweltering NYC makes this debut a fast and fabulous read. Recommended for all. (MV)
Admiral, by Sean Danker, 2016
Who is the Admiral? This is the question that drives the narrative of this fast- paced military sci-fi adventure. Danker’s novel is great fun; filled with wit and terrific world building. Three new recruits, who were supposed to be headed for plum positions on the Evagardian Empresses’ new flag ship, the Julian, find themselves emerging from their sleeper pods on a critically damaged Ganrean freighter: wrong ship; wrong planet. They rescue the man in the fourth sleeper pod labeled "Admiral". The Admiral's pod has been sabotaged and two crew members are found shortly thereafter to have been mysteriously incinerated. The planet they have crashed on is barren and hostile. How will they survive and who can be trusted? Highly recommended for fans of "The Martian" and "Red Rising". I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment in the Evagardian series! (MV)
The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, 2016
Omg, I loved this book. It is the perfect story of an imperfect family of four siblings who share a family trust fund, nicked-named "The Nest". Sweet & comically tragic, this is a family that grows on you slowly, but one that you will recognize and root for. The Nest is full of witty and snarky remarks like this one: “ She’d been hiding in a corner of Celia’s enormous living room, pretending to examine the bookshelves, which were full of what she thought of as “fake” books---the books were real enough, but if Celia Baxter had read Thomas Pynchon or Samuel Beckett or even -- any!-- of the Philip Roths and Saul Bellows lined in a row, she’d eat her mittens.” A perfectly wonderful, laugh-out- loud book. Highly recommended! (MV)
Glaciers, by Alexis Smith, 2012
Glaciers, by Alexis Smith is a lyrical, sensitive look at a day in the life of Isabel, a librarian, whose passion is shopping for thrift store finds and bits of ephemera. Lovely prose, Smith writes with great expression: "Isabel walked right up to the glacier. she could hear its sighing and dripping. She put her warm, plump hand on the heaving lung of it. She could feel its breath and the minute spaces inside filling with water and the great creases pulling in the sky." Recommended for readers who enjoy a character-driven novel. (MV)
All things Cease to Appear, by Elizabeth Brundage, 2016
I really, really enjoyed this book. Some reviewers have complained that the novel was slow-paced, but I could barely stand to do anything else while I was reading it. Normally I would have rated All Things Cease to Appear a five star read, but the lack of quotation marks throughout the novel was extremely irritating. (What’s wrong with using punctuation?! ) I also thought the ending was wrapped up a bit too neat and tidy for my taste. Those issues aside, I was mesmerized by the story from the minute I began. George Clare, an Art History prof. arrives home from work one winter evening to find his beautiful young wife dead, with an axe through her head, and their toddler Franny, home alone with her mother's corpse. This novel is a bit of a creepy ghost story, psychological thriller, murder mystery, all rolled in to one. Highly recommended. (MV)
Miss Jane, by Brad Watson, 2016
Miss Jane is born in 1915 with congenital birth defects that render her sterile, and also unable to control her bladder and bowels. Despite her condition and a rather unhappy family life, Jane becomes a happy and resourceful child. The country Dr., who delivers Jane, maintains a close relationship with Jane throughout her life and helps her adjust to her condition. Watson perfectly captures the setting and life in the rural South during the depression years. A bittersweet story. (MV)
The After Party, by Anton DiScalfani, 2016
I loved DiScalfani's first novel "The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls". DiSclafani captures the humid heat and the nouveau-riche society of 1950's Houston. Primarily, this is a story of the lifelong friendship of two girls named Joan, who are renamed by their kindergarten teacher, as Joan and Cecelia (CeCe). The girls, both only children from wealthy society families, become as close as sisters. However, their friendship and love for one another is never quite equal and CeCe circles Joan, as earth circles the sun, basking in her popularity and ultimately risking her own happiness. There were just a few things that didn't ring quite right for me in the story, but there is no doubt that DiScalfani has written a page-turner. Recommended for fans who enjoyed" The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls". (MV)
Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe, by Dawn Tripp, 2016
“…this is where life dwells---in the unregistered time between moments when you are filled with no thought, no awareness, just a garden, ancient sunlight…” Dawn Tripp writes eloquently, poetically of the artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s life with Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz became Georgia’s agent, mentor, lover and eventually husband. He was 23 years Georgia’s senior and helped to establish her as an artist of some renown. Stieglitz called their relationship a “mixing of souls. But then again, he called it a love story. And it was far more—and less—than that.” It was a complicated relationship that was fraught with stress and anxiety. Stieglitz, in Georgia’s words, was “impossible, manipulative, demanding, self-absorbed”…but he represented a” relentless faith in art” and most importantly in Georgia’s talent. Unputdownable and Highly recommended. Warning: Explicit sex. (MV)
The Widow, by Fiona Barton, 2016
This is a very good debut novel told in several voices: the Widow (Jean Taylor), the Journalist, the Policeman, the Mother of the missing child. The story begins when Jean Taylor's husband Glen trips in front of a bus and gets himself run over. Four years earlier, Glen had been accused of the kidnapping of little Bella, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence and a body. What really happened? Was Glen guilty or innocent? How much does Jean really know about what happened and is she also an innocent victim of her husband? Recommended for readers who enjoy a good psychological thriller. (MV)
The Atomic Weight of Love, by Elizabeth J. Church, 2016
Meridian Wallace is a driven young woman, determined to get her PhD. in Ornithology, her passion since childhood. Church’s debut novel follows Meri’s life through the years of WWII, when she marries her much older professor, Alden Whetstone, a genius who is soon recruited for the secret war effort at Los Alamos. Meri’s driving ambition is no match for the times she lives in, her obtuse husband or the sacrifices she is called to make. I especially enjoyed the research Church included on Crows. This is a fascinating period piece and highly recommended. (MV)
Try Not to Breathe, by Holly Seddon, 2016
Fast- paced thriller about Alex, an alcoholic journalist who undertakes solving a challenging cold case concerning Amy, a young teen who had been assaulted 15 years ago. Amy was assaulted, beaten severely and left in a persistent vegetative state by her attacker. This is a well - written who done it that will keep readers turning the pages late into the night. Highly recommended for fans of Paula Hawkins, and Tana French. (MV)
The Portable Veblen, by Elizabeth Mckenzie, 2016
Veblen and Paul fall in love and get engaged. Laugh out loud moments ensue as the couple meet the in-laws and wedding plans begin. The Portable Veblen is a humorous look at a young couple, each with their separate baggage, taking the plunge (& the risk) to create a life together. Paul, a talented young neurologist, was raised by hippies and Veblen's Mother is narcissist hypochondriac. So it's no great surprise that Veblen's confidant during the stressful days leading up to the wedding...is a squirrel. Unputdownable! Highly recommended for fans of Fannie Flagg and Melissa DeCarlo. (MV)
The Longest Night, by Andria Williams, 2016
Andria Williams debut novel, The Longest Night, is based on a true account of the Jan. 3, 1961 nuclear fatality that occurred at a secluded Army plant outside the small town of Idaho Falls. The readers watch as Paul and Nat's marriage dissolves under the pressure of loneliness and isolation while Paul simultaneously deals with the problematic CR-1 reactor, subterfuge, and incompetency of the Army leadership. This is a fascinating study of an Army failure that should have been easily prevented, but instead cost 3 young men their live. Unputdownable historical fiction at its best! I look forward to reading more by this author. Highly recommended! (MV)
My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout, 2016
Lucy Barton writes of her mothers' visit during long hospital convalescence. Reflecting back on her poverty stricken childhood, the abuse, and the constant cold and hunger, Lucy weaves the delicate fabric of family life into her story.
Highly recommended! (MV)
On the Edge of Gone, by Corrine Duyvis, 2016
It's the year 2035 and a comet is going to crash into earth, pitching the planet into darkness, causing tsunamis, and mass extinctions. The worlds' populations are assigned to various shelters, but those relegated to remaining on earth face certain death by starvation. Denise ( the protagonist, a biracial, autistic 16 year old), her mother ( a drug addict) and sister Iris ( transgendered 18 yr. old) miss their chance at their assigned shelter when they stop to assist two stranded women who are eIt's the year 2035 and a comet is going to crash into earth, pitching the planet into darkness, causing tsunamis, and mass extinctions. The worlds' populations are assigned to various shelters, but those relegated to remaining on earth face certain death by starvation. Denise ( the protagonist, a biracial, autistic 16 year old), her mother ( a drug addict) and sister Iris ( transgendered 18 yr. old) miss their chance at their assigned shelter when they stop to assist two stranded women who are in route to their assigned generational star ship. This is a great YA adventure! Highly recommended for Sci-fi fans of Ben Winters. (MV)
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, by Mona Awad, 2016
This book is a heartbreaker. Lizzie struggles with her weight just like her mother. When she finally begins to lose weight, she becomes Beth, then Elizabeth, and Liz. Never happy, never at home in her skin; Lizzie is always searching for something that can fill her up.
Raw and powerful, this novel is highly recommended. (MV)
American Housewife: Stories, by Helen Ellis, 2016
Hilarious and irreverent short stories that will make you laugh-out-loud. Warning: Language.
Highly recommended. (MV)
The Noise of Time, Julian Barnes, 2016
Barnes captures what life was like for Russian composer Shostakovich, who wrote under the iron thumbs of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev. The Noise of Time is very sympathetic to the plight of the great composer and how he waited for Stalin to arrest him after his opera fell out of favor and later how he finally buckled and joined the Communist party under Khrushchev. Forced to write music that would find favor with POWER, Shostakovich constantly struggled with his will to live and his desire for artistic freedom.
Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard, 2016
I really enjoyed this book for the characters and the world building. It took an entirely different view on witches and a magical society. It pulls together a lot of interesting ideas with a great set of characters and a highly interesting plot. It sets up a very interesting world with a set of political problems that add to the intrigue of the story. The story really keeps you on your toes throughout the novel. It is a great set up for a second book. I loved seeing the dynamic between Iseult and Safiya. The whole Threadsister or Threadbrother thing was really neat and I really liked how it was handled. This is a fantasy series you'll want to get in on now. If you're a fan of Sarah J. Maas then this is definitely for you. It's a great book to kick off 2016's YA fantasy books. (AW)
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald, 2016
I tend to read mostly young adult books and graphic novels, so my reading of this one came as a shock to my coworkers, and myself. It took a little bit before I could really get into this book but then I got to the point where I was staying up way too late reading. The town of Broken Wheel had so much character to it. It felt more real than all of the characters, maybe because it was compiled of all of the dynamic and interesting characters. This book was just so charming and adorable. The plot was precious, to put it simply. It’s a little predictable but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the read. It was wonderful seeing Sara get used to the town of Broken Wheel and to see her influence spread. If you’re a reader who loves books and all things about books and reading, then definitely pick this one up. It’s a fun little read and worth the time. Heartwarming story guaranteed. (AW)
Worlds of Ink and Shadow, by Lena Coakley, 2016
This was such a surprisingly enjoyable read. It's a young adult novel about the Brontë sibilings, but it's also a fantasy. This was a story that brought to life people that once made such an impact on literature. That fact alone made it worth it in the beginning. As it went on however, the plot hooks you in and doesn't let you go until the very last page. The characters were the best because not only did we have these made up characters (Alexander Rogue, for instance) but we also had the Brontë siblings as characters themselves. It was highly compelling and a good standalone YA historical fiction/ fantasy. I especially loved the relationship between the characters, both real and make believe. If you like historical fantasies definitely give it a try. (AW)
All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders., 2016
"I wonder how many other things in our world are just the shadows of things in other places." Anderson brilliantly melds fantasy and sci- fi seamlessly in her apocalyptic novel. The protagonists Patricia and Laurence meet in middle school, two outcast nerds, bonded by their miserable home life and brutal school experiences. Patricia's magic and Laurence's scientific genius will both be required to pull humanity back from the abyss of chaos, & climate change super- storms. Unputdownable!
I loved, loved, loved this book and highly recommend it for fans of Len Grossman's Magician series. (MV)
Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye, 2016
Unputdownable! Faye channels Bronte and Dickens as she creates a heroine who is worthy of the name Jane Steele. A darkly humorous novel, Jane Steele will keep you turning pages late into the night! Highly recommended. (MV)
Black Rabbit Hall, by Eve Chase, 2016
Black Rabbit Hall has it all: an ancient manor house, setting in Cornwall, family secrets, tragedy, enduring love, and mystery. I loved this book and highly recommend it for fans of Daphne Du Maurier & Kate Morton. (MV)
Sleeping Giant, by Sylvain Neuvel, 2016
Sleeping Giants is a quick sci- fi read that is virtually unputdownable. It begins in South Dakota with a young girl falling down a shaft and landing in a giant hand that is emitting a turquoise light. Fast forward 17 years and the little girl is now a physicist who is handed the job of evaluating the giant hand and the world-wide search for the other connecting parts. The story is told in short chapters by using an unnamed agent who interviews the main characters: Rose, the Physicist; Vincent, a Canadian linguist; Kara, a strong, independent Army Helicopter pilot; and Ryan, an all-American co-pilot. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. Faced - paced action combined with an interesting premise. Recommended for all Sci- fi fans. (MV)
Girl Waits with Gun, Amy Stewart, 2015
Set in 1914, Stewart introduces three sisters, living on a farm in New Jersey, who end up tangling with gang of mobsters when their buggy is broadsided by a car belonging to the miscreant silk factory owner, Henry Kaufman. Stewart's characters, the accident, and the ensuing trial are drawn from actual letters and newspaper accounts. This novel is the first in a new series entitled, Kopp Sisters and I look forward to reading more. Girl Waits with Gun is a great cozy read, recommended for fans of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries and for fans of historical fiction. (MV)
Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3), by Robert Galbraith, 2015
Here is the third great mystery from JK Rowling featuring the dynamic duo of Strike & Ellicott working a case that threatens the fledgling PI's office. The novel begins with Robin Ellicott opening a package that holds a human severed leg. Strike believes that there are four people from his past who wish to do him harm, but the police are determined to focus on the least likely suspect. The serial killer keeps severed body parts of his prey, and is determined to make Robin his next victim. This 3rd installment in Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series includes a great deal more of Robin’s background story and as the body count rises, Robin continues to plan her wedding to the unworthy Matthew, despite her misgivings and more importantly, her attraction to Strike. Tension is high. The novel ends with a big cliff hanger, so I hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next installment. Warning: salty language and extreme violence. (MV)
The Chimes, by Anna Smaill, 2015
"Chimes" was long listed for the Booker prize, which usually signals a challenging read, at least for me. Set in a Dystopian future where the population mysteriously has its memory wiped every night, Simon, the protagonist, has left his home in the country and traveled to London carrying his "Memory Bag".
'...people do not want to know the truth. You might think you are doing them a great favour to bring it to them. But even if you put it right on their doorstep, nobody will thank you for it. Th
The items in Simon's bag are most precious to him and remind him who he is and what he has set out to do. Music & musical vocabulary plays an important part in "Chimes", and information is communicated through the music. This is a novel that will challenge readers. Recommended for patient readers who don't mind not knowing where the story will take them. (MV)
Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff, 2015
Fates and Furies is an examination of the marriage of Lotto and Mathilde. The first section, "Fates" is Lotto's story; the second half of the book is "Furies", which is Mathilde's viewpoint of the marriage. Madly in love, we watch as their marriage spans over 20 years. Holding onto their secrets, they never truly know one another.
Fascinating. Highly Recommended. (MV)
Golden Son, by Pierce Brown, 2015
I think I enjoyed this book so much because of all the space politics. I don’t know what it is about space politics but I find them fascinating. Especially when there’s ethics involved and this had some ethics but it was mostly in Darrow’s mind. I loved all the twists and turns and the battles. It was a true science fiction novel and it was one hell of a ride. The fights, the arguments, the inner monologue, all of it was done supremely well and made it a highly enjoyable book. I definitely think the plot in this book (and the whole book itself) far surpassed the first book. (AW)
Da Vinci’s Tiger, L.M. Elliott, 2015
I really enjoyed this book because it showed me a piece of history that I had never heard. The best aspect of this book is the historical detail. I really enjoyed learning about all of the people in the novel. Plus it was fascinating seeing how things played out historically. L.M. Elliott did a great job combining the political issues, personal issues, and even religious issues of all the characters, especially Ginevra. I also really enjoyed the portrayal of Leonardo da Vinci, although it felt like we didn’t get much from him. I would have liked more. I enjoyed the politics and the feminist views that were quiet and growing in this. I also really enjoyed the slowness of the relationship between Leonardo and Ginevra. If you enjoy historical fictions and you like the time period then I definitely recommend it. It’s enjoyable and a very quick read. I’m glad I picked it up. (AW)
Lightless, by C.A. Higgins, 2015
Chaos ensues when the experimental military spaceship, Ananke, is boarded by two intruders. The Ananke's crew of three is quickly challenged by a virus introduced in the ships computer system by the terrorists. Author C. A. Higgins has a degree in astrophysics. This is really good sci-fi and would make a terrific movie. Highly recommended. (MV)
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, by Jenny Lawson, 2012
Lawson's memoir is laugh-out- loud funny. I especially enjoyed the parts detailing her employment as a HR representative for a Houston faith-based company. Highly recommended for fans of David Sedaris. Warning: Language. There is a considerable amount of cursing... (MV)
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee, 2015
Let’s set the record straight: Go Set a Watchman is NOT a sequel. It is not a Prequel. It is Harper Lee's first attempt at what was to eventually become To Kill a Mockingbird. It should be judged as such. The Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman is NOT the same Atticus Finch of Mockingbird. These two men are very different fictional characters with different qualities. We have all been disappointed at one time or another by the discovery that someone we love is not the person we thought they were. People are complex. No one could ever really be as perfect as the Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. When you read Watchman, ask yourself if this is perhaps not the truer version? This novel, at most, is a companion novel and its value lies in being able to witness first- hand the genesis of a classic in American Literature. Mockingbirds' creation was the right book at the right time for our nation. One can see how Lee's editor advised removal of the preachy parts and Lee's ultimate Mockingbird is strengthened by the use of Scout as a narrator rather than the 26 year old Jean Louise. Go Set a Watchman stands alone as a novel by virtue of the window it opens on the evolution of civil rights and the evolution of a favorite American classic. Highly recommended for those who are interested in examining first- hand the creative process. But if you are just going to whine about how Atticus has been ruined forever for you, by all means skip it. This is not Mockingbird...it's the lump of clay that became the precious novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Still, it is one of my all-time favorite books and nothing can spoil or take away from that joyful, rich experience. Read this for the pleasure of seeing a young writer struggle to bring her vision to life. (MV)
The Art of Crash Landing, by Melissa DeCarlo, 2015
Sometimes the ones we love the most, are the ones we know the least. In Melissa DeCarlo's debut novel, The Art of Crash Landing, Mattie Wallace, returns to her Mother's home town, seeking to solve a long- time family mystery. Mattie discovers a great deal more than she bargained for in this humorous novel of a young woman who is her own worst enemy. Filled with wonderfully memorable characters, this is a novel that is truly impossible to put down.
Highly recommended! (MV)
The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild, 2015
There is a lot going on in this 400+ p. novel which centers on the world of art and a lost painting of Watteau, called the Improbability of Love. Annie McDee is a young woman on the rebound after losing the love of her life and their jointly-held business. She purchases an old painting in a junk store as a birthday present for a new boyfriend, who stands her up. And don't you know the painting turns out to be a long-lost masterpiece. Intrigue, murder, false imprisonment ensue, complete with old family secrets, Nazi's, Jewish Holocaust survivors, rabid art dealers, the insanely rich collectors, and of course the whole steaming hot mess of the modern art world. Rothschild is a talented writer and she has a very interesting premise for this novel, however, the novel would have benefited from tighter editing. The huge cast of characters could have been trimmed and did not add to the story. I love mysteries about the art world, but this one was a bit too convoluted for me. (MV)
Little victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living, by Jason Gay, 2015
Jason Gay is a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I don't follow either sports or the WSJ, but I found Gay's memoir completely captivating and I devoured it in one sitting, This is a witty and touching look at Gay's life, replete with ups and downs, career wins and losses, and much practical advice for living a happy life.
Highly recommended for all. (MV)
Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain, 2015
This historical novel of the record setting aviatrix Beryl Markham, is a spellbinding look at Colonial Africa. Beryl lived an amazing life and her spirit, determination, and grit make for an incredible read. Beryl moved in an impressive circle of celebrities & was contemporaries with Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) Denys Finch-Hatton, Duke of Windsor, & Ernest Hemingway. Her unconventional upbringing on a Kenyan horse farm must have honed her irrepressible personality and Beryl went on to become the first woman granted a license for horse training and the first female aviator to cross the Atlantic solo from East to West.
I really did not care for The Paris Wife, quite possibly because I couldn't stand the characters, but in Circling the Sun, McLain's powerful prose holds the reader captive. I loved this book and highly recommend it. Now I will finally have to read Out of Africa and Markham's own autobiography, West with the Night, which was lavishly praised by Hemingway. (MV)
Gates of Evangeline, by Hester Young, 2015
The protagonist, Charlie has lost her 5 year old son suddenly to a brain aneurism and shortly thereafter finds her magazine writing job is in jeopardy. Not one to wait for the axe to fall, Charlie takes a " true- crime" writing assignment offered by a former boss. The job lands her in the Louisiana bayou where she is plagued by visions of a little boy asking for her help. Charlie has seemingly inherited her Grandmothers' second sight. The Gates of Evangeline is well plotted and the Southern Gothic setting is nicely done.
Recommended for those who like a little psychic phenomena with their mysteries. (MV)
The Past, by Tessa Hadley, 2015
The Past by Tessa Hadley involves four siblings who gather at their grandparent’s home to decide whether to sell the property that they have enjoyed visiting all their lives or perform the necessary, but expensive repairs. I haven't read Hadley before, but I look forward to reading her other work. If you are looking for a lot of action, then this probably isn't the book for you, but for those who enjoy beautiful writing then, this novel is a priceless gem and really, for me, it was unputdownable.
“All the siblings felt sometimes, as the days of their holiday passed, the sheer irritation and perplexity of family coexistence: how it fretted away at the love and attachment which were nonetheless intense and enduring when they were apart." pg. 91 e-galley. (MV)
Cat is Art Spelled Wrong, Edited by Caroline Casey, Chris Fischbach, and Sarah Schultz, 2015
I picked this book up out of curiosity for the title, but it turned out to be an interesting compilation of essay stories and discussion on cat fascination primarily in the social media take off. There's a lot of discussion on the fascination of cat videos, stories regarding cats of Instagram, as well as meme cats. Is it an art form? Well, it can be; it is and it isn't. Needless to say, this is not an edge of your seat page turner, but it's definitely a cute read for cat lovers. (AT)
The Lake House, Kate Morton, 2015
Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors. Her novels always seem to include a huge, old house, filled with mysteries. In The Lake House, Morton revisits the scene of a kidnapping that took place on a Cornwall lake district manor house, during the 1930’s. The novel flashes back to the time of the crime when Alice Edivane, now a famous mystery author, was a young teen. Theo Edivane, her baby brother, went missing on the evening of the family’s annual midsummer’s eve party. While there were numerous suspects, the crime has remained unsolved for decades, until a young detective, Sadie Sparrow, stumbles across the vacated estate and becomes obsessed with the case.
Morton reminds me of the Daphne DuMaurier novels I read as a teen. They are exactly the kind of book you fall in to and if left uninterrupted, may read from start to finish, in one long, preferably rainy, weekend. I think the Lake House is one of Morton’s best, but please don’t take my word for it…read them all for yourself! (MV)
Death Vigil, Vol. 1, by Stjepan Šejić, 2015
Several of us here really enjoyed this graphic novel. I couldn’t put it down. It’s not a very well-known comic, or even the author/artist, but it was well worth the read. This graphic novel had everything I love about graphic novels. Action, character development, intrigue/mystery, a little love, and awesome artwork. Keep in mind as you’re reading that this author is a little like Bendis in the use of words. There isn’t a page that doesn’t have some sort of text. To some people that’s irritating. Personally I love it. As long as it isn’t taking over the artwork, I’m good. But his artwork went well with his words. I especially loved the differences in some of the speech bubbles later on in the graphic novel. Image comics are the ones that published this one and they've never let me down. Check it out, the characters of Bernie, Clara and Sam will absolutely hook you. (AW)
The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, 2015
This graphic novel is technically the prequel for the Sandman series but it should not be read before you read the other 12 volumes in the Sandman series (or 10. 11 and 12 are in the series but they’re not part of the main story). This is one of those prequels that you must save for last because not only does it spoil things for the rest of the series, but you won’t have the appreciation of the works without the rest. It’s Neil Gaiman’s brilliant mind mixed with J.H. Williams III, a man who I’ve never encountered his work before this but now I want to go find even more projects he’s worked on. His artwork was simply stunning. The layout alone wins all the awards in my book. There are 4 page spreads! The story of Morpheus has always been a compelling one but I’ve never been so compelled with his story as I was with this one. Maybe because it was the beginning, but also the end. (AW)
An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, 2015
This was such a great book to read. It has everything you could ever want from a fantasy novel: a well-built world (with maps), strong characters, a plot that keeps you on your toes, and lots of mysterious or mystical things happening. It’s a young adult book that steps away from the typical young adult formula and does something very different and amazing. This is a fantastic debut novel from Sabaa Tahir. It takes a lot of Roman ideals and morphs them into something entirely new and intriguing. My favorite part of this book was the characters. You get two entirely different POVs and each one is distinct and has their own set of goals, ideas, etc. It was very interesting seeing how their paths crossed. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy. (AW)
Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo, 2015
This book hooked me in immediately and kept me hooked until the very last page. I loved each and every character from the first moment their chapters appeared.The characters were all really well done. They had cleverly crafted backstories which were revealed at the perfect times. They were all unique and brought their own set of differences and similarities to the group. The plot in this book was well constructed and highly entertaining. This book tells a very fun story of the ragtag group of six trying to break into the biggest prison. The fantasy elements were well done. If you haven't read Shadow and Bone you'll be new to how the world is set up. I highly recommend that series, but it isn't necessary to read that to read this. They just take place in the same universe. (AW)
Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine, 2015
Have you ever wondered what may happen if Alexander the Great's Library wasn't lost? Well, this author definitely did and she took it and ran with it. I love when authors use a diverse set of names and this book had that. Not only that but the characters were all really diverse. There were characters from so many different countries. You’re immediately drawn into the world of The Great Library, where they run everything and yet they’re neutral. It was fascinating the way history was twisted to keep Alexander the Great’s Library and to see how it was changed over time. Caine doesn’t pull back. She shows all the dark and gritty things that happen. She doesn’t hold back when it comes to the darker themes and that made me really admire her. This book has alchemy and other interesting things. Check it out! (AW)
Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard, 2015
If you were a fan of The Selection by Kiera Cass then this is definitely one you should pick up. It reminded me a lot of that series but this one was done very differently. The biggest difference between the two series was that there were powers involved. This book had two separate types of people: silvers and reds. What was fascinating about this book was that those with silver blood had powers, thus putting them at the top of the social hierarchy. The diversity of the powers is very interesting. The set-up of the world was my favorite part of the book. If you want to read a book that has dashing princes, powers, and a revolution then go for it. (AW)
Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart, 2015
I think this an excellent first fiction from the author of Wicked Plants. Readers who love strong characters will enjoy the portrayal of the Kopp sisters, three women trying to be independent in a world still accustomed to "spinsters" being pawned off with male relatives for safekeeping. Stewart is clear in her afterword about which elements are factual and which she fleshed in to tell the story. The antagonist is a clear villain enabled by his family to escape the consequences of his wrongdoing, and it is satisfying to see Constance stand up to him. Hopefully this will not be the last that we see of the Kopps. (AF)
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik, 2015
This is a great read that will be hard to put down. I would recommend this to fantasy readers who also enjoyed Harry Potter, however it is a book written for adults. There are some violent scenes as well as an attempted sexual assault, so while the story may appeal to younger audiences, parental advisement is suggested. (AT)
Speak, by Louisa Hall, 2015
"Speak" has multiple narrators who, at first, seem unrelated. These narrators are separated by time and space, spanning several centuries from the 1660's to the near future 2040. Hall creates a very realistic and easily imagined future world where “transport" rights (freedom to travel) are exchanged for the privilege of living in a safe community. The heart of this book examines Artificial Intelligence and asks the reader to consider what makes us human. The narrators of Speak are all challenged flawed communicators seeking & struggling to make connections. The intertwined individual stories are all compelling and this is a novel that is hard to put down once it's begun. Highly recommended.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, 2015
This is a great read; practically unputdownable during the holidays when I should have been doing baking and wrapping!
There are 3 central female characters: Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Rachel is an alcoholic who takes the train to work everyday and passes by Megan & Scott's home, which happens to be just down the road from where Rachel used to live. Currently, Rachel's ex-husband Tom lives there with his new wife Anna and their baby Evie. Rachel has created a fantasy about Megan & Scott's perfect life, but she sees something one day that causes her to worry about Megan's safety and then Megan disappears. A very unreliable narrator, Rachel suffers from black-outs and can't quite remember her behavior or what transpires while she is drinking. Unable to let the mystery of Megan's disappearance go, Rachel sets out to discover what really happened and everyone's life will be affected.
This is a fun, quick thriller that does not disappoint! Highly recommended for all who enjoy psychological thrillers. (MV)
The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2015
No one is better at world building than Bacigalupi. Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” is one of the best sci-fi novels ever written & the future portrayed in “The Water Knife” is similarly bleak. The post-apocalyptic Water Knife is set in the desert Southwestern states of AZ, NV, and CA where water rights are brokered and stolen and violence is waged over the dwindling Colorado River. This is a fast-paced and violent action thriller has an appealing protagonist, Angel Velasquez, is as much villain as hero. Both he and journalist Lucy Monroe are in search of an ancient water deed that can change everyone’s precarious future for good or ill. Riveting and Highly Recommended. (MV)
The Devil's Detective, by Simon Kurt Unsworth, 2015
Unsworth’s novel is set in the bowels of Hell where the protagonist Thomas Fool, holds the job of Information Man, and is charged with investigating all the violence that goes on in Hell. There is a lot of crime in Hell, as one might imagine and it's pretty horrific. This dark mystery will keep readers turning the pages long past bedtime. This is not a book for the squeamish. Recommended for mystery & horror fans who enjoy a dark, bleak, and unusual setting. (MV)
The Same Sky, by Amanda Eyre Ward, 2015
The novels of Amanda Eyre Ward approach timely topics with great sensitivity and The Same Sky is no exception. Set primarily in Texas & Honduras, it is a story told in the voices of two women: Alice, a young, well-educated and successful business woman who longs for a child, and Carla, a twelve year old refugee from Honduras who has never been allowed a childhood. This is a moving exploration of the lives of the youngest souls who seek to immigrate to the United States. The lives of Carla and Alice will intersect and impact each other in lasting and memorable ways. If you haven't read anything by Amanda Eyre Ward, you are missing out! Pick up one of her books today. You will not be disappointed.
Highly recommended for fans of Jodi Picoult (MV)
The Martian, by Andy Weir, 2014
This book is a must read for science-fiction fans and fans of survival stories. Everything in this book is completely possible, maybe not now but sometime in the future at least. If you like the technical aspect of science-fiction then definitely pick this one up. There is so much science and math within this book. Normally that would throw me out of a book but Mark Watney makes it worth it. Mark is one of the most fascinating narrators I’ve ever read. He makes all the science and math interesting. Plus, the technical details add to the credibility of the novel. Mark’s desire to live really makes it worth it though. The themes of survival and basic human instincts is so important to this novel. It’s truly amazing. (AW)
The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber, 2014
Farber has created that rare alien world where the reader enjoys the ability to see, hear, smell, and practically reach out and touch the planet Oasis. Populated with strange, gentle alien creatures who refuse to supply food to the humans until the USIC Corporation replaces their human Christian minister who has gone missing. The aliens hunger for the word of God and want to learn everything about Jesus and the Bible, which they call “The Book of Strange New Things”. Peter and his wife Bea apply for the mission, but only Peter is chosen. Bea continues to serve their congregation on earth and struggles with the dissolution of societal order as Earth’s apocalypse approaches. Peter meanwhile, finds great purpose and joy in serving the aliens. He is distracted and struggles with the limitations of written communication with Bea. This is a novel about love, communication, duty, faith, and the problems of separation. This is a fascinating and rewarding read. (MV)
J, by Howard Jacobson, 2014
“It was a good job that history books were hard to come by, that diaries were hidden or destroyed and that libraries put gentle obstacles in the way of research…”
In the dystopian future Ofnow, “WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED”, or TWITTERNACHT, is not for discussion. An act of genocide, of such tragic proportion occurred; society determined that everyone would change their names (“ …that great beneficent name change to which the people gave their wholehearted consent is that tracing lineage is not only as good as impossible, it is unnecessary. We are one big happy family now. “Ofnow encourages citizens to adopt a manner of apologizing profusely to everyone. “And generally, if not individually, the habit of delivering brisk, catch–all apologies is much to be preferred to morbid memory, which embalms the past in the Proustian fluids of the maudlin”. The past is to be hidden and Reading groups are licensed. Citizens are only allowed possession of one heirloom over 100 years old.
The Professor of the Benign Visual Arts, Densdell Kroplik is assigned by Ofnow to monitor solitary Kevern Cohen, a professor of woodcarving, at the same Academy. Spoiler Alert: So it would appear that Ofnow wishes Kevern and a new resident Ailinn to cohabitate and produce a child. Because the government has decided that they must bring back the race which was obliterated during “WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED, because they feel it is necessary to restore the necessary balance of societal antagonism. “I am who I am because I am not them, you tell yourself.”
Jacobson novel is compelling and very readable. I wanted so badly to love it. However, I did not and I loathe the ending, which may be a reference to Masada. But I don’t care anymore and will spend no more time trying to understand this novel. I would not however, compare it to 1984 or Brave New World.
Recommended for readers who enjoy titles from the Man Booker list. (MV)
The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion, 2014
Another fun, quick read by Simsion. Following on the heels of his successful debut novel, The Rosie Project, we once more enter the life of Professor Don Tillman. As a sufferer of Asperger's Syndrome, Don is still adjusting to sharing his life with his new wife of 10 months when the prospect of becoming a father threatens to unhinge the happy couple. Boy gets girl, loses girl, boy wins girl back. It's an old formula, but a successful one in Simsion's hands. Laugh-out-loud funny, you can't help but love the trials and self-induced tribulations of the Don.
Highly recommended for fans of the Rosie Project (MV)
Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher, 2014
Dear Committee Members I'd a brief epistolary novel which can be read in a single sitting. This was such a fun read! The novel is made up entirely of Professor Jay Fitger's correspondence. A laugh -out-loud look at academia, it is both funny and touching. Loved it! (MV)
The Children Act, by Ian McEwan, 2014
Always a master of elegant prose, McEwan's The Children Act is an examination of a middle-aged family court judge, Fiona Mage, struggling with a personal crisis and a difficult case involving a 17 year old Jehovah's Witness. Adam is suffering an advanced case of leukemia and requires a life- saving blood transfusion, which both he and his parents object to on religious grounds. Fiona, reeling from a recent court case involving the separation of doomed Siamese Twins, learns that her husband of 35 wishes to embark on an extramarital affair with a younger woman. McEwan's brilliance captures Fiona's struggle to weigh & interpret the law while ensuring the best outcome for the child.
This is a wrenching and deeply wrought novel which is not easily forgotten. Highly recommended. (MV)
The Ways of the Dead, by Neely Tucker, 2014
Newspaperman Neely Tucker succeeds in creating an atmospheric thriller set in the 1990's in Washington DC. His PTSD protagonist Scully Carter is a burned out war correspondent who has suffered permanent physical and mental injuries. And of course Scully drinks too much. One starts to wonder if only Agatha Christie's detectives did not drink to excess?
Tucker has a decent plot, but it's not too difficult to pick out the serial killer or see the ending twist coming. Still, it's a compulsive, fast-paced read which is sure to please mystery fans (MV)
Rooms, by Lauren Oliver, 2014
Whoa! I loved this book! Why? First of all, I could not put it down. Who doesn't love a good ghost story/mystery? Second: Oliver has an outstanding command of the English language. And she can really turn a phrase. Third: well-plotted story with engaging characters.
Insightful writing: "Parents teach us our first lessons about love: that you sure as hell don't get to choose it". P.31
Touches of humor: “in her large gray cashmere jumpsuit, she looks like an overgrown dust mite". p. 58
Poetic prose: "sometimes ideas converge---memory and present, wish and desire, silhouette shadows of people we have known. This is the closest we have come to dreaming". P. 72
" It was unfair that people could pretend to be one thing when they were really something else. They would get you on their side and then do nothing but fail, fail, and fail again. People should come with warning labels, like cigarette packs: involvement would kill you over time". p. 70.
Richard Walker, estranged from his children and ex-wife, has died after a lingering illness. And so the Walkers return, en masse, to clear out the house, read the will, and bury the dead. Caroline, the ex, drinks too much; daughter Minna is a beautiful, but unhappy twenty-eight year old single mother who tries to vanquish her loneliness with constant, meaningless flings and unnecessary plastic surgery; son Trenton is a sensitive, awkward loner who hears voices and doubts his own sanity. Family secrets and loneliness are the ever- present themes, with the mysteries unfolding in separate rooms within the Walker household.
Told alternately amongst the family voices are the voices of two resident ghosts, Alice and Sandra who suffer as they observe the struggling Walkers. Highly recommended for fans of Alice Sebold, Karen Walker, and Audrey Niffennegger. (MV)
The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman, 2014
Lev Grossman has achieved that rare perfection of a trilogy that gets better with every book. The Magician's Land is the final installment of Grossman's trilogy. Quentin comes into his own after being banished from Fillory in Book 2 and is able to return once more to try and save his beloved, magical Fillory.
The world that Grossman has created in these three volumes is somewhere I will visit again several more times (& I don't reread very often). Yes, this series really is that much fun! " Drinks were a lot like books, really.... you could always count on them to take you to someplace better or at least a lot more interesting." p. 72. Witty
and highly entertaining. Highly Recommended for fantasy fans. Warning: some language & sexual situations. (MV)
Lock-in, by John Scalzi, 2014
This novel is a bit of a departure for Scalzi. Its tone is much more serious without the irreverent humor Scalzi is known for. Fast forward 15 years and the world is devastated by a virus which kills millions and leave millions more in a locked-in condition, unable to move or communicate without the assistance of a virtual- reality environment or the use of a "threep" , a robot- type body that allows the victim to integrate their mind with engineered humanoid technology. Those victims of Haden's syndrome (Integrators) who survive the flu and ensuing meningitis without being "locked-in" are able to merge their minds with paralyzed Haden's patients, allowing them to experience the physical world.
Chris Shane, the protagonist, contracted Haden's as a two year old, so he knows no other existence, but the one lived in his "threep" (ode to C -3PO). It's Chris's first day as an FBI agent assigned to what looks like the murder of an "Integrator" by a Haden's victim who was using another integrator. Yes, Lock- In is a bit confusing at first and a complex story, but well worth the journey into the politics of a pandemic and a well-done police procedural /mystery. Highly recommended for all sci-fi fans and mystery lovers. (MV)
Us, by David Nicholls, 2014
Scientist Douglas falls I love with Artist Connie and wins her with his intelligence and wry humor. Married now for two decades they have produced an angry teenage son who is about to leave for college. They take one last family vacation, a Grand European Tour, together and Douglas is determined to win back Connie and gain his son's love and admiration. Alternately filled with sadness and humor, Nicholls examines midlife trauma along with the joy and pain of familial bonds. (MV)
Chimpanzee, by Darin Bradley, 2014
This first rate sci-fi is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451." Benjamin Cade, PhD. is a former university professor whose position has been eliminated. The U.S. Economy is devastated and half the homes in the country have been foreclosed on. Ben joins the millions of unemployed and is unable to pay back his student loans. The federal government is determined to reclaim their property ... Ben's education. Ben is forced to undergo "Repossession Therapy," a combination of advanced cognitive science and chemical injections which will strip him of not only his degrees, but of his memories as well. Determined to give his knowledge away before it completely disappears, Ben begins teaching in the park and unwittingly becomes tied to a massive protest movement, Chimpanzee.
Fascinating look into the future. Highly recommended. (MV)
The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica, 2014
This debut novel is quite the page turner. Mia is the daughter of a wealthy Chicago judge, who is kidnapped leaving a bar one evening, after being stood up by her boyfriend. The Good Girl is told in short chapters from the various perspectives of four main characters, Colin (the kidnapper), Gabe (the detective), Eve (Mia’s mother), and finally at the very end of the novel Mia adds her voice. It's a fun, quick read recommended for fans of psychological thrillers and complete with a nice twist at the end. (MV)
Euphoria, by Lily King, 2014
This is a fascinating novel set in New Guinea during the 1930's, centered around the lives of three young, brilliant anthropologists, Nell, Fen, and Bankson. I do so love novels where the setting is powerfully described and becomes a character in the novel. King based the characters of the three anthropologists on Margaret Mead and her two husbands, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson. However, the story she has told is different from theirs. I loved this book and highly recommend it for fans of Ann Patchett. (MV)
The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters, 2014
The Paying Guests is set in England's 1922 post- war economy where societal class lines begin to disintegrate. The struggling upper-class Wray family has lost all their male family members and in an effort to make ends meet, Frances and her mother take in a young married couple (from the clerk class) who rent a suite of the Wray's vacant rooms. Waters crafts her atmospheric setting with great skill; however, in my opinion, this work is an overly long, predictable love story gone wrong. Waters is an incredible writer, but this felt like a soap opera to me and ultimately, I was just relieved to
be finished. (MV)
California, by Edan Lepucki, 2014
This debut novel is set in the not too distant future where the U. S. government has disintegrated, global warming has wreaked havoc, terrorists swarm shopping malls, and gated, secure communities have replaced the dangerous and crumbling cities.
Frieda and Cal are a young married couple who have chosen to live off the grid in the wilderness. However, loneliness, hardship, and fear take their toll and when Frieda discovers she is pregnant, the pair set off to investigate The Group, a contained commune, living just a two day journey away. This is truly a frightening vision of the future and a quick satisfying read.
Recommended for fans of Dystopian fiction. (MV)
Spark, by John Twelve Hawks, 2014
Spark is a fast -paced thriller with an unusual protagonist Jacob, who suffers from Cotard's syndrome. Jacob (Jake) was injured in a motorcycle accident and suffered traumatic brain injury, causing him to believe he is dead. Without any sense of right or wrong, Jacob is recruited & trained as a corporate assassin. Jacob has no need for human companionship and he dislikes all food, except his liquid (Ensure-like) ComPlete nutritional drink. Except for his computer, table, chair, bed, he has very few possessions and only enjoys walking across Brooklyn Bridge & obsessively watching a documentary about a dog. Spark is set in the near future where corrupt Corporations manipulate the public by working with terrorist organizations. Jacob receives his assignments from the mysterious Ms. Holquist, and completes them without incident, until one day he is affected by the plight of a young girl he is sent to terminate. I wasn't crazy about the first person narrative and the constant references to Jake's "shell" (body) and his “spark" (soul or essence). It became repetitious and irritating. (MV)
The Sixth Extinction, by James Rollins, 2014
In his 10th Sigma Force novel, Rollings' cast of characters fight to save the earth from a rogue scientist bent on returning mankind to caveman status. This science techno-thriller begins with a distress call from a secret government research station pleading, “Kill us all, kill us all"! Rollings story is an adrenaline rush whisking the reader from California to Brazil to Antarctica. Recommended for thriller fans everywhere. (MV)
Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey, 2013
** spoiler alert ** Quick thriller with nonstop action. Written for the big screen. Only one reason for the 3 star instead of 4....Nick Cooper, the protagonist, the ace agent with advanced people “reading" skills, is supposed to be “brilliant" at reading people, but somehow didn't know he was being lied to? (MV)
Every Day, by David Leviathan, 2012
This is such an important book to anyone who wants to see the perspectives of others. Each chapter is a different day, a different person, but with the same consciousness within them, trying to play that person’s part for the day. There is such a wide range of characters that this allows for. This book delves deep into a lot of relationship issues and it demonstrates a higher understanding of love and how love should be handled. It deals with themes of the body and soul and tackles larger issues like depression, sexuality, and gender. This book teaches you how important we are as individuals and why we should enjoy every moment we have. It’s a young adult book everyone should read. (AW)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews, 2012
If you’re in the mood for a young adult novel that breaks the mold when it comes contemporaries dealing with sick characters, this is one to pick up. The characters in this story aren’t exactly likeable but they’re not supposed to be. There’s a lot of humor within this book, which may be surprising considering Rachel is dying of cancer. But, like I said, it breaks the mold. This novel does a lot of different things in terms of style. It has bullet points, parts that read like a play, etc. I loved that this book took such a realistic route with the sick character. This book is not all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s definitely worth the read if you’re a fan of YA contemporary. (AW)
Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, 2012
Fantasy fans, this is definitely a book for you. It is a fantasy book settled into a Russian sort of backdrop, but not exactly because it’s an entirely new world. I think it just borrows a little from some customs and language. The characters are very strong and well written but the best part of the novel, in my opinion, is the world building. The social hierarchy and the internal strife within their country is fascinating. This is a great first book for a trilogy. It sets up everything beautifully and keeps you guessing the entire time. The whole series is fantastic. This is another great young adult fantasy to add to your reading list. (AW)
Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas, 2012
This is my absolute favorite series, for so many reasons. What a lot of people don’t know when they see this book is that it is a Cinderella retelling. I didn’t know that when I first went in reading but now that I know I can see it. This is a phenomenal YA fantasy. Celaena, the main character, is powerful and compelling. She’s an assassin coming out of slavery when this book starts. Her journey within the book is astounding. She’s one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read. The plot will keep you on your toes and leave you aching for the next book in the series. I cannot recommend this series enough. (AW)
The Silkworm, by J.K. Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, 2014
Rowling hits another one out of the ballpark with her dynamic detective duo, Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin. Rowling takes aim at the publishing industry in this second mystery which follows The Cuckoo's Calling. Author Owen Quine goes missing and his wife approaches Strike to locate Quine and bring him home. This is one mystery that will keep you entertained and guessing, all the way to the end. I can't wait for book three! Highly recommended for all mystery fans.
Warning: graphic violence and gore. (MV)
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, by Joel Dicker, 2014
Swiss author Joel Dicker, 28, has written a very successful thriller whose protagonist is an author his own age. Marcus Goldman's first novel was a run-away best seller. However, it is now almost two years after his fabulous debut, and Marcus is struggling with a paralyzing case of writers block. His manager and publisher are hounding him to satisfy his contractual obligation by producing a second book. Marcus seeks out his old professor and mentor, Harry Quebert, for advice, and during a visit to Harry’s home, the body of a 15 year old girl is discovered. The beautiful, lovely, and underage Nola Kellergan, the great enduring love of Harry’s life, disappeared without a trace, in 1975. Faced - paced and completely plot driven, almost every character has a plausible reason for wanting Nola dead. I found Dicker’s mystery to be completely satisfying and recommend this wild ride to all mystery fans who like to be kept guessing! (MV)
Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, #1), by Jeff VanderMeer, 2014
This fast- paced sci- fi novel is centered on the 12 th scientific expedition into a quarantined Area X. Of limits for at least 30 years, area X suffered from some unnamed environmental disaster. Small teams are sent in to observe and report on the strange ecological changes. The crew, consists of an all- female research team: a psychologist (team leader), the biologist (narrator), linguist (quits immediately and turns back), the anthropologist, and the surveyor. Creepy, dark, and atmospheric, this first in the series, Southern Reach Trilogy, is impossible to put down. (MV)
The Submission, by Amy Waldman, 2011
The anonymous competition for the proposed 9/11 memorial goes haywire when it is revealed that the selection committee has chosen an American-born Muslim architect's garden design. This thought provoking novel examines how difficult the healing process is for our country in the aftermath of our worst national tragedy. The Submission contains much that is worthy of discussion and should make an excellent book club pick. Highly recommended. (MV)
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by G. Zevin, 2014
A.J. Fikry is a widowed bookstore owner, living on Alice Island, drowning in grief over the loss of his pregnant wife. The book opens two years after the tragic car accident, with the theft of A. J.'s a rare copy of E. A. Poe, worth close to $400,000. Within 24 hours of the robbery, a 2 yr. old toddler is abandoned at the bookstore and A. J. discovers a reason to live. I loved this book and the people in it. While there is plenty of mystery here, this is a story of how love and books can transform our lives. I highly recommend this terrific read for anyone who loves books. It made me think of The Borrower, which is also filled with fun literary references and laugh- out loud humor. This book is hard to put down, so be sure and clear your schedule! (MV)
The Round House, by Louise Erdrich, 2012 (also available in LP)
Erdrich is always a joy to read. Her skill at weaving Indian mythology into her novels enriches and informs. Set in Hoopdance, North Dakota, the Round House focuses on 13 year old Joe's coming -of- age on the Ojibwa reservation in the aftermath of his mother’s brutal rape. Filled with memorable characters, Erdrich's national book award winning novel is highly recommended. (MV)
Under The Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan, 2014
Horan, once again, tells a famous love story based, this time, on Robert Louis Stevenson and the American divorcee, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne who becomes his wife. This is a long, long, long, book which dragged tremendously for me and simply never gelled. I loved Horan's Loving Frank", but this novel did not measure up or hold my interest. The last section of the novel is the strongest, in my opinion, where the Samoan setting and characters come more vividly to life. Recommended for those readers who enjoyed Paula McLain's "The Paris Wife." (MV)
Little Failure: A Memoir, by Gary Shteyngart, 2014
Shteyngart's memoir regales readers with his family’s Russian immigration experience, arriving in New York during the late 70's. Told with self-deprecating humor and wit, Shteyngart memoir is a family saga of that encapsulates his unique and often painful Russian Jewish experience. (MV)
Andrew's Brain, by E.L. Doctorow, 2014
This is a short novel, but it is not an easy read. The protagonist Andrew is a cognitive scientist and an unreliable narrator. The book has a quiet, sad, sly humor and I don't pretend to even know how to rate this novel. It's Doctorow, so it should probably be a five star review, because he can write circles around everyone, but I don’t have a clue as to how to describe this book. I was hooked enough to keep reading and the novel keeps throwing fresh curves that I didn't see coming. I liked Andrew's character, but the ending left me with a huge question mark. I am not smart enough to understand what Doctorow is doing with this novel, which of course, is my problem, not the authors. Recommended for readers who like a real challenge. (MV)
My life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead, 2014
We all have favorite books and Middlemarch is Rebecca Meads homage to hers. I too am a fan of Middlemarch and I thoroughly enjoyed this mix of memoir, literary criticism and Eliot biography. Recommended for all fans of George Eliot. (MV)
The Fever, by Megan Abbott, 2014
Ms. Abbott latest book again explores the world of teenage girls. The story is told from the point of view of the Nash family: Tom Nash is a High School Science teacher and father of two teens, Eli, a golden boy athlete, and Deenie, a good student and best friend of Lise. Lise is the first of many teenage girls to fall ill and convulse from some unknown outbreak. Abbott based her book on a real-life case of mass hysteria among teen girls in Leroy, New York.
The Fever explores burgeoning teenage sexuality, rife with intense crushes, adolescent secrecy, and broken alliances between lifelong friends. Abbott succeeds in creating a dark, spooky mystery which searches for a cause that might be an environmental toxin or a reaction to the HPV vaccine, or something completely unknown. The town of is in a frenzy of rumors and the sense of community dissolves as parents try hopelessly to protect their daughters. Recommended for YA mystery and thriller fans. (MV)
The Quick, by Lauren Owen, 2014
“The Quick” is the best kind of dark, spooky gothic novel that takes the reader inside the mysterious Aegolius Club, a secret organization whose members come from the elite of London society. Readers are fully one third of the way into Owen’s thrilling debut before it becomes clear that “vampires” are wreaking havoc on main characters, James and Charlotte. The closeness of the brother and sister is tested when James strikes out on his own, leaving Charlotte at the ancient family estate Aiskew Hall. When communication ceases from James, Charlotte strikes off on her own to try and discover what has become of her brother.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy tales of the undead! (MV)
World of Trouble, by Ben Winters, 2014
Book #3 of The Last Policeman series
“World of Trouble” is the third and final installment in The Last Policeman Trilogy. Winters has succeeded where so many series fail. He has produced 3 very strong novels, each equally compelling. The aptly titled “World of Trouble”, finds our hard-working hero, Detective Hank Palace, determined to locate his sister Nico, before Maia, the rogue asteroid, smashes into earth. Nico is involved with a group whose last ditch effort to save earth throws her life into even greater peril. Perfect ending to a perfect series! I hated to see this series end. Recommended for all science fiction and mystery fans. (MV)
Countdown City, by Ben Winters, 2013
Book #2 of The Last Policeman series
Detective Hank Palace finds himself without a job when the Concord Police department is subsumed by the Department of Justice in the last days before the rogue asteroid Maia hits earth. What's a conscientious policeman to do when he suddenly finds himself without employment? Hank's childhood babysitter begs for help finding her husband, who promised he would be with her at the end. The world may be in utter chaos, but Hank is on the case, doing the right thing, like it truly matters.
Loved this series! Highly recommended for all sci-fi & mystery fans. (MV)
The Last Policeman by Ben Winters, 2012
Book #1 of The Last Policeman Series
The end is nigh. In six months, the mammoth asteroid that is hurtling toward Earth will annihilate civilization. The world economy has crumbled. People are preparing for the end, quitting their jobs, and making plans to be with their loved ones. As his co-workers abandon their jobs, Hank Palace is promoted to Detective. He takes his job seriously and when he is called to investigate an apparent suicide, Hank believes the case is not so clear cut. This hard-boiled mystery, set in Winter’s fabulous pre-apocalyptic world. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy both noir mysteries and science fiction. (MV)
The Collector of Dying Breaths, by M.J. Rose, 2014
The Collector of Dying Breaths is a Historic Romance Novel following the lives of a monk from the 1500’s and that of Jac L’Etoile, a French woman of modern times, who is plagued by the ability to see past lives of her own as well as others.
In this novel we are presented with an ancient monk, Rene le Florentin, who is on a mission to reanimate souls using their last dying breath using his previous master’s formula and notes. He is pushed towards this mission by his Queen, Catherine de Medici who loses her husband, and is pushed even further when he loses the love of his life.
Meanwhile Jac has been called upon to finish her late brother’s work of recreating this ancient formula, and is forced to work alongside her past lover, Griffin, a linguist, who she has never stopped loving. Jac works on the formula for a collector of ancient materials who doesn’t seem to know limits when it comes to what she wants.
Jac solves the mystery of the formula, and learns to accept her life, and the possibility that past life occurrences don’t necessarily have to repeat themselves.
I listened to this book on audio, which is performed by Natlie Ross and Phil Gigante. It was somewhat hard to hear Natalie when she spoke as Jac, because her voice trails off at the end of words. It was something I got used to as the audio continued on, but somewhat annoying at first. However she portrays Jac as burdened and somewhat weak, which is appropriate. They were both great when switching between characters. (AT)
The Bees, by Laline Paull, 2014
"Accept, Obey, Serve". From the minute Flora 717 emerges from her cell, she is part of the hive mind, yet she is also different. Born into the Sanitation caste, she is an anomaly to her mute kin. Flora has a voice and her courage & skills set her apart from her caste. The Bees is a fascinating and fun novel that propels the reader deep into the rigidly ruled world of the bee hive. I loved this fresh and original story! Highly recommended! (MV)
The Word Exchange, by Alena Graedon, 2014
First, I want to say that I think this is a very clever book. Set in the not too distant future, Graedon has created a world where everyone is hooked up to their mobile Meme devices. Not much of a stretch from today's norm. Those who can afford it have chips implanted in their brains. The technology warnings thought this novel would make Bradbury proud.
As the book begins, Anana has just gone through a bad breakup with her genius boyfriend Max, and is supposed to meet her dad Doug for supper and consolation. However Doug, the editor of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, has disappeared, and so begins the Anana's quest to find her father. Complicating matters is the outbreak of Word - flu. A fun and clever romp of a mystery! (MV)
We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart, 2014
Wow! Family drama, trauma, secrets, and suspense are at the heart of Lockhart’s Y.A. novel. It's best if readers approach this novel without knowing anything about it. So don't read the reviews (except this one)! Cady, our unreliable narrator tells the story of her family, three cousins closest in age to her, and her budding childhood friendship/romance with Gat. Summer '15 on her Grandfathers privately owned island, readers are told that Cady suffers a head wound resulting in amnesia and we discover the truth of that summer gradually as Cady returns to the family island for Summer '17. Heartbreaking. (MV)
Lesson Plans, by Suzanne Greenberg, 2014
Lesson Plans shines a light on the esoteric world of homeschoolers in this humorous and heartbreaking novel. I love reading debut novels and I thoroughly enjoyed Lesson Plans! Suzanne Greenberg's novel is set in southern California and focuses on the misadventures of three homeschooling families. Seven year old Jennifer, suffering from multiple food allergies and asthma, misses her first grade teacher and the familiar routine of public school. She was a character so real you will want to take Jennifer home with you.
Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. Greenberg's carefully interwoven tale excels at characterization, setting and plot. Highly recommended. (MV)
The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer, 2014
Wolitzers' novel follows the lives of 6 teens from 1974 to the present. Jules, Ash, Cathy, Goodman, Jonah, and Ethan forge life-long friendships at Spirit - in- the - Woods arts camp. Friendship, marriage, success, talent, envy, self- fulfillment, growth, change, and nostalgia, are prominent themes throughout "The Interestings." I found the well-developed characters likable yet deeply flawed. Wolitzer is a gifted writer and observer of human nature, who writes with wit and insight. I highly recommend The Interestings for those who enjoy reading about the complexity of relationships and who enjoy works by Anne Tyler, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Jonathan Franzen. (MV)
Dust, by Hugh Howey, 2013
Dust completes Howey's Silo trilogy and I was sorry to say goodbye to this incredibly detailed post- apocalyptic world. Howey excels at world building and his series is extremely compelling. Dust is perhaps a little weaker than the previous installments with some confusion, on my part, as to why the Survivors of Silo 17/18 do not attempt to rescue the people in the remaining Silos. Maybe I just don't want the series to end?! The Silo Series will always remain one of my all-time favorite sci-fi series. (MV)
The Enchanted, by Rene Denfeld, 2014
Denfeld's lyrical debut novel, The Enchanted, shows her to be a skilled writer whose prose often reads like poetry.
Set in an ancient, crumbling prison, the story is narrated by a mute prisoner waiting on death row, and revolves around the Lady, (a death-penalty investigator), a fallen Priest, and York (a prisoner) who is anxiously awaiting his death.
Pg. 3..."the truth doesn't matter in here. Inside, the lies you tell become the person you become. On the outside, sun and reality shrink people back to their actual size. In here, people, grow into their shadows."
This is a dark, bleak look at humanity, but it is not without hope. Rene Denfeld is a licensed death- penalty investigator and she brings to life the world she knows so well. This is not a novel that is easily put down, nor forgotten. Highly recommended for book clubs that enjoy a topical and timely discussion. (MV)
The Troop, by Nick Cutter, 2014
This tale of horror that besets a troop of Boy Scouts and their leader on a campout was a good weekend read - you don't need to overthink anything, just read and enjoy. The author is clearly and heavily influenced by Stephen King, which is great; but unlike King, I was able to anticipate the fate of each character. The characters were one-dimensional overall, but it was still fun to read and see the story unfold. I especially enjoyed the news and interview "breaks" throughout the story. (VG)
Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris, by Steven Levingston, 2014
Can a person be hypnotized into committing murder? In Paris, 1889, Gabrielle Bompard insisted she was and that question fascinated and frightened the public. Levingston does an excellent job evoking the era and placing the trial of Bompard and her lover Michel Eyraud in the context of the times. Burgeoning forensics and the public's fascination with mysticism and the debate over the validity and usefulness of hypnotism make this a compelling read. Recommended for fans of historical true crime such as "Devil in the White City," or even "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." (LT)
Red Rising, by Pierce Brown, 2014
Comparison to “The Hunger Games” is inevitable, but not altogether fair, because "Red Rising" takes the - let's face it - tired, limping, overworked genre and gives it a shot of adrenaline, originality, and anarchy. “Red Rising” has the framework of most dystopias that have come before it (and, it is worth noting, before ”Hunger Games”): the post-upheaval society with a very rigid caste system (in this case indicated by color), the heartless, hedonistic ruling class, and the member of the low caste – in this case Darrow, a Red who works in a Mars mining colony like the generations before him - that becomes the center of an uprising.
It is what Brown does within that framework that makes this book a worthwhile - and fun - read. If you are a fan of thrilling adventures, military strategy, ancient history and philosophy, mythology, survival tales - there is a bit of all of that in here.
This is the first of a planned trilogy and I do wish that wasn't the case. It seems no longer can a good book be just that - a single really good, tightly-edited book with a resolution at the end. That said, considering Brown very competently entered this overstuffed genre, he may just surprise us all with a trilogy of consistent quality. Highly recommended. (LT)
Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler, 2014
Nickolas Butler writes beautifully in his debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, about the trajectory of childhood friendship. Stunning imagery of rural Wisconsin paints the mythical town of Little Wing, where four boys grow up as best friends; three leave and return as adults, to find the dynamics of their friendships changing and maturing. Shotgun Lovesongs is as much an ode to Wisconsin’s natural beauty, as it is an examination of our oldest, intimate relationships forged as children. Highly recommended for readers of Larry Watson and David Rhodes. Not to be missed! (MV)
You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz, 2014
First, let me say that this is a quick read that moves along at a good clip. Grace has been married to her wonderful, handsome, pediatric oncologist husband for 19 years. They have the perfect marriage, a talented, loving son, and are wonderfully happy. Well, you know that must be too good to be true. Grace is a therapist, with a thriving practice and a soon to be released self- help book entitled "You Should Have Known". The first third of the novel sets us up for Grace's downfall when she learns her husband is not the man she believed him to be. In fact, Grace's talented and charming husband is a cold sociopath....and that's where the credibility of the story fails me. In 19 years of marriage, Grace failed to notice how her husband cut her off from all her friends and cheated on her continually. If you can suspend your belief that a smart, successful therapist can miss all the red flags in her own marriage, then this may be the book for you. Korelitz is a gifted writer, don't get me wrong. There are some really funny bits...laugh out loud moments throughout as Grace struggles to determine when and where she could have gone so wrong. (MV)
Red Hill, by Jamie McGuire, 2014
I am fascinated by most stories, TV shows, and movies regarding zombie epidemics, so it’s no surprise that I liked Red Hill. You follow a few different story lines as it shows how each group/individual makes their way to the outskirts of a small town and the horrors they face/see along the way to Red Hill, for which the book is named. While I did enjoy the overall story, and found the origin of their zombie disease believable considering the fascination many have with the possibility of such a disease or outbreak occurring, I found some of the characters actions idiotic or unreal considering their circumstance. I doubt most people are going to be worried about their love life in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Overall, I did like the story and would recommend it to a few of my friends, or those who also find themselves with similar tastes as my own. (AT)
The Last Days of California, by Mary Miller, 2014
Family Road Trip! Fifteen-year-old Jess is on a road-trip with her family, traveling from their Alabama home to California for the anticipated Rapture. Jess's Dad, habitually unemployed, writes the remaining number of days on his hand each morning and prepares his family for the heaven to come. This coming-of-age story explores Jess's strained relationship with her parents and her secretly pregnant, beautiful 17-year-old sister, Elise. Miller, a skilled short-story writer has created a small, perfect world that explores the experience of a young woman entering the adult world. The novel sparkles with dark humor.
Highly recommended! (MV)
The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, by Alan Bradley (6th Flavia de Luce novel), 2014
"Your Mother has been found". She is coming home." Flavia has no memory of her Mother, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances when Flavia was yet an infant. Flavia de Luce is a precocious, brilliant 11-year-old chemist/sleuth, who, in Bradley's latest novel, is investigating the circumstances surrounding her mother’s disappearance and untimely death. The year is 1951 and the de Luce family has gathered at Buckshaw Halt's little railway station to greet the casket bearing Flavia's mother, Harriet de Luce. Harriet de Luce disappeared ten years earlier on a secret government mission and her frozen body was recently discovered in a Himalayan crevasse. As the train prepares to depart, a strange man whispers in Flavia's ear that " the Gatekeeper is in danger..." Before Flavia can react, she is pulled away from the crowd toward her waiting family. Moments later, the stranger is dead, pushed to his death on the railway tracks. Is the stranger’s death related to the demise of her Mother? Was her Mother murdered?
This is an enjoyable cozy mystery recommended for fans of Maisie Dobbs. (MV)
The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman, 2014
Coralie Sardie lives her secluded life above the Museum of Extraordinary Things (a Coney Island freak show) and performs daily as the Mermaid. Set in 1911, Hoffman has woven a romance between unlikely lovers, surrounded by more than one mystery. Hoffman’s novel is a unique mixture of historical fiction and romance, capturing life in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. This novel is recommended for Alice Hoffman fans and readers who enjoyed “Night Circus.” (MV)
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, 2014
On her eleventh birthday Sarah Grimke is given her own personal, 10-year-old slave, Hetty /Handful. "The Invention of Wings" is historical fiction writing at its best, re-imagining the lives of abolitionist sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke. Almost completely lost to history, the Grimke sisters, natives of Charleston, are those rare individuals who risk everything to fight for their beliefs; suffering the rejection of family, friends, community, and even the Quaker church. The voices of Handful and Sarah alternate throughout the novel, informing the reader of the special life-long relationship between Handful, and sisters Sarah and Angelina and their struggle to end slavery.
Sue Monk Kidd, author of one of my favorite books, "The Secret Life of Bees," cites the following quote from Professor Julius Lester: “History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another's pain in the heart our own." Kidd certainly succeeded in expanding this reader’s heart. Highly recommended. (MV)
The Son, by Philipp Meyer, 2013
"The Son" is narrated by three generations of McCulloughs. Eli (great-grandfather), Peter (Eli's son), and granddaughter Jeanne tell their coming-of-age stories set against the Texas landscape. This is an epic tale of Indians and Vaqueros, cattle barons and oil men, and the pioneers who tamed and shaped Texas. Not to be missed! (MV)
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress, by Ariel Lawhon, 2014
This novel is based on the real-life disappearance of New York Supreme Court Judge Joe Crater in the 1930's. Crater was scheduled to testify on corruption in the New York Judicial branch when he disappeared without a trace. The story is told through the voices of the three women closest to Judge Crater: his trophy wife, his beautiful maid, and his Broadway starlet mistress. Lawhon captures the era of prohibition, weaving a tale that examines the culture of 1930's New York City. Captivating mystery, excellent historical fiction, and riveting characters make for a quick and entertaining read. Highly recommended. (MV)
Through the Evil Days, by Julia Spencer-Fleming, 2013
This title is the 8th in a mystery series based on Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson & Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne in upstate New York. The book picks up a few months after the end of "One Was a Soldier" (#7), when Clare stunned Russ with news of her pregnancy. The entire story takes place over one week, a time Clare and Russ planned on spending their belated honeymoon at a lake house. Of course everything gets turned on its ear due to a double homicide, the kidnapping of a child in need of medical attention, and one of the worst ice storms seen in years. On top of that, they both have complications with their jobs, as if their pregnancy is not causing enough upheaval in their lives.
Kevin Flynn and Hadley Knox, characters introduced in "All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent" (#6), are back, and Spencer-Fleming’s development of them is very satisfying. As officers under Chief Van Alstyne, they play a big part in the murder and kidnapping investigation. In addition to personal dilemmas, their time working together stirs up emotions from their previous relationship that they hoped were dormant.
Readers will enjoy this story best if they start at the first book in the series, "In the Bleak Midwinter," since so many characters reappear from book to book, while weaving the story of a small town and its residents. This book follows suit with others in the series as a highly recommended tale of mystery and suspense. As with her other Fergusson/Van Alstyne books, there is a cliff hanger, so we will want to hear more from these familiar characters in the future. (LG)
The Cartographer of No Mans Land, by P. S. Duffy, 2013
Duffy's thought-provoking historical novel follows Angus MacGrath from his native Nova Scotia to the trench warfare of WWI France. Promised a safe job as a cartographer, Angus enlists hoping to discover what has become of his charming, but reckless brother-in-law Ebbin who is missing-in-action. Close boyhood friends, Angus is determined to find Ebbin and also ease his wife's worry over her brother's unknown fate.
This book is one of a multitude of WWI-themed books hitting the shelf this year, in advance of the 100th anniversary in 2014 of the start of “The War to End All Wars.” This novel covers a lot of territory, exploring the prejudice against German Canadians, returning shell-shocked war veterans, as well as the fresh horror of chemical weapons use.
Duffy honors the soldiers who gave their lives in this eloquent and touching rendering of the sacrifices made by so many. These are characters for which the reader will care deeply. Highly recommended.
" ...Cartography was probably what he was best at -- a map of the physical world that in its black and white precision, denied reality." (MV)
Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, by Ann Dowsett Johnston, 2013
An examination of the rising trend of alcohol abuse among women - in this case, high-achieving professional women - by a successful journalist and recovering alcoholic. Johnston alternates between her own story, the stories of other women, and her own research on women and substance abuse. Despite the limited view Johnston manages to shine a light on a dark aspect of modern perfectionist womanhood. Here Johnston describes the innocent start to her dependence, "...I was using wine to decompress, to ease into the second shift of the evening -- and so too were my friends, both the stay-at-home mothers and my professional peers. As many women discovered, a drink is a punctuation mark of sorts, between day and night."
This is a worthwhile addition to the growing body of women's drinking memoirs. I also highly recommend that you check out one of the finest memoirs in the genre, "Drinking: A Love Story" by the late Caroline Knapp. Johnston cites it as a title she returns to several times on her halting road to recovery. (LT)
Joyland, by Stephen King, 2013
College student, Devin Jones is the first person narrator who takes us through his year of being 21, and of working at Joyland, a local amusement park, in a small town in North Carolina. We see Devin change from a love sick boy as he works as a carnie, following the Mystery of Horror House and of the murder of several young women. As soon as thunder strikes and he comes to understand who the Murderer was, he finds that his life or the lives of those he loves may be in jeopardy.
I loved reading this book and recommend it to Stephen King lovers, or the occasional murder mystery seeker. It’s a simpler read by the notoriously lengthy novel writer, so those of you who are wary of those longer books, do not be afraid. (AT)
The Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman, 2012 (also available in LP and audio)
The Lighthouse stands on the small island of Janus Rock, off the coast of Western Australia and it is this site that becomes the solitary refuge Tom Sherbourne seeks upon his return from WWI. The quiet and routine of lighthouse keeper slowly heals Tom’s soul. During a trip to the mainland, Tom falls in love with wild & spirited Isabel. They marry and return to island where they live a contented life together for a brief time. However, their happiness is marred by Isabel’s miscarriages. Isabel tries to cope with her depression after her stillborn son is buried, but one morning she hears a baby’s cry coming up from the beach. Upon investigation they discover a boat washed up on the island, with a deceased man and a healthy infant. Isabel believes the baby is a gift from God and convinces Tom, against his better judgment, not to include the boat and occupants in his daily record.
Two years later, when the little family visits the mainland for Lucy’s baptism, it becomes clear that their decision to raise Lucy as their child is not without consequences. The moral dilemma at the center of this novel will appeal to fans of Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, and Jacquelyn Mitchard and will stay with the reader for a long time after the last page is read. (MV)
Daughters of Mars, by Thomas Keneally, 2013
In his latest novel “The Daughters of Mars”, Keneally, author of “Schindler’s List,” pays homage to the unsung nursing heroes of WWI. Australian sisters, Sally and Naomi Durance are nurses who volunteer in 1914. They serve aboard the Archimedes, a Red Cross hospital ship, and later are stationed in France on the Western Front. I felt the most riveting part of the novel covered the description of the sinking of the Archimedes, which is based on a true occurrence. Readers will be hard-pressed to forget Keneally’s historical rendering of this disaster. Remarkable also, are the depictions of wartime sacrifices made by animals for mankind.
The complicated bond between Sally and Naomi blossoms as they struggle to maintain their sanity tending to the horrific number of casualties suffered by Australian troops during the 9 month Battle of Gallipoli. Not only are the sisters faced with insufficient supplies to tend the wounded, but the nurses suffer disrespect and degradation at the hands of the Army officials. Kenneally is a master of action, characterization and setting which included depictions of Australia, Egypt, the Greek Islands, Belgium, France and Britain. While the novel’s ending is unusual, it felt right to me. Keneally does not mince words in his description of the death and destruction WWI inflicted. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction. (MV)
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough, 2013
Audiobook read by Dan John Miller (available for download through our Overdrive service)
Examining the hardships that teachers, students and parents are currently facing to bring forth successful children; this book gives great insight on how you can help your child become a person that achieves his or her goals. This book is chock-full of interesting statistics, stories of severely underprivileged students and even the adversities facing middle class and economically privileged children and teens. Why is "No Child Left Behind" so ineffective and what tools can you, as a parent, employ to guide your child down the path to success?
Without condescending and telling you what, why, when, and how, this book outlines what is and isn't working in today's (2012) homes, communities, schools, and government intervention programs. By taking the time to compare your own parenting strategies to the successes and failures presented in this book you may very well finish it feeling empowered to make a real difference in your child's future regardless of your economic or social standing.
The audiobook recording is very well presented, the reader does an excellent job making what could be chapters of droning numbers and statistics into an engaging, if not entertaining listen. I was surprised to hear the various accents presented in the recording but they made the book feel as though you were an active participant in the interview process. I highly recommend listening to this audiobook. This title is also available for checkout in hardcover. (VG)
The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling), 2013
J.K. Rowling writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith has created an original and extremely likeable private detective named Cormoran Strike, aided by his Girl Friday, Robin. Strike's business and private life are suffering when he catches a case investigating the apparent suicide of super model Lula Landry. (The mellifluous name of the deceased recalls Rowling’s wonderful skill naming her characters.) Rowling crafts her tale with the skill of Agatha Christie. Highly recommended for all mystery lovers. (MV)