Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Just Jennifer

How Far She’s Come by Holly Brown
Twenty-four Cheyenne Florian couldn’t be more surprised when she is recruited to be a new personality on the new INN, Independent News network “Because independent thinking is the only way out”.  Billionaire Edwin Gordon, founder and owner of the station, flies to California where he interviews Cheyenne on his private plane after watching her vlogs which show her to be an opinionated young woman of convictions.  Cheyenne thinks INN is a completely different type of network, but when she arrives in New York, she finds the same old things: women who are jealous and suspicious, men who are happy to leer at her, and show hosts afraid she’ll displace them.  An anonymous delivery of a diary from 1991, written by a Elyse Rohrbach, a female newscaster, becomes a cautionary tale for Cheyenne, and as she reads, Cheyenne realizes the events in the diary creepily mirror what is happening to Cheyenne in present day, without her necessarily realizing it.  The plot, inspired by the #metoo movement is sometimes too subtle, and often times too obvious; Cheyenne is a strong young woman with a lot of inner character and nerves of steel making the plot plausible and a little too real.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

New Titles for May

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
Mike and Verity have a very intense, bordering on dangerous , relationship, playing a game called “Crave” in which Verity makes Mike jealous by letting another man hit on her, especially at a bar, fingers the silver eagle necklace her gave her, and then he swoops in, literally, to save her.  But now Mike sits in a prison cell, awaiting trial for murder; his barrister has Mike write his account of the relationship with Verity, leading up to the murder.  Slowly, a story of obsession emerges, but on whose part?  Mike is certain that Verity’s announcement she is getting married after his two years spent, at her request, in America, is just one big Crave: why else would she have invited him to the wedding?  Is Mike the predator or the prey?  This twisty psychological thriller, unusual in that there is an unreliable male narrator, will have readers guessing until the very end…and beyond. A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
A group of Brooklyn mothers all giving birth in May have formed a group to offer support and give advice in the days leading up to the births of their babies, and in the weeks following, assuring everyone they are not alone.  In the midst of record breaking July heat, the women decide they need a night out on the fourth of July; they especially encourage the single mother among them, Winnie, who they feel needs the night out more than any of them.  Nell arranges for her babysitter to watch Winnie’s son Midas so the group can spend the evening letting off a little steam.  Winnie, nervous leaving Midas for the first time, has a webcam app on her phone to keep an eye on her son; Nell erases the app so Winnie will stop watching Midas and have a little fun.  The evening out quickly turns to disaster when Alma calls hysterical saying that Midas is gone.  What follows is a carefully plotted thriller as the police search to locate Midas; each woman’s life is carefully examined, their secrets revealed in this honest, frank look at the mommy culture and all the pressures that come along with being a new mother, as women struggle to be all things to everyone, including themselves.  Book groups will find many topics to discuss in this original twist on the suburban, psychological thriller with a lot of depth, and an ending that surprises but makes all the pieces that were there all along quickly fall into place.   A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org 

House Swap by Rebecca Fleet

Caroline and Francis decide to house swap for holiday this year rather than traveling to France; they leave Leeds to spend a week in the suburbs of London, and hope that the time away from their son, their jobs, and everything else will help set their marriage on the road to recovery after Caroline had an affair with a co-worker.  Once in the house things are not as smooth as they had hoped: Francis is still Francis, and Caroline still had the affair.  Slowly, Caroline notices there are “reminders” or her affair everywhere: flowers her lover bought for her, “their” song playing on a CD, and she realizes that the person with whom they swapped the house has a hidden agenda and wonders what kind of danger she has put them in, or what kind of danger her family home four hours away, might be in.  Slowly, Caroline begins to realize that this house swap was anything but random, and that someone is menacing her, but to what end?  This domestic thriller shirts back and forth between the present and the past and tells the story from various points of view, until the final shocking secret is revealed.

Wicked River by Jenny Milchman
 Natalie and Doug Larson’s honeymoon goes terribly wrong, but Natalie doesn’t realize how wrong until it is almost too late.  Doug has convinced his new bride that a weeklong canoe trip through six million acres of the Adirondack’s is the perfect way for them to celebrate their love for each other and to become even closer.  Natalie, a city girl, is unsure, but wants to please Doug and agrees.  Their adventure takes a turn for the worst when they become lost and are without their GPS; Natalie and Doug struggle to survive as they try to make their way out of the deep forest in which they are the only humans.  But the woods are not uninhabited as the couple believes them to be; there is something evil hiding around each turn in the river and a mad man, whose agenda is known only to him, seems to befriend him until he wants to hurt them.  This chilling plot will leave you breathless, slowly creeping up on you with Jenny Milchman’s deceptive prose as she describes the lush forest and the clear river alongside pure evil.  Nuanced characters and a wicked fast-paced ride down the rapids as Natalie and Doug fight to survive in the wilderness, and Natalie struggles to understand what her new husband has been keeping from her will keep you riveted until the exciting conclusion.  

Little Disasters by Randall Klein
In the heat of the summer, an unnamed incident in midtown Manhattan shuts down the subway system, and essentially, the entire island as two men try to return home to Brooklyn to their families and women they love.  Michael, married to cookie entrepreneur Rebecca, has been having an affair with Jenny since just after the couples met in the maternity ward at the hospital.  The two were supposed to meet at the northern end of Manhattan at the Cloisters, but Jenny texted Michael at the last minute she couldn’t come, so Michael begins his long trek to Brooklyn, his wife and son.  Paul, Jenny’s partner, is under the East River when the subways stop and must first surface and make it to the island before beginning his trek home.  The narrative flows easily between the year earlier when the two couples were waiting expectantly for the birth of their children, the tragedy that followed, the events that brought the couples together, eventually leading to the affair, leading up to Michael and Paul’s trips on the hottest summer day, back to lives that are much different than they expected.  Told from various points of view, the reader doesn’t necessarily get the full picture until all parties have weighed in.  This keenly observed domestic story is a strong debut that should be well-received.

My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley
David Hedges was married to Julie Fiske thirty years ago, but they decided they’d be better as friends than as husband and wife.  David moved to San Francisco and though he is living in an enviable apartment with an even more enviable low rent, he finds himself at a low point in his life: his boyfriend has left him for an older man, his job helping the uber-rich children get into college is now grating on his nerves, he has gained a little bit of weight, and he has just learned that the aforementioned great apartment is being sold out from under him.  Julie is running an illegal Airbnb on the coast in Massachusetts and is trying to get together enough money to buy her soon-to-be second ex-husband out while dealing with her surly teenage daughter Mandy, so who can blame her if she smokes a little too much pot?  Her ex and his new girlfriend want Mandy to come live with them feeling Mandy needs more structure in her senior year before college; without thinking, Mandy, who has recently learned of her mother’s first ex-husband, blurts out that David is helping her with her college applications.  Mandy, who is on the cusp of doing something really stupid, reaches out to David, she indicates that it might be a good idea if he came east for a visit, and given his current situation, why not? Julie is surprised to see David on her doorstep, but before long, the three have settled into an easy routine.  David and Julie as comfortable with each other as they were thirty years ago, as they learn ways to help each other reclaim their lives.  This elegantly written, keenly observed novel of manners in the 21st century is generous, funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking as it delves into family and relationships in all their various forms.

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin
An woman, unnamed until the end of the book, has befriended, under the guise of being his daughter, a 61-year-old photographer, Carl Feldman, who is living in an assisted living home, diagnosed with dementia, and accused, though acquitted, of being a serial murderer.  The young woman is convinced that Feldman is responsible for her sister Rachel’s disappearance twelve years ago and has been obsessed with Feldman, confronting him, and making him confess.  Using his photographs as proof that he murdered young women, the narrator springs Feldman from the home and takes him on a driving tour of Texas, tracing the dead women, and leading up to Rachel’s disappearance.  The two strike an unusual bond during their trip and Feldman ends up helping the woman more than he thought he could with a very surprising ending for each.  A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org 

Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane
Life behind the doors of a sorority house often gives the appearance of perfection: but look a little deeper and you’ll find insecurities, petty squabbles, and even hatred, just like anywhere else.  Margot is dead and this debut follows members of an unnamed New England sorority through the times before and after her death, focusing on several young women, but also bringing in the “Greek chorus” in some chapters as the story unfolds.  One young woman tells her affecting story of her dying mother and the lasting effects that had on her; another young woman, the anorexic, hides the relationship she had with another, more seemingly together woman with whom she was best friends for much of her childhood, and a father brings his newly pregnant mistress to meet his daughter. Each individual episode reads like a disparate short story, Margot’s death connecting them all, bringing to light the uncertainty, pressure, and stress of pledging a sorority.  This novel never looks away from the pain that is often under the veneer of these young women as they attempt to belong to something much bigger and lasting, or so they think, than themselves as individuals.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Harriet “Hal” Westaway is one overdue notice from financial ruin: she is late on her rent, utilities, and the repayment on the loan she made with a less than reputable source.  Her tarot business on the Brighton Pier does well, but not well enough to support her meager lifestyle.  A letter from a solicitor informing her she is a beneficiary to her recently deceased grandmother’s will is a shock: Hal believes both her Westaway grandparents have been dead for years and she knows of no others.  But, the windfall could help to put her back on track with her finances and if the solicitor thinks she is an heir, who is she to argue.  She travels to Trepssan House in Cornwall where she meets her uncles for the first time, and an elderly housekeeper who is less than pleased to meet the newest relative.  The more Hal learns about her “family” and its history and the history of the house, the less she wants to be connected to it, but she still feels a strong draw and connection, if she can only figure it out before she loses her life.  This gothic mystery is deliciously creepy and spine-tingling with a strong protagonist and a surprising outcome.  A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org 

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
Reality television, sibling rivalry, women entrepreneurs, and social consciousness all play a part in Jessica Knoll’s second novel.  Reality television star Brett is dead, and her sister Kelly, new to the cast of Goal Diggers, tells the story of Brett’s life and death to Jesse, part of the crew, sparing no details about their fellow cast members.  Brett the youngest cast member, unashamed of her less than perfect body, and gay, is the driving force behind SPOKE, spinning classes that donates a bicycle to young women in Morocco who must often walk more than ten miles for clean water, often getting attacked on the way.  Kelly, a single mother with a business savvy and precious twelve-year-old daughter has come into the business, hoping to add yoga studios, and ultimately herself to the Goal Diggers cast.  In between the interview, different case members tell their stories and of their relationships with Brett: Stephanie Simmons, a best-selling author, struggles with depression, and her less than perfect marriage; Jen has made her name with a juice bar and vegan lifestyle but craves, and indulges in, turkey bacon; dating website designer Lauren may not have it as together as she appears to.  As each woman’s response to the pressures of constantly being in the spotlight is explored, their facades begin to crack, and jealousies, some petty, some not so, come to light, making the final revelation of Brett’s death and the events surrounding it a surprise, in this look at reality television culture.  A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

New in April

Lost Books and Old Bones by Paige Shelton
When Delaney Nichols left Kansas to work at The Cracked Spine in Edinburg, Scotland she never guessed she would fall in love with the country, with her new boss Edwin MacAlister, with her job, and with local pub owner Tom.  Delaney forges a friendship with some local medical students when they bring in a set of rare illustrated medical books, An Atlas of Illustrations of Clinical, Medical, Surgery, and Pathology to sell.  Sophie and Rena have been best friends forever and introduce Delaney to fellow student Mallory one night when they are out at a pub.  Delaney also meets Dr. Bryon Eban, a professor at the school, who Delaney suspects is having affairs with at least one of the young women if not more.  Eban is also obsessed with a 19th century professor at Edinburgh University, Robert Knox who bought the murder victims of William Burke and William Hare for his medical students to practice on.  Delaney finds a set of scalpels with the books that were brought in and wonders if there is a connection to Knox, but before she can research the provenance, Mallory is found murdered in the alley next to the bookstore and Delaney finds herself off and running on another murder investigation.  Complicating matters is Bridgit, a reporter who once dated Tom and is not above putting out damaging, if not outright lies, stories about Delaney.  Though Delaney is headstrong and independent and often takes the lead, almost pushing her friends aside, in her investigation which seems a little discombobulated at times and may not win new fans to this series, but the book history and the Scottish setting will hold the interest of readers who have read the first two mysteries in the series.

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
Just before his college graduation, Harry Ackerson learns his father Bill has died after a fall from his usual cliff walk.  Harry heads for his father’s home in Kennewick, Maine where his 35-year-old stepmother Alice is waiting with arms more open than makes Harry comfortable: Alice goes back and forth between hovering and fussing over Harry and his loss and making sexual advances toward him.  Harry agrees to stay the summer and help out at his father’s bookstore until things are more settled.  Harry, already on edge, learns from the police that Bill may have been murdered and a mysterious young woman, Grace McGowan shows up at Bill’s funeral.  Grace says she casually knew Bill when he had his bookstore in Manhattan, and just happened to show up in Maine, but Harry thinks there’s more.  Chapters alternate between Harry working through Bill’s death and probable murder, and Alice’s teenage and young adult years until the two stories collide in a not entirely unexpected way.  The tension is often high, but there are a few too many loose ends and coincidences to keep this story as tight as it could be.

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline
Scottoline’s latest stand-alone tells the same story using two separate chronologies with mixed results.  Maggie Ippolitti has been estranged from her daughter Anna for sixteen years: Maggie was diagnosed with post-partum psychosis shortly after Anna’s birth and her husband Florian, divorced her, took full custody of Anna who he promptly placed in prestigious boarding schools, and never allowed Maggie to see her again.  Maggie has since recovered, and is remarried to widowed pediatric allergist Noah Alderman, and has a loving relationship with her step-son, ten-year-old Noah who suffers from apraxia.  Maggie is shocked and overjoyed when she gets a call from Anna who announces since her father has died (which Maggie knew), Anna would like to leave boarding school, and live with Maggie and her family finishing out her senior year in a suburban Philadelphia high school.  Barley consulting Noah, Maggie agrees, and in an almost euphoric state throws herself into giving Anna the ideal family life.  Anna too, seems to slide right into her new life and it all seems too good to be true: until it’s not.  Maggie finds some notes in Anna’s old textbooks that make her wonder if Anna is involved in a missing student from the boarding school.  The other narrative, told in reverse chronological order, begins with Noah awaiting the verdict after his trial for murdering Anna.  As Noah’s trial unfolds, readers learn of the tension between Anna and Noah, Anna accusing him of unwanted sexual advances, Noah being removed from his home, and Maggie immediately taking Anna’s side.  As Noah’s verdict is being read, Maggie is unraveling Anna’s story and the two collide in a rather rushed conclusion, leading to a too-good-to-be-true epilogue a year later, missing the healing that would have needed to occur to arrive at such a state.  Also not fully explained is why Maggie never sought out Anna once Maggie recovered, and especially once Florian died.  Nonetheless, fans of Scottoline will overlook these aspects and quickly turn the pages to find out what is really going on.

Paris by the Book by Laim Callanan
Leah and her husband Robert, a young adult author, both yearn for Paris---France, not Wisconsin where they live---but each through their own children’s book.  Leah is obsessed with the movie The Red Balloon, based on the book, while Robert prefers the Madeleine series by Ludwig Bemelmans.  Leah and their two daughters, Ellie and Daphne, are used to Robert’s disappearances while he writes and are certain he will return when as he leaves notes.  One day he disappears without a note and with no contact.  Leah finds tickets to Paris that Robert purchased; thinking that this is a romantic gesture meant to bring his family to Paris to find him, Leah and the girls set off, but they do not find him in Paris and though they don’t want to think he has left them, they can’t bear the thought that he is dead, either.  Before long, Leah and the girls find themselves part of Paris, Leah running a bookstore and dating a younger man, the girls attending school, and all of them becoming involved with the store’s owner, her son, and grandchildren.  A manuscript written by Robert shows up and Leah, using the manuscript, The Red Balloon, and Madeline as guides, searches for her husband, uncertain what she will do if she finds him.  This book will charm Francophiles and bibliophiles alike with plenty to discuss for book groups.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

New in April...

How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister
Anna Crawford learns she wasn’t just suspended from her teaching job at a small, Pennsylvania high school when she sees herself on the news with the headline “Former Teacher Had Motive” referring to a shooting at the school that left seventeen dead and many more injured.  Though the teenager responsible for the massacre is quickly caught, Anna finds herself and her life in her small hometown under a microscope, fueling a media frenzy and a public outcry for which no one is ready.  As Anna finds herself the target of scrutiny, though why she’s not sure, she finds herself reconnecting with her younger brother Calvin and former boyfriend Robbie, reassessing her family life growing up; Anna, who was considered “unpredictable” by her principal, has not yet found a new job, and spends much of her time considering the tragedy, why some people became victims while others escaped, the process of public mourning, speaking out against the planned permanent memorial, and the inevitable gun control debate that ensues.  This is a searing, keenly observed, in some ways an indictment of the face of tragedy, the blame that follows, and the often tending toward hypocrisy of a post-tragedy culture as well as more general social issues such as misogyny and religious fervor taking the place of understanding and compassion.  This novel could not be timelier and is sure to spark discussion among all who read it, and everyone should. 

The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan
In North Wales’s Gwenafwy Abbey, Sister Agatha, the librarian and aspiring mystery writer, tries her hand at solving a local murder when Jacob, the local sexton is found dead in the abbey’s cheese barn under wheels of the abbey’s award winning Heavenly Gouda.  The local constable dismisses the death as an accident, but Agatha, who has steeped herself in mystery novels from Sherlock Holmes to her namesake Dame Agatha, to Stephanie Plum, sees clues at every turn and begins to become suspicious of seemingly disparate events: the theft of a valuable Communion set from the local church, a fire in the cheese barn, and the sabotage of Heavenly Gouda’s entry in the prestigious cheese contest.  With Father Selwyn as her gumshoe, Agatha begins to connect the dots while Reverend Mother and the other sisters contemplate how they can become more relevant to their local community as they receive veiled threats from the local bishop that she may close the abbey.  The colorful women in this religious community make this atmosphere shimmer with energy; Sister Agatha’s enthusiasm to solve Jacob’s murder and figure out all the odd goings on provide a mystery to untangle while providing a broader view of the community in which the abbey lives.  The delightful North Wales setting gives this debut an old-fashioned cozy feel with modern twists.  Readers will be eager for more from Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn.

Too Close to Breath by Olivia Kiernan

Dublin-based Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan has returned to work after almost being killed while pursuing a murderer: Her first case upon her return is the apparent hanging suicide of Professor Eleanor Costello.  Frankie is happy to let it go as a suicide, but when the autopsy results come back and indicate Eleanor may not have committed suicide Frankie knows she must investigate: a fresh wound edged in Blue Prussian paint and multiple healed injuries make Frankie suspect Eleanor was abused.  Eleanor’s husband Peter is nowhere to be found and his sister insists she hasn’t seen him in several weeks.  The Costello’s home appears orderly, carefully controlled order even, though a laptop has been found which reveals a surprise:  access to the Dark Web with recent activity on a site for people who fantasize about experiencing death without actually dying.  A second death ties back to Peter, who still cannot be located, though Frankie is receiving hang up calls that can be traced to Peter’s cell phone.  The more Frankie investigates, the more Eleanor’s carefully crafted life comes apart.  A longtime detective, Frankie relies on her instincts and they are telling her she’s missing something, both with Eleanor’s case and her previous case that is now being tried.  When Frankie finds the missing link, it proves to be more disturbing than imagined in this complex, very dark, but ultimately satisfying debut thriller.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

...and Goes Out Like a Lamb

Not this year, it seems! Here are a few more books to cozy up with until the snow melts:

Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
Sydney Detective Ted Conkaffey has moved to the marshy shores of Crimson Lake to try and regain some semblance of normalcy, or at least hide out, after being tried, but neither convicted nor acquitted, of raping thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley who disappeared from a bus stop at the same time Ted stopped to adjust his fishing gear.  He is recruited to help PI Amanda Pharrell, who served time after being convicted of murdering her friend when the two were teenagers, search for a novelist, Jake Scully who has seemingly vanished without a trace, save his wedding ring that turns up in a crocodile’s stomach.  Ted reluctantly agrees to help Amanda, and his police training and instinct kick in as he also begins to look into Amanda’s past and her case, as she does his.  Even though Amanda pled guilty, Ted feels there’s more to her story than she is telling.  Harassed by two local cops and local vigilantes, Ted, with the help of Amanda, continues to proclaim his innocence while searching for the truth about Jake, and the truth about Amanda.  Complex and compelling, Amanda and Ted are an unusual pair, both with a strong sense of right and wrong, both willing to give up their own comforts for the sake of others.  The steamy Australian wetlands, complete with crocodiles and pythons, provides a lush setting for this creative, engaging story, with an ending that promises Amanda and Ted are not finished with each other.

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Anna Johnson’s parents committed suicide in the same manner---weighing themselves down with rocks and jumping off of a cliff.  One year later, on the anniversary of her mother’s death, Anna, living in her family home with her partner Matt and their eight-month-old daughter Ella, still cannot accept her parents’ deaths as suicides.  When a card arrives in the post with the simple message “Suicide? Think again.” Anna is even more certain her parents, her mother at least, were murdered and brings her suspicions to the police where she meets retired detective Murray Mackenzie who has dealt with mental illness through his wife and who could never walk away from a case just because the easy solution fit.  As Anna digs into her parents’ lives, she realizes there was more to them than she let herself know.  The closer she comes to the truth, the more danger she brings to her young family in this taut novel with many twists and turns and one surprising conclusion.

Closer than You Know by Brad Parks
Melanie Barrick managed to survive the foster care system as a child and has a three-month-old son and a devoted husband.  Except: she was raped by a probable serial rapist, her tow-headed son is the rapist’s child, yet she adores him as does her husband Ben who treats Alex as his own.  Not suspecting that anything can go wrong in her now settle life, Melanie arrives at daycare one night to pick Alex up.  She is shocked when the caregiver announces that social services has Alex in their care and then refuses to speak to Melanie.  At home and hysterical, Melanie finds her house in shambles and learns that Sheriff’s officers have found close to half a kilo of cocaine hidden in the nursery ceiling.  No one will believe Melanie’s protestations of innocence, she finds out Ben may not be as wonderful as he seems when she learns he is keeping a secret that will change everything, and then she is charged with murder.  Amy Kaye, deputy commonwealth attorney has been investigating the serial rapist and unwittingly has been interviewing the Coke Mom, Melanie for that case.  Pulled off of the rape cases to investigate Melanie, the two case suddenly collide as two women struggle to regain control of their lives, one to save her life, and discover, to everyone’s surprise, who---and more importantly why---is pulling the strings.  A bit of acceptance of coincidences is necessary, but take everything at face value and settle in for a fast-paced, twisty ride.

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala
Niru is living what, on the surface, appears to be a good life for a teenager: he lives in a better section of Washington D.C. with his attentive but conservative parents, attends a prestigious private high school which has prepared him for Harvard; he runs track with his best friend Meredith, the only person who knows Niru’s secret: he is gay.  Meredith does not judge and even encourages Niru to explore this part of himself.  Niru’s father, finding Niru’s phone one day, learns his son is gay and becomes enraged, certain this is the work of the devil.  Niru turns to the one person he feels he can count on---Meredith---only to be turned away, learning she is having a crisis of her own, causing possible irreparable damage to their relationship.  Determined to “drive the demons out”  Niru’s father brings him to Nigeria where Niru’s eyes are opened, he gains a little more understanding toward his father, but also garners the strength her needs to live his life on his own terms.  This beautifully written novel is tender at times, violent at others, and heartbreaking as it explores individuals, families, and friends, how we treat each other, but more importantly, how we treat ourselves.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen
Parking spaces are at the forefront of many New Yorkers’ must lists; Charlie Nolan is no exception and has just scored a coveted space in his dead end enclave’s parking lot.  His wife Nora doesn’t understand the fuss over parking: they have a vintage townhouse, the value of which far exceeds their purchase price, they are successful, if not entirely happy, in their careers, Nora sought after to run several non-profit; their twin children are in their senior year in college, and for the most part, they like their community, complete with Christmas parties and neighborhood barbeques.  Even the SRO on the other side of the parking lot is part of the charm for Nora and Charlie.  The morning one of their more bad-tempered neighbors Jack Fiske attacks the neighborhood’s adored handyman Ricky (over a parking space) shatters much more than Ricky’s leg: Nora and Charlie quarrel over their different versions of the events leading them both to realize they have an “acceptably unhappy” marriage; as the neighbors begin to align and discuss the events, their prejudices become more apparent, their issues with other neighbors more apparent.  Quindlen writes in a quiet, unassuming way, as she slowly circles around the larger issues until a single event brings them to light.  Book groups will find much to discuss in this novel of manners with modern sensibilities.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

March Comes in Like a Lion...

With plenty of new books to read! Where will you start?

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Flight attendant Cassie Bowden is a blackout drunk and often finds herself in strange beds, though not always alone.  After a flight from JFK to Dubai, she finds herself not only in the bed of a stranger, but in the bed of a dead stranger, one who, judging from the blood in the bed, was murdered.  Rather than calling authorities or even hotel security, Cassie slips out of the hotel, attempting to erase all evidence of the night of drinking and sex that she and Alex Sokolov shared.  When Sokolov’s body is discovered, Cassie and her colleagues are questioned, as Sokolov was a first class passenger on the flight to Dubai.  Back in Manhattan, Cassie is still certain no one will be able to tie her to the dead man, other than serving him drinks, but after a series of bad choices, lying to the FBI, her attorney, and her family, she decides to come clean and reveals she was the woman in the hotel room with Sokolov, but that there was another woman who arrived sometime in the evening with another bottle of vodka.  Even with all of Cassie’s flaws, Bohjalian remains neutral and doesn’t judge her or try to make readers feel sorry for her and her bad choices: she just is what she is, yet readers will find themselves rooting for Cassie not to succumb to temptations and to do the right thing.  Told in alternating chapters between Cassie and Elena, the hit woman with the vodka, readers will race to the end of this book, though it is obvious where it is going.

Close to Home by Cara Hunter
One evening Sharon and Barry Mason hold a summer evening party in the backyard of the Oxford home on a canal complete with costumes for the children and fireworks.  The son Leo and their eight-year-old daughter Daisy, dressed as her name, appear to be having a wonderful time until the party ends and Sharon and Barry realize that Daisy has vanished.  As DI Fawley and DC Everett begin searching for Daisy, they learn that no one can say for certain whether or not Daisy was actually at the party or if the girls switched costumes.  As the police begin to ask questions of the neighbors, the teachers at Daisy’s school, and her friends and classmates, they learn that there was much more to each member of Daisy’s family life than meets the eye: everyone, including Daisy herself, has secrets and is living a life of deceit.  Fawley has his own family troubles and finds them at the forefront of his mind as he dissects the family’s and the little girl’s lives.  The further the police delve into the secrets, the more Barry looks suspicious, the more complicate Sharon looks, and the more disturbed and detached Leo becomes.  As the tangled knots of the Mason’s lives are exposed, more people speculate on social media, and accusations begin building to a startling conclusion that few will see coming. 

Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell
In this highly addictive debut novel, Alexandra Southwood does not return home one evening after work, leaving her husband Marc and her two young girls desperate to find her.  Alexandra is being held, against her will, in a small room, and through news clips of Marc’s public appeals she has an almost sentient knowledge of what Marc is going through.  After Alexandra’s blood and clothing is found near the river, the police turn their missing person investigation into a murder investigation.  Working through his grief, Marc begins to shift through Alexandra’s life and uncovers a much different woman than he thought he had married.  This is an originally plotted thriller that gives readers a unique look into a descent into madness, and then the horror we feel when we realize what we thought we knew to be true is not, and that with the slightest shifting of the lens, our narratives change in an instant.   Highly recommended. 

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
In the days after Christmas, radio show host Amber Reynolds is lying in a coma in a hospital outside of London.  She is aware of her circumstances, but is unable to show any signs of life.  As she lies in the bed, hearing the visitors who come in and out of her room, trying to piece together what happened to her and why she is here.  The police suspect her husband Paul; Amber suspects Paul has fallen in love with her sister Claire.  As the days go by, Amber remembers the weeks leading up to her accident, the trouble at work, the concerns about Paul’s fidelity; these memories intermingle with diary entries from Amber’s childhood, beginning when she was eleven, entries that reveal a more than an unhappy childhood and usual angst riddled teenage years, something much more sinister.  Plot twists come fast and furious at the end, some make sense, some are curious, tenuous connections, but overall, this tightly written plot full of secrets and suspense will keep many readers up late into the night to learn Amber’s secrets, and about what she is lying, and if she ever tells a truth.

The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty
As the crime reporter for Savannah’s Daily News Harper McClain is glued to her police scanner---most of the time---hoping for something that will put her name on the front page.  Over the years, she has developed a very good relationship with the cops and a close, personal relationship with Lieutenant Robert Smith: ever since he arrived at the scene of her mother’s, still unsolved, murder, fifteen years ago.  When, Harper covers the murder of a woman in a good neighborhood, she realizes the scene is eerily like that of the scene in the kitchen where Harper found her mother; Harper become certain that the same person committed both crimes and that the person is a cop.  Not knowing where to turn, Harper begins her own investigation, putting her job and relationships on the line, not caring about where the path leads her, as long as it is to the truth.  Harper is an outstanding character: she is nervy, has some self-doubt, and puts truth and honor above all else, including her own safety.  She often finds herself in a minefield, but manages to work her way out, sometimes worse for the wear, but always wiser.  The steamy, gothic-esque Savannah setting only adds to the atmosphere.  Fans of Hank Ryan’s Jane Ryland and Jake Brogan series will devour this debut in one sitting. 

The Girlfriend by Sarah J. Naughton
Mary Magdalene, Mags, left Scotland at the age of sixteen; after university in London, she got a law degree from Columbia and went to Las Vegas to start her career.  Over two decades later, she finds herself back on her way to London where her brother Abe lies in a coma after a fall from the staircase in his apartment building.  When Mags arrives, she finds Abe’s girlfriend Jody Currie sitting at his bedside.  Mags did not know of Jody, but she and Abe were not terribly close so she is not surprised.  Mags moves into Abe’s apartment which is on the same floor as Jody’s and the more she gets to know Jody, the more suspicious of her she becomes; Jody was the only witness to Abe’s accident, or so Mags thinks, but there is definitely more to the story than Jody is telling.  In the shadows is another tenant, Mira, who has her own story to tell about Abe’s accident and somewhere therein lies the truth.  The more Mags starts to dig into Abe’s life, the more she realizes how little she knew about her brother, but in one final act of loyalty is willing to risk all to bring a killer to justice.  If a lie is told often enough, does it become the truth? This terrifying trip through Abe’s life leads his sister Mags to places she never thought she would go.  Readers will not be able to look away from this fast-paced twisty tale of love and revenge. 

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman
Daphne Marist met Laurel Hobbes at a new mother’s group and seemed to have a lot in common, including newborn daughters named Chloe; so much in common that when Daphne feels her life is in danger from her husband, she takes Chloe, Laurel’s identity, and becomes an archivist for Schuyler Bennett, a semi-reclusive author who lives in the Catskills next to a mental institution.   As Daphne’s time with Schuyler unfolds, Daphne beings to wonder how bad is her postpartum depression? Is her husband really trying to kill her, and is she mentally unstable as Laurel’s husband told Daphne Laurel was, or are others trying to control her to their end.  When Daphne is committed to the mental institution, the kaleidoscope shifts and the scene changes, making Daphne more reliable than she originally appeared, casting doubt on others’ stories and motives.  This gothic setting and atmosphere is perfect for all the secretive characters and the twisty, turning plot that leads readers uncertain where they will end up next.

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin
Single mother Jackie Reed is doing the best she can to raise her two teenaged boys, Wade and Connor in the quiet Hudson Valley town of Havenkill.  One night changes everything for everyone and brings to light the secrets a small town had thought were hidden forever.  Aimeee En, a has-been pop music icon, claims she was the victim of a carjacking that turned deadly when the carjacker ran down Liam Miller.  As the investigation unfolds, eyes turn to the angry outcast Wade Reed who insists he’s innocent, but to Pearl Maze, the investigating officer, and to his mother, knows a lot more than he is willing to reveal.  Told from multiple points of view, stories unfold, family secrets are revealed, lives are torn apart, only to be slowly repaired and put back together through understanding and forgiveness.  

Saturday, January 27, 2018

New in Febraury

February may be the shortest month of the year, but there is no shortage of new books in which to indulge yourself...look for the libraryreads.org logo to find librarians' favorites.

The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson

In 1960, 21-year-old Angie and her older, handsome husband Paul Glass are living what she views as a deliriously happy, ideal life in Wisconsin with their young son.  A call from Paul’s seventeen-year-old niece Ruby is disturbing enough when Ruby tells Paul her mother, Silja, has left her and her father, but then she tells Paul his brother Henry, her father, has killed himself.  At Angie’s insistence, she and their son travel with Paul to Stonekill, NY to assist Ruby with the final arrangements, but when they arrive at the custom made glass home at the edge of the forest, Angie sense a darkness filled with secrets, but just what the repercussions of these secrets will have on their lives is more than Angie can fathom.  As Henry Glass’s story and that of the entire Glass family is revealed, a less than perfect story unfolds.  Told partly in flashbacks, mainly through Silja’s past as a young immigrant in New York City, the narrative explores social change and mores of World War Ii and beyond, including and especially women’s roles.  Using bright-eyed, optimistic, at times naïve women, who may be troubling to some readers, the Glass’s story unfolds.  In the end, each woman shows they are much more capable, and much stronger than anyone gave them credit for being.

The Hush by John Hart
Johnny Merrimon and Jack Cross have been best friends for their entire lives; now, in their early twenties, each has taken a different path since the events of ten years ago that shook not only their friendship, but the entire North Carolina town: Jack is a newly minted attorney working at a high-powered firm and Johnny is living off-the-grid on 6,000 acres of land he owns, Hush Arbor.  The Hush has been in his family for generations and Johnny has come close to losing it several times.  The Hush holds secrets, many evil, and Johnny has learned to live along side of it, respecting its powers.  When a local businessman/hunter who has been trying to buy Johnny’s land is found dead, Johnny is arrested as the suspect, but released when the medical examiner testifies that there is no way a single human man could have inflicted such damage to another man.  Embroiled in a court battle of his land, fighting for his freedom and keeping the secrets of the Hush, Johnny turns to the one person he feels his can trust about all: Jack, putting Jack in an impossible situation, testing their friendship in a way that has never been done before.  John Hart is a master at evoking the Deep South with its folklore and many heinous acts that were committed over the years and the scars left on the descendants.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
When two groups of colleagues set out on a corporate retreat in the Australian wilderness, the five men emerge within the allotted time, but the women are late, and when they arrive at the end of the trail, one woman, the one with the only cell phone and working flashlight, missing.  Each of the women has a different version of what happened to Alice Russell in the woods.  Federal Agent Aaron Falk and his partner Carmen Cooper travel south from Melbourne when they learn the name of the missing woman who has been an informant for Falk and Cooper regarding a possible money laundering scheme.  Has someone learned of Alice’s cooperation with authorities? Does this has something to do with her daughter and the daughter of her colleague, both of whom has been involved in a high school bullying incident, or as crazy as it sounds, does this have something to do with a long dead serial killer who was in the area at one time and whose son has vanished and is presumed to be still alive.  It quickly becomes clear that Alice did not have any fans in the group, but did someone hate her enough to murder her or was this a tragic accident.  Cleverly told, the plot shifts between the investigation and the weekend in the wilderness.  Complex characters must depend on one another for survival in the rugged wilderness and during the investigation if they are to stay away from suspicion.

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
This debut novel feels familiar at first but by the end is like nothing you’ve ever read before.  The first part, “Folly”, tells the story of Alice, a young New York editor, and her deepening relationship with a much older, award winning author, Ezra Blazer.  As their relationship grows, Alice finds herself surprised by the joy she finds in it, during the time the Iraq War is beginning.  The second section “Madness” is Amar’s story.  Amar is an Iraqi-American man who, at the end of 2008 has made a detour to London on the way to visit his brother in Kurdistan.  As Amar sends the weekend detained in a holding room in Heathrow, his story is told in flashbacks.  Amar cannot imagine why he would be detained: to him, his life has been very banal and he poses no threat to anyone.  The third section of the novel, brings the two narratives together as Ezra is interviewed for a BBC program using the music he would bring with him were he stranded on a desert island as a springboard for conversation.  Lyrica and startling, humanity and our relationships to each other, ourselves, our environment, and the world at large, are viewed from many different angles, focused through different lenses, creating a changing perspective with the slightest shift.

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
First-grader Zach Taylor knows that to do during a lockdown drill at his school, but when a gunman enters the school and kills his friends, teachers, and older brother, there is no way anyone could be prepared for what happens next.  Even as a town buries its dead, Zach’s mother Melissa looks for justice for her young son, holding the parents of the shooter, long time members of the school community, responsible for their son’s actions.  As Zach watches his mother’s grief turns to anger, what remains of his family fall apart, and tries to deal with his own feelings of loss, he turns to books and art to heal his grief, his anger, and his heart, he begins to demand, in the way only a six-year-old could, the same of his parents, showing them the way out of their grief, finding that it is possible to still live, to show love and compassion, have empathy for others even with their acute loss.  This heartbreaking story is told through Zach’s eyes in an authentic voice with an honesty that only a child’s view could bring to this tragic situation where there are no easy answers, only healing and forgiveness.

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
After the death of their infant son in 1918, Thomas and Pauline Bright decide to move their three daughters Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa from the family tobacco farm in Quakertown, PA to Philadelphia where Thomas will be his uncle’s assistant undertaker and where they hope they will be able to offer their daughters the chance for a better life.  As the family slowly assimilates into their new home, they watch young men leave to serve in the Great War, and then in horror as thousands die from the Spanish flu.  Drawing on strength they never knew they had, the young women fight to keep their family together, and alive, and to save the orphaned baby they take in and grow to love as their own.  In the years following the war and the flu, the family rebuilds its life and faces new challenges, and truths, as each member reassesses what is most important to them and how much they are willing to fight to keep what means the most to them.  This detailed and nuanced look at a family living not only within itself but within its extended family, the society of a large city, and the tragedy of war and pandemic, reaffirms the resilience of human nature and the willingness to continue to try and live, even to make life better, under the most dire of circumstances.

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern
This homage to libraries illustrates the draw of libraries and how they become what each user needs at just the right time.  Kit, a librarian, has come to Riverton, New Hampshire, where no one knows about her past, the bad decisions she made, and the tragedies she endured because of those decisions and the decisions of others; she is able to come to work, lose herself in the books and quietness of the library, and forget her past.  All that is about to change:  fifteen-year-old Sunny arrives to perform court ordered community service after stealing a dictionary and must spend the summer working at the Robbers Library.  Sunny is home-schooled by her off-the-grid parents and has lived a less than traditional life, has no friends her own age, but is curious about the world beyond what her parents teach her, and eager to challenge some of their ideas.  Rusty, an unemployed Wall Street trader, has come to Riverton hoping to regain some traction in his life.  This trio is thrown together at first, and then drawn together, each taking stock of how their lives have unfolded bringing them to this point, and how they can rebuild their lives, making their own decisions to determine their futures.  This novel, populated by delightful and eccentric characters, is a true love song to libraries and all they offer beyond books.

The French Girl by Lexie Elliott 
Ten years ago, six Oxford university friends spend a week in a French farmhouse.  Everything seemed to be perfect until Severine. The girl next door showed up, causing the tensions that already existed between the six friends to flare up, especially for Kate Channing and her now ex-boyfriend Seb.  No one has seen nor thought of Severine since she disappeared on the last morning the friends were in France, seen on CCTV getting on a bus.  Ten years later, her body is found in a filled in well behind the farmhouse and the French police have come to England to ask more questions of the five remaining friends, Theo having been killed in Afghanistan.  Kate has lost touch with Seb, has had occasional contact with Caro and Tom, and has remained close with Lara and now finds herself at the center of a murder investigation threatening everything she has including a business she has been building, and even possibly her freedom.  As Kate begins to spend more time with her once close friends she wonders if one of them could be a murderer; as secrets begin to emerge, the kaleidoscope shifts shoring a much different picture of the life Kate thought she has and the past she remembers.  Thoughtful with slow building tension this debut will slowly draw you into this tangled web of relationships and hold your interest until the very end.

The Storm King by Brendan Duffy
Fourteen years ago, Nate McHale left his hometown of Greystone Lake in the Adirondacks and never looked back.  Now a successful surgeon in Manhattan, he is happily married, has a delightful three-year-old daughter, and has all but put the tragedies and crimes of his teenage years firmly out of his head, leaving them firmly in the past.  But the lake has a way of giving up all its secrets eventually; a body has just been found, and Nate is making his way home, just ahead of a major hurricane, to attend the funeral.  Reunited with his high school best friends, Nate realizes the sins of their teenage years are being revisited by a new generation, and some of their secrets were not a secret as they thought.  As the hurricane bears down on the Northeast, Nate’s past comes crashing into his present, and he must face what he left behind fourteen years ago before the past destroys them all.  Taut and fast-paced, the plot picks up steam and strengthens like a hurricane, lulls as the eye of the storm passes over, and then builds to a final feverous pitch.  There are surprises with each new page, and no detail is wasted with all loose ends woven together to create a final, sinister picture of tormented lives, and, as the storm ends, a glimmer of redemption for anyone who seeks it.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Polly and Adam are just passing through Belleville, Delaware, Polly with plans to head west, Adam, with no discernable plans.  They are magnetically drawn to each other and find themselves staying in this town for one steamy summer, each lying to the other, and perhaps themselves, about their pasts and their futures, but together for this moment.  As the summer unfolds and someone dies, it becomes unclear in the murky heat, if this is all part of a plan or just happenstance from a series of seemingly unrelated incidents.  As Polly’s and Adam’s stories are revealed, it becomes even more unclear what each is looking for, from life as well as from the other, and their relationship becomes increasingly dangerous the more entangled they become with each other.  Where will it all end and who will be left standing is just one of the many mysteries that is slowly revealed in this psychological suspense novel told in the best noir tradition by one of the best crime novelists writing today.

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Emma Colley, a trauma surgeon, and Zadie Anson, a pediatric cardiologist have been best friends since they met at a pre-med camp in high school.  Roommates through college, they both continue to be big parts of each other’s busy lives in Charlotte, NC, harboring secrets from their third year residency, shared, and individual, but most involving Nick Zenokostas.  The friends think their secrets can stay hidden in the past and from each other, but when Nick reappears in their lives, the two women must closely reexamine their pasts, their shared history, and what, if the secrets they each hold, are revealed, the consequences will be and whether their friendship can survive.  The narrative is told from both Zadie and Emma’s points of view, in both present time and during their critical year of residency, as each considers the choices she made and how those choices affect each personally and professionally.  Warm and wise, at times humorous, at times heartbreaking, Martin’s debut novel is full of live and love.

The Driest Season by Meghan Kenny
Kenny’s debut novel, which expands on her prize winning short story of the same title, is a coming of age novel that is exquisite in its quietness, as it tells the story of not-quite-sixteen-year-old Cielle and how she copes with and tries to reassemble her life in 1943 Boaz, Wisconsin on her family farm after she finds her father hanging in the barn.  The farm has been suffering from wide-spread drought and is under threat of being lost now that there is no one to farm it.  Cielle takes every occurrence and action very much to heart from her first kiss to a horse-riding accident, her father’s last cup of coffee being discarded and washed, to her sister’s boyfriend joining up and leaving for war, and tries to reorder it all within her life as she burgeons from a young girl in to a young woman while holding fast to all she cherished as a child, with the new knowledge that things change in an instant and as they do, we nor the world around us can ever be the same again.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Just Jennifer

The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons
Originally published thirteen years ago in Australia, this dense novel begins when Lily’s roommate Amy disappears but quickly turns into Lily’s story when she has trouble paying her rent, cannot turn to her self-absorbed, often greedy family; she then is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and her life oddly becomes intertwined with Spencer, the NYPD detective assigned to Amy’s case.  As Lily helps Spencer uncover what he needs to know to find Amy, and as she begins the battle of a lifetime, she begins to uncover things about her past, things that surprise and startle, but help pieces fall into place about her life.  It is the characters, their stories, and their souls that are important to the plot, that keep the plot moving forward.  Mystery and intrigue add additional interest in this book that deserves wide-spread readership and is sure to win more fans for Paullina Simons.

Look for Her by Emily Winslow
Annalise Wood disappeared as a teenager while riding her bicycle home from school just outside of Cambridge in 1976.  In 1992, a body was found in a shallow grave that was declared to be Annalise, though the murderer was never found.  Annalise achieved a morbid celebrity status in her town of Lilling, and decades later, several events associated with Annalise arise bringing the case back to the forefront and causing the cold case unit of the local police department to take a closer look.  Local psychologist Laura Ambrose has two young women seeking her services within a short time of each other, each claiming a connection to Annalise.  DNA evidence surfaces and gives Investigator Morris Keene hope that he may be able to restart his career; teaming up with his former partner, Chloe Forhmann, just back from maternity leave, he begins to retrace steps and clues, unearthing more questions than answers, questions that change the way everyone has thought about the Annalise Wood case for over a quarter of a century.  Is it possible she had a child during the year she was said to be in France? Is there a connection to the recent drowning of a young woman?  And why does everything keep pointing in the one direction that makes no sense?  Slowly and carefully, layers are peeled back, revealing a much different story than was first told, creating a new picture which will turn everything about the case on its heels and change everything.  Deliberate, thoughtful plotting leads readers through a twisty narrative until the final shocking conclusion.

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Books for a New Year

Check out these new books coming this month.  

Eternal Life by Dara Horn

How many times do people feel there is not enough time in their lives: not enough hours in a day, not enough time with a child, a spouse, or lover, not enough time to themselves?  Rachel does not have that problem: she has the opposite problem: she cannot die.  Over two thousand years ago, she made a contract with God: her son would life, but in exchange, Rachel and the boy’s father, Elazar, must live for eternity.  After dozens of husbands, hundreds of children, living in almost every country, Rachel is an 84-year-old widow living in Manhattan with a failing family business with an unemployed son who seems to have no direction.  Though she adores her granddaughter and great-grandson, Rachel knows she will need to leave them soon, and the only way for Rachel to be “reborn” is through fire.  In addition to her day to day woes is Elazar: he has been stalking her throughout time, convinced they belong to each other and are each other’s only true loves (this has not stopped him from having as many wives as Rachel has had husbands over the years).  Rachel is tired, her memories and past experiences weigh heavily on her; as she reflects on her past lives, she wonders if she will ever be able to escape what she now considers her curse, or if she is destined to walk this mortal coil forever.  This smartly written book is told with humor and heart, exploring the bonds that link families through the years, and the importance of a restful death and everything that comes in between. Listen to The Library Show on www.hunterdonchamberradio.com at 11:00 am on Thursday February 22 to hear an interview with author Dara Horn.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox, child psychologist, has not left her Harlem home in almost a year.  She overmedicates herself with pills (prescribed) and alcohol (not recommended) as she tries to overcome her severe agoraphobia.  Her daughter and husband no longer with her and she has her tenant David to help her with tasks that require her to leave her house, such as garbage removal, and relies on grocery and pharmacy deliveries for her basic needs.  Anna also carefully studies her neighbors from behind her camera lens and sees the things people do when they think no one is watching, including her neighbor’s wife being stabbed by an unseen assassin.  Anna calls 911 but is quickly not only discredited by one of the detectives dispatched to investigate, but is accused of being delusional or attention seeking, having made up the incident.  Anna knows her pills and drinking are a problem, but she also knows what she saw.  She tries to come up with a way to convince the skeptics what she saw and in doing so unwittingly begins to face her own trauma, the one that led do her current condition.  This thriller is as dark and twisty as classic noir; do not look away from this fast-paced original thriller for one second or you may miss something.This book is already a huge favorite with librarians and bookstore owners.  Don't miss it!

The Wife by Alafair Burke
Angela Powell, a single mother with a tragic past she is trying to keep hidden, has reinvented herself: she has gone from being a caterer in East Hampton to being the wife of Jason, an NYU economics professor and media darling, between his consulting firm and two best-selling books.  Angela, who has spent her life trying to avoid the spotlight, is able to live quietly in their Greenwich Village carriage house with her 13-year-old son whom, though he never formally adopted, Jason treats as his own.  Angela’s carefully crafted life threatens to come tumbling down when one of Jason’s interns accuses him of sexual harassment.  When another woman, Kerry Lynch, makes an even more egregious claim, Jason goes from being adored in the media to being vilified as a fallen star.  Kerry’s disappearance makes the police, the media, and even Angela, take a closer look at Jason.  As their perfect façade begins to crumble, Angela must decide whether to stand by Jason and risk her past being exposed, or make plans of her own.  As this page turner unfolds, Angela’s narrative makes several different twists until all her secrets are finally revealed in the very end, casting her story and her truths in a much different light.  Highly recommended. Another highly anticipated thriller by the daughter of James Lee Burke.

Scone and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae
Janet and her daughter Tallie, Tallie’s friend Suzanne, and Janet’s friend Christine have settled into life in Inversgail, Scotland nicely.  Christine is glad to be back with her parents and Janet is living her dream co-owning Yon Bonnie Books and the attached tea room and bed and breakfast with the three other women.   Local English teacher Gillian Bennett has arranged for best-selling environmentalist author Daphne Wood return from Canada to her native Scotland where she will be the author in residence for the semester, but before she even arrives, Janet realizes how difficult the reclusive author will be from the list of demands she sends ahead.  When an American staying at the bed and breakfast is killed outside a local pub, Daphne declares she will investigate and Janet and company must help after solving a previous murder in Inversgail.  Janet wants no part of Daphne and her yappy god Rachel Carson, but then Daphne is found dead after eating scones from the tea room and the ladies must solve her murder to clear their name and save their reputation.  The west coast of the Scottish Highlands is a lovely setting for a bookstore/tea room and for this series.  The local characters add color and welcome Christine and Suzanne home and take Janet and Tallie in as their own.  The murders and investigations are well-plotted and paced and their resolution offers a little surprise.  This warm and inviting series is sure to quickly become a fan favorite.  Perfect to cozy up with on a cold winter night.

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates
Less than two hours north of New York City, the woods near Grist Mill Road hold the secrets from the summer of 1982: three friends, Patrick, Hannah, and Matthew, become involved in a senseless, incomprehensible crime that will inform their lives over the next twenty-six years.  Now living in New York City, their three lives will interest again in ways unimaginable even though they are living through them.  As the past slowly creeps back into the present, it becomes clear that what happened in the woods did not stay in the woods and that the past unresolved can have irrevocable consequences that not all of them will be able to live with in this deliciously creepy gothic novel that surprises with each revelation and will keep readers rapt while they untangle the events that have created relationships from which no one can escape unscathed.

Brass by Xhenet Aliu
This debut novel tells the story of Elsie, the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants, a waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner in Waterbury, Connecticut, who becomes involved with Bashkim, a married Albanian cook, and quickly finds herself pregnant, and hopeful Bashkim will not only not bring his wife to America, but will divorce her and marry Elsie, so that the two can raise their daughter Luljeta, Lulu, together.  Seventeen years later, many things have come easy to Lulu, but in one day a rejection letter from NYU and her first suspension from school, throw her for a loop, making her feel that she will be trapped in the once industrial town in Connecticut.  Determined and headstrong, she sets out to find her past, and the father she never knew.  Told in alternate chapters, Elsie and Lulu tell their story, the story of a mother’s fierce love for her daughter and a daughter who thinks she needs to know from where she came in order to know who she is in order to know who she is and where she is going in this modern American Dream story.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland
Vivian Miller, her husband Matt, and their four children live in suburban Virginia where Vivian is a CIA counterintelligence analyst who is working to uncover Russian sleeper cells in the United States and bring in their leaders in the hopes of receiving a promotion to continue supporting her family.  Reviewing files one day, Vivian is shocked to see someone’s face who is very close to her and with that one revelation she realizes the life she has been living is a lie and that she has just put her entire family and their lives in jeopardy.  Now Vivian is faced with the decision whether to uphold the promises she made to defend her country against all threats or weather to keep her family intact and safe; not knowing who to trust, Vivian finds herself in a race against time and can only hope she makes the right choices or risk losing everything.  Readers will race through this fast-paced thriller eager to untangle all the lies and deceit and will be left with an unsettling feeling at the ending and perhaps the hope of a sequel. 

Green by Sam Graham-Felsen
Boston 1992: six-grader Dave is one of only a few white boys at his public middle school. He’d rather be at the private school with his brother Benno, but his liberal minded parents say that Benno has special needs, but that Dave is fine where he is. Trying to fit in, he tries to dress cool and exhibit his basketball prowess, both of which get him mocked even more than he already it.  Dave finds a friend in Marlon, a black boy who lives nearby Dave in public housing; Marlon is everything Dave wants to be: smart, confident, academically successful, a good singer, and comfortable with the girls.  As the two try to assimilate into each other’s worlds, their differences begin to show and cause a riff in their friendship, cracks that Dave cannot understand: all he knows is that he misses his friend.  Readers are certain to fall for Dave---and Marlon---as he navigates middle school, friendships, discovering girls, questioning his parents’ choice not to practice any religion as he sees his friends going through religious rites and hears his grandfather’s stories of being an Eastern European Jew at the beginning of World War II.  Full of life and wonderment, Dave’s story will resonate and strike a familiar chord with everyone who has survived middle school in this beautiful coming of age story.

Killer Choice by Tom Hunt
Gary and Beth Foster are ecstatic---Beth is several months pregnant with their first child and everything is going smoothly until one day when Beth collapses and it is discovered she has a rare, inoperable brain tumor.  The one chance to save her life is experimental, available only in Germany, and costs upwards of $200,000.  Beth and Gary race to try and raise the money, but the store Gary and his brother Rod just opened isn’t doing well and while people are as generous as they can be, the money isn’t coming in fast enough and the couple needs a miracle.  When Gary is approached by a stranger offering the money he knows it’s too good to be true---and it is.  The man wants Gary to kill another man and walk away with $200,000 no questions asked.  Gary grapples this literally life and death decision and soon there’s no turning back as Gary becomes enmeshed in a web of lies and deceit and time is running out for everyone in this new twist on a domestic thriller that will have everyone asking themselves how far they would go to save someone they loved.

Blood Sisters by Jane Corey
Three girls leave for school one day: one dies, one, Kitty, incurs a brain injury and fifteen years later is living in an institution unable to speak, with no memory of how she came to be in this state.  The third, Alison, is a local artist and teacher who is trying to forget the past and work through her survivor’s guild.  When Alison accepts a job as an artist at a prison, she begins receiving what she perceives as threatening notes and feels that someone is watching her, menacing her, someone who knows the truth as to what transpired fifteen years ago, and someone who is unwilling to let go of the past.  Told in two voices, Alison’s and Kitty’s from inside her head, the plot slowly reveals bits of plot with shocking twists and turns that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until all is revealed.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
Chinese by birth, sisters Miranda and Lucia protect and cling to each other, especially after their mother dies.  Lucia, the younger sister, begins hearing voices and lives life impetuously and almost recklessly, marrying an older, but reasonably stable man only to leave him and have a baby with an Ecuadorian who is not in the country legally, and then move, with the baby, but not her lover, to Ecuador.  Miranda, older and more responsible, is living in Switzerland and has returned to the United States several times to try and save her sister, at great detriment to her own relationship.  How many times will she have to save Lucia and at what point does her responsibility to her sister end, question to which there are no easy answers in this novel that explores the bonds between sisters beautifully. 

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanen
Psychological thrillers are taken to a completely new level in this outrageously shocking and addictive debut.  It is said there are two sides to every story but in this case, there are three sides to this marriage.  Richard appears to be the perfect catch, handsome loving, attentive, and wealthy, but once you marry him he becomes a terrifying trap from which it is impossible to escape.  Trust no one in this multi—voice, fast-paced narrative and make no assumptions.  As motivations are revealed, each character become more conniving and cunning than the last.  Don’t look away for a second or something will be missed.