Saturday, August 1, 2020

Coming in August...

Luster by Raven Leilani

This gorgeously written, painfully raw debut tells the story of Edin, a young black woman, who meets an older married white man, Eric, online; Eric and his wife have an open marriage, but when Edin loses her job, she is invited to live with Eric and Edin and their adopted black daughter, Akila, hoping that Edin will be a good influence on her.  Life in New Jersey is complicated, striking up a tenuous friendship with Rebecca, navigating this new arrangement, knowing it has to be only temporary.  Edin shimmers with life and emotion, and is wise beyond her years.  Leilani’s complex, socially aware debut covers so many subjects with the deft hand and aplomb of a more seasoned author. 

The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

This debut metafiction is an homage to many of the classic mysteries as London book editor Julia Hart interviews reclusive author and mathematician Grant McAllister as her company plans to rerelease Grants’ self-published collection The White Murders. Grant is also the author of a mathematical study about mystery novels: you need a victim, a suspect, and a detective.  As Julia reads the short stories aloud, she points out inconsistencies in the plot and is a little surprised when Grant has no answer for them.  She grows more and more suspicious and begins to wonder if there is any connection between this collection and the real life murder of Elizabeth White in the 1940’s: a modern day mystery intertwines with the historical mystery, intertwines with the short stories in this cleverly plotted mystery, a treat for fans of Golden Age mysteries and those who enjoy Anthony Horowitz and Peter Swanson.

The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter

GBI agent Will Trent and medical examiner Sara Linton have never investigated a case that was so personal and could destroy everything they have built together. When the pair is called to investigate the death at a prison after a riot, an inmate, who is imprisoned, he claims wrongfully, for a death many years ago, says he can help with the riot death, but he needs them to listen about his case.  A college-aged woman disappeared years ago when she went out for a run; Sara’s then husband and police chief, Jeffrey Tolliver, investigated, arrested and charged the man who now sits in jail.  He claims that other young women have been abducted and died over the years, proving he couldn’t have committed all the crimes.  As Will investigates, he tries to tread carefully around Sara, the love of his life, who is having mixed feelings: she and Tolliver divorced and then remarried before he was killed in the line of duty.  Fast-paced and intricately plotted, this is possibly the most personal case for Will and Sara and has the promise to either bind them to each other forever or destroy what they have fought so hard to create.

Final Cut by S.J. Watson

Documentary filmmaker Alex Young can’t rest on her award-winning film Black Winter and is looking for a new project.  She pitches the idea of life in a small northern village, as told through the eyes, and photography, of the residents when her backer receives a postcard suggesting that Alex use the town of Blackwood Bay, a town with a history of smuggling, for her subject; at first Alex demurs but eventually agrees.  In Blackwood Bay, Alex becomes more interested in three teenage girls who have disappeared over the years, believing she is one of them.  Unrecognizable to people after changing her appearance, Alex blends in and digs into the past to try and learn not only what happened to the girls but try to recover some of her own memories, in which there are huge gaps.  Little by little, the town gives up its secrets, but just when things start to make sense, the plot takes a hairpin turn that few will see coming.

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

This beautifully written and so timely debut set in South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation features Virgil Wounded Horse, half Lakota and half white, and the guardian for his nephew Nathan since the death of Nathan’s mother.  Now Nathan is in the hospital after a heroin overdose; the love of Virgil’s life Marie is back from medical school and the wo begin a quest to fight the heroin trade that has infiltrated the reservation.  Modern day problems with traditional sensibilities, complex relationships, and gorgeous prose make Weiden a writer to watch.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin 

Ten years ago, 19-year-old Trumanell disappeared the same night as her violence prone father Frank.  Everyone assumed her brother Wyatt ad something to do with the disappearances, but Odette, a deputy in West Texas who grew up with Trumanell and Wyattt, is still bothered by the case and believes it can still be solved.  When Wyatt finds a young girl who he names Angel in a field of dandelions, Odette is certain her will have a problem over it, but she also fears for the young girl: Odette feels an immediate kinship with her as Odette lost her leg in a tragic accident and the young girl is missing an eye.  As Odette searches for Angel’s family, the truth about the night Trumanell disappeared, and the night Odette had her accident, slowly start to resurface.  The Southern setting adds a gothic, dreamlike quality to this atmospheric novel.

Under Pressure by Robert Pobi

In his second outing, astrophysicist Lucas Page is called back to Manhattan from his vacation with his wife and passel of children when an event at the Guggenheim turns deadly when the the confetti flies, igniting an explosion that kills almost 800 of the people in attendance.  Page, who sees the world and its problems in terms of geometry, and  his former FBI partner race though the city and into New Jersey following the trail of clues that lead to more bombings in this erudite thriller with a modern edge and a damaged but oh so well drawn main character, astute plotting and an ending so simple yet so elegant.

The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne

Rachel Cunningham has voluntarily committed herself in a psychiatric ward as punishment: she believes she killed her parents when she was eleven years old.  Now she learns that there was no physical evidence linking her to the murders and checks herself out to find the truth about what happened to her parents.  She returns to her family lodge in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where her older sister Diana and her aunt Charlotte still live, where the truth about her parent’s death is.  Flashbacks tell the story of Diana and Rachel growing up in the remote location, and foreshadow the ending, but there is one final twist at the end that is hard to see coming.

The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager

Astrophysicist Seager’s memoir combines the story of a city girl who first saw the stars on a camping trip and became enthralled, obsessed, and in awe, of them, of a young wife, mother, and then widow, who struggles to find her new role in the world, being both parents to her young sons, and finally a highly respected, world-class astrophysics who is diagnosed as being on the spectrum as an adult.  These interwoven stories make up the threads of a fascinating woman, one on a constant journey of discovery, both professional and professional.

In Case of Emergency by E.G .Scott

Scott’s second novel lacks the punch of pseudonymous Scott’s first novel, though the plot has some interesting twists.  Thirty something Charlotte Knopfler was a rising star in neuroscience until a death on the operating table occurred.  She practiced acupuncture in Long Island now, sharing the space with her best friend, a masseuse, and posting to a trauma survivors board regularly.  She has a new boyfriend, Peter Stanton, and though the two have never met in person, Charlotte is head over heals in love with him: he says he works undercover for the government and is often away and silent for long periods of time.  When Charlotte is called to identify a body of a young woman who had Charlotte’s card in her pocket at the time of her death, she doesn’t recognize the woman at first and then becomes a suspect at which point she begins her own investigation, though she is in a constant emotionally fragile state.  Charlotte’s personality seems a little at odds with itself, and readers will easily guess what the situation with Peter is and the connection of the dead woman to Charlotte.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Goldin’s second thriller takes its structure from a podcast Guilty or Not Guilty as Rachel Kroll, the host, arrives in Neapolis, NC to cover the trial of Olympic hopeful swimmer Scott Blair, accused of raping sixteen-year-old Kelly Moore.  While in Neapolis, Rachel begins to receive mysterious messages from a woman named Hannah whose sister Jenny died over twenty-five years ago, ruled a drowning, but Hannah thinks it was murder and wants Rachel to investigate.  Well-plotted, the past and present are neatly intertwined with a small town that doesn’t want to give up its secrets. 

The Second Wife by Rebecca Fleet

Widower Alex Carmichael has remarried and his 14-year-old daughter Jade and new wife Natalie are settling in, or so he thinks, to a comfortable relationship; until the night Alex is returning from a late night dinner meeting and finds his house engulfed in flames, his wife safely outside, his unconscious daughter, whom Natalie said she couldn’t find, being carried out by firefighters.  When Jade awakens, she tells Alex she was hiding in the wardrobe from the man in the house, a claim Natalie refutes.   Searching through the rubble, Alex finds papers among Natalie’s things with the name Rachel Castelle on them, someone of whom he has never heard, sending him on a hunt to learn about his wife’s past, taking her back into some dark places, into a windy, twisty rabbit hole full of betrayal and lies, and a final, shocking twist; this sophomore title is full of surprises and suspense.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

New for July

The Shadows by Alex North
Growing up, Charlie Crabtree was always on the outside looking in, but had a mean streak, a very dark side, so it was easy to believe he was capable of committing murder; Paul Adams remembers Charlie Crabtree, who has not been seen in twenty-five years, and the murders and hasn’t returned to his hometown in twenty-five years.  Now he has returned to see his mother who has dementia and dying. His mother insists there is something in her house, Paul is certain someone is following him, and Detective Amanda Beck is investigating a copycat murder in a nearby town and looking into what happened twenty-five years ago and what Paul Adams knows.  The woods surrounding Featherbank, known locally as The Shadows holds many secrets, including a reclusive man.  As the past comes back to haunt Paul Adams, old nightmares resurface, secrets threaten to be revealed, with the most shocking secret no one will see coming saved for the end. 

Survival Instincts by Jen Waite
Single mother and therapist Anne decides to take her 12-year-old daughter Thea, and her bakery owner mother Rose on a girls weekend in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. While on a hike, the trio is marched at gunpoint to a cabin where they are held hostage.  Anne realizes this hostage taking may have something to do with her past and former husband Ethan but can’t quite figure out what.  Through flashbacks, the truth begins to emerge, and the three women gain strength from each other to fight the terror that is closer to them than they realize.

Sprinkling of Murder by Daryl Woods Gerber
Courtney Kelly’s fairy garden shop, located in a charming courtyard in Carmel-by-the-Sea, is the stuff dreams are made of.  After a bad run in with their landlord, and an argument with a councilwoman, the owner of a pet spa, Mick Watkins, is found dead in Courtney’s shop.  Courtney is in the police’s sights, but slowly ugly truths about Mick come out and there are no shortage of suspects in his murder.  Courtney, who became enchanted by fairies by the age of ten, has a special fairy friend who needs Courtney’s help as much as Courtney needs hers.  Well-plotted with a great community, the delightful setting lightens up the business of murder.

His & Hers by Alice Feeney
There are three sides to every story: his, hers, and the truth.  A young woman is murdered in Blackdown, Surrrey and BBC correspondent Anna Andrews is on the scene, in spite of the fact she doesn’t wish to return to her hometown to cover the murder, especially since her soon to be ex-husband Jack Harper is leading the investigation, and especially when she recognizes the murder victim as a mean girl from school…Rachel Hopkins.  Of course, that’s not where Jack recognizes her from having been with her the night before, any of these revelations would put them both under the spotlight, so they try to lay low, though Jack’s second Det. Sgt. Priya Patel is quick and astute and always looking.  A second body, found by Anna with a connection to Anna does not bode well for her; the plot continues to tease and twist revealing only what is necessary until the final, shocking conclusion.

Blacktop Wasteland S.A. Cosby
Beauregard “Bug” Montage is a former wheelman now an auto shop owner with a wife and two children who is trying to stay on the straight and narrow.  But live in 2012 Virginia is not easy: his shop is not doing well, payments to the nursing home where his mother lives have fallen so far behind she is in danger of losing her room, and his oldest daughter would like to go to college if there is money.  When he is offered the chance to drive for a jewelry heist that could prove very lucrative, he decides one more can’t hurt and might be what he needs to get back on track.  Things go very wrong, however, and end up putting not only Bug but his entire family at risk.  This is an action packed thriller to be sure, but the narrative and prose is graceful, and the description of rural Virginia pointed and detailed, and a main character that, while he makes bad choices, is full or heart and love for his family.

Key Lime Crime by Lucy Burdette
Food critic for Key Zest magazine Hayley Snow is trying to enjoy the week between Christmas and New Year’s with her new husband, detective Nathan Bransford, but Key West is hopping this time of year and both have full schedules.  Hayley is covering a key lime pie cook-off for the magazine and Nathan has just announced his mother will be making an unannounced visit to meet her son’s bride.  At the opening ceremonies of the competition, one of the contestants, Claudette Parker, is disqualified and throws a pie in the judge’s face.  The next day when Hayley and her houseboat neighbor Miss Gloria take Nathan’s mother, Helen, on the Conch Train Christmas tour, they find Claudette’s body in a display, dressed as Santa.  Now Nathan not only has to keep his new wife from investigating the murder, but her mother as well, who has skills that surprise even her son.  A charming setting, vivid characters, a dependable mystery, and key lime recipes at the end make this series a sure bet for all foodies.

The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs
Natalie Harper is disappointed when her mother Blythe doesn’t arrive at the event honoring Natalie and her work with the wine producer she works for; in the ladies’ room, Natalie overhears some less than complementary things about herself from subordinates, but her word is completely shattered when she learns her boyfriend was flying her mother from San Francisco as a surprise and the private plane he was piloting crashed, killing both of them.  Natalie goes to San Francisco, presumably to close the bookstore her mother owned, and to come up with a plan for her aging grandfather who lives in an apartment in the building where the store is.  To Natalie’s surprise, her grandfather owns both the building and the business, and she can sell neither.  The store is not doing well at all, but remembering the unpleasantries she heard at her fete, she decides to stay in San Francisco and make some repairs to the shop.  As local handyman Peach begins renovations, the building begins to give up its secrets, secrets that may just be the boost Natalie needs to change her life.  Delightful and well-written, Susan Wiggs is always a winner.

South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber
Growing in Buttonwood, Alabama was not easy for Blue Bishop.  Her family had a bad reputation, her brothers died in a botched bank robbery, and she is the last one left.  A children’s book illustrator, Blue wanders the woods looking for natural dies, and always stops at the Buttonwood tree that reveals fates by dropping buttons for people.  On one walk Blue, who longs more than anything to be a mother, finds a newborn with a button tucked inside that instructs the baby be given to Blue.  She names the baby Flora and sets out to gain temporary custody, hoping to be able to adopt the baby.  Sara Grace left Buttonwood, but returned with her husband, and now needs to decide what to do: she is unhappy with her marriage, but her business of buying and renovating houses is thriving.  Soon her path and Blue’s will cross and they will learn their stories are interwoven in unimaginable ways, ways that will change not only their presents and futures, but how their pasts are seen as well.  Magical realism is at its best in Webber’s capable hands.

Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney

Stay at home dad Pete and his partner Maddie’s lives are turned upside and torn apart when Miles Lambert appears on their doorstep and announces Pete and Maddie’s son Theo is really Miles and wife Lucy’s son and the toddler they have been raising is Pete and Maddie’s.  At first, the families agree to leave things as is, though Miles is planning on suing the hospital where he feels the switch was made, but as the two families begin to integrate, it is clear that Miles has more on his mind than a simple lawsuit.  The families’ pain is palpable, the tension and suspense high, in another strong domestic thriller from one of the best plotters today.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

New for June

The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda
At one time, Arden Maynor was the most famous 6-year-old in Kentucky: one night while sleepwalking during a rainstorm, Arden disappeared, presumed swept away in the rain.  For three days, the community searched and prayed for her, and against all hope and odds, on the third day, she was found hanging on the underside of a storm drain.  IN the years that followed, especially the tenth anniversary, Arden received a lot of unwanted attention from media, fans, and stalkers, though her mother seemed to thrive on all the attention.  Entering college, Arden changes her name to Olivia Meyer, eventually moves hundred of miles away, estranges herself from her mother, and essentially disappears.  Now as the twentieth anniversary approaches, Olivia finds herself sleepwalking again, has just learned her mother is dead, and interest in her case is renewed. One night, Olivia wakes from sleepwalking to find herself in her yard, standing over the dead body of the man who has been trying to talk to her the last few days, a man, she learns, from her past, a past that she can no longer keep hidden, a past that has just caught up with her and come back to haunt her and may be closer to her than she realizes.  Another fast-paced character driven thriller for fans of Miranda’s earlier work.

The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor
Twenty-three years ago, Maggie D’arcy’s cousin Erin disappeared near Dublin; Maggie immediately went to Ireland to help the Garda find Erin, but no trace was every found.  Until now.  Maggie is a single mother, police detective on Long Island; her uncle, Erin’s father, receives a call that Erin’s scarf has been found in the area where another young woman has disappeared.  Maggie flies to Ireland to once again try and track the movements of her cousin and see if she can find out what happened to her after all the years, and perhaps save another before it’s too late.  Once there, Maggie learns that several other young women have also vanished over years and she is certain Erin is the key to solving all the cases.  Told in the present day, as well as in flashbacks to Erin and Maggie’s time together, and Maggie’s first trip to Ireland to try and her cousin, this atmospheric mystery, which explores Maggie’s past, will set the tone for a projected series featuring the American detective in Ireland. 

Dead West by Matt Goldman

Minnesota private eye Nils Shapiro has just agreed to fly to the West Coast to find out what Beverly Mayer’s grandson has done with his trust fund: Nils figures this should be a quick out and back, but brings his friend and employee Jameson White along with him as the anniversary for a school shooting after which White, working in an emergency room, attended to many the victims and was fully traumatized.  Nils’s quick trip to LA turns strange when he learns that Ebben Mayer’s fiancĂ© was murdered, and Nils suspects Ebben was the actual target.  Nils easily insinuates himself into Ebben’s inner circle, with White Ebben’s bodyguard, and soon realizes that everyone Ebben is associated with isn’t real, and what’s more, several of them may have reasons to want Ebben dead. But Nils is anxious to get home so he can marry HIS fiancĂ©, and to spend time with his new baby girl, the daughter he shares with his ex-wife.  Even out of his usual habitat in Minnesota, Nils is one of the best PI characters around: he has a winning personality, can be self-deprecating, but is very practical, and has good instincts. 

Safe by S.K. Barnett
For twelve years, a Missing poster hung on a telephone pole outside a local pizzeria: 6-year-old Jenny Kirstal was kidnapped while walked two doors down to visit her friend Toni.  Her parents Laurie and Jake are stunned when out of nowhere, Jenny shows up on their doorstep, eighteen with years of abuse from one of her captors, Father, while Mother turned a blind eye.  As excited as her parents seem to have Jenny back, her younger brother Ben isn’t, something just doesn’t seem right to him and things just don’t quite add up:  to anyone. Soon the tables are turned, and home sweet home may not be all that sweet.  An original twisty, turny thriller that leaves as many unanswered questions along the way in a thriller hard to put down.

The Distant Dead by Heather Young 

In her powerful second novel, sixth-grade loner and outsider Sal Prentiss finds his math teacher, Adam Merkel, who had befriended Sal, burned in the Nevada desert.  Sal lives with his uncles in a ranch outside of town and carries a great deal of sadness, sadness Adam seemed to understand.  Nora Wheaton, the social studies teacher, also recognizes Adam’s and Sal’s sadness as she deals with her own tragedies.  As the police, and ultimately Nora, search for what happened to Adam, she has to face not only her own sadness, but uncover Adam’s and Sal’s secrets.  The results are not only a very good mystery with a strong narrative and compelling characters, but also an emotional story of the secrets we keep, unexpected kindnesses, and forgiveness, especially the need to forgive our families and ourselves.   

The Second Home by Christina Clancy
Ann and Poppy loved each summer when their parents drove from their Milwaukee home to summer in Cape Cod.  The saltbox house had been in the family for generations, and the sisters loved exploring the island and making friends with the locals and other summer families.  After their parents adopt their friend, teenaged Michael, everything changes; Michael loves Cape Cod as much as his sisters, but learns a secret that estranges him from the family until Ann returns to Cape Cod as an adult, after Ed and Connie are killed in a car accident, determined to sell the home.  Unable to find a will, Ann neglects to mention Michael as a possible heir, memories flood back being on the island, and her past comes flooding back with irreparable, but surprising, and healing results.  Book groups will find a lot of discussion points in this debut novel.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

New For May

Tiny Imperfections by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans
In her early twenties, Josie Bordelon thought she had it all: she was the runway darling of all the top fashion houses, until she got pregnant.  Not sure where to turn, she found herself back at her aunt Viv’s in San Francisco; Viv raised Josie when Josie’s mother dumped her on Viv’s door steps when Josie was four and Josie is determined not to make the same mistakes with Etta her mother, completely estranged from her sister and daughter, made wither.  Josie is the director of admissions at the most prestigious San Francisco private schools, Fairchild Country Day School where Josie went: she made good grades, was a track star, and more importantly, was black, making the Administration and Board of Trustees feel very diverse and progressive.  As admission season begins, Etta is a senior in high school, and a high level ballerina who wants nothing more than to go to Julliard; something Josie is dead set against, afraid Etta will end up like Josie did, no college degree, on Aunt Viv’s doorstep.  Between juggling over 500 applications for 36 kindergarten spots, and navigating Etta’s college applications, the last thing Josie has time for is a new relationship, but when Aunt Viv has a heart attack, that’s just what she finds in a most unexpected place.  This breezy, smart, sassy story is a new take on private school enrollment.  Josie and her best friend Lola dish every Tuesday in a no holds barred gripe session.  The women in this book are strong and independent and want to instill that in the next generation.  Readers will be anxious to read more about these characters.

Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin
Claire was a musician on her way to stardom until her band unceremoniously dumped her; now she finds herself a playgroup musician for a group of Park Avenue elite infants.  Whitney, the alpha mommy and Instagram darling, is welcoming to Claire, and often includes her in the groups’ outings.  While some of the mommies are hard to get to know, Claire is drawn to Amara, a new-stay-at-home mommy who isn’t entirely comfortable in her new role; and there’s Gwen who, as a second time mommy, is full of helpful hints.  The closer Claire gets to the women, the more their veneer starts to come off, and the more secrets she uncovers, soon realizing these women’s lives are more than yoga, juice cleanses, and cute selfies.  Fun and breezy, with some unexpected twists, this novel is a different take on being a privileged toddler on the Upper East Side.

All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad

This assuredly written debut novel that explores love in all its many forms: familial love, the love between a mother and daughter, a young woman and her girlfriends, a mother, a woman, who finds the love missing from her life in other, unexpected places.  Maggie Krause is finding her way with her new girlfriend when she receives the news her mother has been killed in a car crash.  Maggie travels from her home in St. Louis back to California where she finds her brother and father unsure of what to do next.  Maggie is tasked with mailing letters her mother Iris wanted mailed upon her death, but Maggie decides to deliver the letters in person, curious about to whom they are written and why.  As she does, she learns about a variety of relationships her mother had, learns more about her parents’ relationship, and tries to understand why, in light of what she learns on her trip, her mother had a hard time accepting Maggie’s choices.  

Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing

This collection of essays is almost prophetic in its timely quest to answer the question: is art of any use to anyone in dire circumstances?   Laing’s conclusion is, yes.  Her essays are short and to the point, sometimes terse, but always keenly observed and aware, with carefully chosen words, and descriptive language, she tends towards isolation and solitude, favoring juxtaposing art with death, disease, and tragedy.  She looks for the oddity in human nature and society and connects it back to art, and to each person reading the essay with an unerring eye and a fresh conclusion.

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett
This memoir tells the story of Jollett, the front man of the indie band Airborne Toxic Event, who was born into the Church of Synanon cult and who escapes with his mother and brother at a young age;  what follows is the story of learning a new world, meeting his grandparents, and living in an unfamiliar place and time. The present tense gives the story an immediacy and authenticity, with a childhood honesty that comes from living his first years sheltered from the world, as he finds his way and an inner strength in life through music.

The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine
Piper Reynard has arrived in Westport, Connecticut from the West Coast, and has something to hide.  She has opened a wellness center and sets her sights on handsome attorney Leo Drakos whose marriage is troubled.  Joanna has been in love with Leo for many years, has managed his house and cared for his children, Evie and Stelli, yet she realizes he is not returning her feelings, even after he emerges from a deep depression. When Joanna realizes that Piper is the cause of Leo’s well-being, she becomes determined to protect the family she has at all costs; Leo, however, is willing to let everything go for his new love.  Joanna, cast to the side, begins to look into Piper’s past and realizes that Leo and the children may be in real danger, but when she brings her concerns to Leo he dismisses her as jealous, and even her therapist considers Joanna on the brink of paranoia. Authors/sisters Lynne and Valerie, have laid out a twisty domestic thriller, though not as compelling and without the impact and well-developed characters as their first two novels. 

The Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas
This debut novel is a gothic tale of an elite college tucked away in rural Pennsylvania. Incoming student Ines feels she has no place left to go: she has burned all of her bridges and knows she will have serious consequences if she returns home.  Her roommate Baby has come with a burning desire, bordering on obsession, to study plasma, a specialty of this school.  But there is something more sinister within these walls, the labyrinths and labs deep under the school, and the Restoration Center, a solitary confinement like area where you are stripped naked and left with only a deck of cards and a few books. Readers will find themselves frantically turning pages as they try to learn the secrets of Catherine House.  A strong debut for fans of Paul Tremblay and Alex North.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Friends and family of reality television star Will Slater and magazine publisher Julia Keegan gather on a remote Irish island in the North Atlantic to celebrate Will and Julia’s marriage.  Theirs is to be the first event at the recently purchased and restored Folly and every detail must be perfect from the dress, to the flowers, to the food and alcohol, and the guests.  The bridal party includes four of Will’s mates from school who are not as refined as Will would like them to be; Julia’s best man at the wedding is her longtime friend Charlie who has brought his wife Hannah; Julia’s lone official attendant is her waifish but stunning half-sister Olivia.  As the alcohol begins to flow freely, so do the secrets and before the end of the reception, someone is dead and almost everyone at the wedding has a motive or a secret to wish this person dead.  This sophomore book by Foley (The Hunting Party) once again features a remote location and a closed room murder, but to much greater success this time: the characters are well drawn, their motives seep slowly out as the weekend wears on, keeping tensions high, and by the end, no one is really sure who did the final knife plunge, but many are relieved it happened. 

The Paris Hours by Alex George

1927, Paris between the war was the city of ex-patriots and literary bohemians and literati, among them, Marcel Proust, who has told his maid Camille to burn his notebooks, which she did, save one, but who has now lost the surviving notebook and is desperate to find it.  Souren is a refuge from Armenia who performs unsettling puppet shows for children.  Artist Guillaume is at a lost for a muse, until he encounters Gertrude Stein with unusual results; journalist Jean-Paul keeps his painful past hidden by writing about the tragedies of others---when these four lives collide, the results will change everything for each of them and for so many others in surprising ways no one could expect.  The events unfold in the course of one single day, giving and immediacy, yet dreamlike quality, to the narrative.

The Children's Bible by Lydia Millett
This allegorical climate novel finds a group of bohemian adults renting a lakeside retreat one summer, bringing along a menagerie of children ranging in age from tween to seventeen.  Left to their own devices, the ringleader, and eldest, Evie, and the children create their own fun and adventures: they wait out a storm and flood in a farmhouse surrounded by animals as the group’s ire to their parents’ concern for the environment and climate change rises like the waters.  Evie’s younger brother Jack sees their escapades in terms of Biblical stories, in this narrative reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies, offering an ending with little hope, but much to think about and consider.

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
This debut novel tells the story of Erin, a cancer patient who has plateaued, but will never be in remission, whose plane explodes over Kansas while she is on the way to a cancer patient retreat; she is the only survivor and decides to walk away from her life and die quietly, rather than making her family grieve twice, they already think she is dead, and have them watch her die.  Charlie is the NTBS agent who is assigned to find Erin, and when he does, he sees life, including his own, from another perspective and makes difficult choices, ones that change everything.  Reading groups will find much to discuss in this philosophical novel, what do we owe our families, what do we owe ourselves, and how much control can we, and should we have over our own lives and fate. 

The Book of Rosy: A Mother’s Story of Separation at the Border by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo
After she was shot in 2018 and her husband was murdered in Guatemala, Rosy fled to the United States with her two sons. After a harrowing eight-day trip in the back of a truck with other refugees, Rosy was separated from her sons, aged five and fifteen, at the border, detained for eighty-one days.  While detained in Arizona, her two sons were placed in foster care in the Bronx.  Schwietert Collazo, who started the Immigrant Families Together, to aid families, with the ultimate goal of reuniting parents and their children, helps Rosy tell not just her story, but the story of dozens of mothers separated from their children.  Ultimately, through much prayer, and considerable fund-raising on Immigrant Families Together’s part, Rosy was reunited with her children and is building a new life with them in their new country.

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight
Lizzie has just accepted a job with a high-powered Manhattan law firm after her husband’s drinking problem caused an accident and resulted in a settlement against him.  Lizzie isn’t sure what to do about Sam, she thinks he has hit rock bottom, yet he continues to drink. She is near giving him an ultimatum when she receives a phone call from her law school buddy Zach: Zach is in Riker’s Island, arrested for assaulting an officer, but he believes being held more as a suspect in the death of his wife Amanda, who was found at the bottom of the staircase in their Park Slope brownstone.  Lizzie can’t believe Zach murdered his wife, but is not a criminal defense attorney, but her law firm gives the go ahead and she finds herself looking into her friend’s life, uncovering many secrets, all the while hiding her own as she tries to save Zach, Sam, and herself.  Fast-paced and intertwined with a security breach at the Brooklyn County Day school most of the neighborhood children attend, this twisty domestic drama examines marriages from all sides with a sharply drawn protagonist.

My Life as a Villainess: Essays by Laura Lippman

A collection of republished personal essays takes on the form of a memoir for Lippman, a best-selling crime fiction author. These mostly short essays, though some are longer and subdivided, traverse through Lippman’s childhood, her time as a newspaper reporter, as she beings her career as a novelist, writing the Tess Monaghan series and then her stand-alones, mostly set in Baltimore, all leading up to “Game of Crones” published previously online with over 100,000 unique views.  Honest, and sometimes self-deprecating, these essays offer insight into one of today’s most revered mystery authors. A tight little collection to be dipped into time and time again.
Quick Picks for May

The Last Flight by Julie Clark
Two women, two plane tickets, two women with secrets:  Claire and Eve meet by chance at an airport bar and decide at the last minute to switch tickets, Claire will take Eve’s flight to Oakland, and Eve will travel to Puerto Rico on Claire’s ticket.  The plane to Puerto Rico crashes leaving Claire with the chance to assume Eve’s identity and disappear from her controlling husband forever…but what secrets was Eve hiding and what are the consequence of her choice?

I, John Kennedy Toole by Kent Carroll and Jodee Blanco
A fictionalized account of the making of Toole’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece A Confederacy of Dunces, published after the author’s suicide. 

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella
A first novel by the daughter of author Lisa Scottoline and co-authors of several best-selling essay collections featuring Cady, a Harvard freshman who tries to acclimate to college life as she tries to understand her brother’s suicide on the campus.  Eric suffered from schizophrenia and stopped taking his pills, spiraling downward.  As she further delves into Eric’s life, Cady too begins to hear voices and wonders if she too is schizophrenic or are the voices she is hearing ghosts and was Eric really as sick as he was diagnosed?

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler
When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he   never expected the Moose Springs, Alaska spot to become just that: a popular tourist destination and Graham would just rather not be bothered: until he meets Zoe Caldwell who save for over two year to spend two weeks on an Alaskan adventure.  Graham, immediately smitten, plays tour guide to Zoey and the two embark on some zany adventures and antics as their attraction to each other grows.  Fans of Northern Exposure will eat this book up.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England's finest novelists. Now it's home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen's legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen's home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from losses incurred in the recent war, some from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create The Jane Austen Society. (From publisher)

All Adults Here by Emma Straub
When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence? Astrid’s youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.  (from publishers).  For fans of Olive Kitteridge

Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson
In this bewitching debut novel, a sensitive teen, newly arrived in Alabama, falls in love, questions his faith, and navigates a strange power. While his German parents don’t know what to make of a South pining for the past, shy Max thrives in the thick heat. Taken in by the football team, he learns how to catch a spiraling ball, how to point a gun, and how to hide his innermost secrets. Max already expects some of the raucous behavior of his new, American friends—like their insatiable hunger for the fried and cheesy, and their locker room talk about girls. But he doesn’t expect the comradery—or how quickly he would be welcomed into their world of basement beer drinking. In his new canvas pants and thickening muscles, Max feels like he’s “playing dress-up.” That is until he meets Pan, the school “witch,” in Physics class: “Pan in his all black. Pan with his goth choker and the gel that made his hair go straight up.” Suddenly, Max feels seen, and the pair embarks on a consuming relationship: Max tells Pan about his supernatural powers, and Pan tells Max about the snake poison initiations of the local church. The boys, however, aren’t sure whose past is darker, and what is more frightening—their true selves, or staying true in Alabama. (From publisher)

These Women  by Ivy Pochaoda
In her masterful new novel, Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

Get Cozy with Kensington…

A Fatal Finale by Kathleen Marple Kalb
The first in a new series set in New York during the Gilded Age features opera singer Ella Shane, who plays the “trouser roles”, male parts played by females; both on and off the stage, Ella is assured and dramatic.  While she is playing the part of Romeo, her Juliet drinks real poison during the final scene, a death that is ruled a tragic accident, and Ella goes about her life until an English Duke arrives in Greenwich Village insisting the young woman was murdered, refusing to leave until he, with Ella’s help, learns the truth. 

Pulp Friction by Julie Anne Lindsey
Winnie Mae Montgomery saved her Granny’s apple orchard by building a cider shop and an event venue in Blossom Valley, Vest Virginia.  One of her first events is a wedding reception that doesn’t bode well for a happily ever after: the bride is unhappy, the groom drunk, and arguing with Winnie’s ex Hank who was making out with a bridesmaid.  Before the happy couple can leave in the honeymoon getaway truck, the groom is found dead, Hank the main suspect,  Sheriff Wise, with whom Winnie has a burgeoning relationship, warns Winnie off the case, but Winnie is certain she has an insider’s view and proceeds to follow the clues, no matter where they lead, in this fun, breezy who-dunnit.

Murder Can Confuse Your Chihuahua by Rose Pressey
Celeste Cabot is a favorite painter on the craft fair circuits, but she also has the uncanny knack of summoning ghosts with her paintings.  While looking for scenic views to paint while at a craft fair in North Carolina, her Chihuahua Van (after Van Gogh) leads her to the body of another vendor, Erica Miller, down by the river.  In spite of admonitions from her would-be boyfriends, FBI Detective Pierce Meyer and TBI Detective Caleb Ward, Celeste is certain she can solve the crime in much shorter order than the two of them.  The touch of supernatural and Van add lighthearted touches to this fledgling series.

Monday, April 20, 2020

New from William Morrow Books

***Please note: these books, and many more, can be found in HCL’s downloadable collection

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines
This second cookbook by HGTV host and founder of Magnolia Table and Silos Baking Co. (Texas) offers a new selection of recipes for fans, new and old.  Gaines covers the basics (for example: cracker crusts, homemade tortillas and noodles), offers suggestions for homemade spice mixes, before diving into Breakfast, Soups and Salads, Appetizers and Starters, Side Dishes (such as the Cauliflower “Couscous” ---grain free shown in picture), Dinner, and Desserts.  Each recipe that can be found at one of the restaurants Gaines (along with her husband Chip) founded is clearly marked.  Several recipes have anecdotes and tips, but readers who are not familiar with the Gaines’s success might welcome more backstory and anecdotal information.  The Gaines’s have a large family (four children) and are used to running a restaurant so many of the recipes make a lot; most are easy to scale, and many can be frozen for later use.  Clean and well-laid out, this book will be a favorite for home cooks, especially for her fan base.

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn
Shortly after World War II and the death of her son, Esther Durrant sinks into a deep depression; her husband commits her to an isolated mental asylum on an island off the coast of England.  Under the care of Dr. Richard Creswell, Esther begins to slowly heal, and take comfort on her small island.  Almost seventy years later, the island, Little Embers, is all but deserted when Rachel Parker, a marine biologist is ship-wrecked on the island and finds hidden love letters on the island and is determined to find the person to whom the letters were written.  When she crosses paths with Eve who is in London helping her grandmother write her memoirs, irrevocable events are set into motion that will reveal long-kept, long-hidden secrets.  For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. 

The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves
This assured debut begins with Maggie taking a handful of sleeping pills and her husband Frank, who is playing chess in the next room, finds her only when their smoke detector goes off.  As Maggie lies in the hospital, her life in the balance, Frank tries to find the words to tell her why he hasn’t spoken to her in six months: he is carrying a tremendous burden and hopes the telling of their story, the telling of the reason fo his silence, will bring his wife, the love of his life, back to him.  Greaves’s pacing is perfect in this exquisitely painful portrait of a marriage that is as heartbreaking as it is life affirming. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

New for April

While the library is closed, you can still read and listen to your favorite books.
Check for downloadable titles. 

The New Husband by D. J. Palmer
Nina and her children Maggie and Connor are devastated when her husband Glen goes out fishing early one morning and doesn’t return.  Almost two years later, all that is ever found is his boat, blood in the bottom and Nina has begun dating Simon, a teacher at Maggie’s middle school.  The relationship moves along quickly and soon Nina and Simon buy a house together and try living as a family until Nina is once again a single woman.  Connor takes to Simon immediately, but Maggie thinks there is something evil about Simon and believes her dad is still alive.  Nina loves Simon but has had no closure of her marriage, especially as she slowly learns Glen had been keeping big secrets from her for the past two years.   Little by little, Nina realizes Simon in fact, may be too good to be true.  The more she and Maggie begin to investigate Simon, and the more controlling he becomes, the more Nina doubts everything she knew and knows in this complicated plotted, sometimes implausible domestic thriller.

The Golden Flea by Michael Rips
For almost two decades, a parking garage in Chelsea became a flea market every weekend.  Filled with treasures from mounted deer heads to antique jewelry, artwork and paintings, things visitors never knew they were looking for but find that they desperately need.  Among the tables, there were always treasures to be found, interesting characters, both vendors and customers.  Rips’s curiosity and passion for the next big find show through in this slice of New York past.

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
Few people ever leave the aptly named rural Missouri Ozark town or Barren Springs and those who leave, rarely return.  Eve Taggert, waitress at the local dinner, is a single mother who has just been told by her brother Cal, a cop, that her only child, Junie, has been found murdered in the park along side of her best friend Izzy, whose mother Jenny did leave Barren Springs, only to return with her husband Zach.  Eve has kept her drug addicted, drug dealer mother as far from Junie as possible, but now finds herself looking to her for help in avenging Junie’s death.  Eve feels she has nothing left to lose and wants revenge and vengeance, not justice for her daughter, and confronts her violent ex-boyfriend, a meth-cooking bar owner, and many unsavory characters from her past until she beings to revisit her own secrets and realizes the key to Junie and Izzy’s deaths may be loser than she realizes.  As difficult as this is to read, it is even harder to turn away from.

He Started It by Samantha Downing
This darkly comic novel finds siblings Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan who have not kept in touch over the years, but must reconnect when their grandfather dies and leaves them with the promise of a substantial amount of money with the siblings take a road trip together, following the same path that they took with their grandfather almost twenty years ago. Oh, and they must stay out of jail as well.  Sounds easy enough.  Not so for these siblings and Eddie’s new wife Krista, Beth’s husband Felix, and the secrets the family has kept from just about everyone.  As the group begins their tour in the south and travels to the west coast they stop at many attractions, mostly featuring notorious people (who knew there were so many memorials to Bonnie and Clyde?), Beth relives the original trip when she was twelve and Portia was only six, the in-laws quickly grown restless, and the siblings remember why they have stopped talking to each other.  In each chapter, sometimes on each page, a new secret is revealed, another nugget that explains why the family basically doesn’t like each other, but their eyes are always on the prize, even to the last page with one last searing surprise for the family and readers.  A Library Reads title for April.

Privilege by Mary Adkins
The lives of three young women at “The Harvard of the South”, Carter University intersect with tragic consequences when one of them accuses Taylor Brand, a legacy whose parents are generous benefactors of the university, of sexual assault. Annie Stoddard, quiet and unassuming due to her legs that are scarred from a pre-high school accident, was the smartest girl in her public high school in Georgia and feels everyone can tell she doesn’t belong in her new environment.  Bea Powers planned to be a doctor, following in her now deceased mother’s footsteps, until she met Dr. Louis Friedman who encourages Bea to apply for Carter’s Justice Scholars Program.  Though Bea is accepted and very enthusiastic, as a biracial student she feels she stands out and becomes more curious than ever about her birth father whom she never knew.  Stayja York isn’t a student at Carter, but interacts daily with the students, as a barista at the coffee bar, watching and absorbing all the goings on, invisible to most students. A part-time nursing student, she tries her best to care for her mother and keep her younger cousin Nicole on track without going insane.  After Annie’s accusations the three women’s lives collide, each with a different take on what happened, each offering their own perspective, when taken together provide a clearer, honest look at young women trying to find their way in the world, learning who to trust.  Each narrative is distinctive and necessary, all culminating in a tragedy with which each woman must make peace.

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles
This follow up book to News of the World, Jiles’s National Book Award winner, stays in post-Civil War Texas, following fiddler Simon Boudlein with whom the Confederate Army finally caught up in the last months of the war.  Simon’s only concern is keeping his beloved fiddle safe, until he meets Doris, an Irish servant to a nasty Yankee captain.  Simon and his band of veterans travel the war-ravaged Texas countryside, trying to correspond with Doris, promising to her that he will buy land, send for her, and rescue her.  The exceptionally well-described post-war landscape with well-depicted characters helps to make up for the lackluster plot, which in spite of  typical complications, is clear will have a happy ending for Doris and Simon.

No Going Back by Sheena Kamal
This third novel finds Nora trying to stay one step ahead of the enemy she has made in Dao, the enforcer for the wealthy Zhang family who kidnapped Bonnie, the daughter Nora gave up for adoption and then rescued from the Zhangs.  Now crisscrossing from Detroit to Canada to Southeast Asia, Nora, with the help of unlikely allies Bernard Lam, an eclectic billionaire who has just lost his husband and ex-cop Jon Brazuca, finds that all roads lead back to her hometown of Vancouver where her past is about to catch up with her as she tries to keep Bonnie safe, and tries to keep both her daughter and her self alive.

Something She’s Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell
Charlotte appears to have the perfect life: a handsome, wealthy husband, a gorgeous downtown loft, a beautiful precocious daughter, Daisy, and a successful florist business. Her mother, with whom she and her brother have had a strained relationship, especially since her mother set house to the family home with Charlotte’s younger brother Rocco inside just before Charlotte left for college; her mother is now living in Oaxaca, Rocco has gone through rehab, and a string of less than appropriate girlfriends, though his current one, Ruth, may just be a keeper, or so Charlotte thinks at first.  The more time Ruth spends with Charlotte and Daisy, the more apprehensive Charlotte becomes, as Ruth seems to be very attached to Daisy, often pretending often times that she, Rocco, and Daisy, are a family.  The closer Ruth tries to get to Daisy and Charlotte, the more Charlotte hovers and tries to protect her daughter…and the secret she is keeping, a secret that Ruth intimates she knows.  When the unthinkable happens and Daisy is taken from school, Charlotte knows it was Ruth and knows that Ruth must have more secrets hidden than Charlotte does.  The narrative switches easily back and forth from present day and Daisy’s kidnapping, when Rocco first brought Ruth into their lives, and a recent trip to Mexico to celebrate Charlotte’s mother’s birthday, keeping tension high as readers try to guess whose secrets will unravel first and what the consequences will be. 

Coyotes of Carthage by Steven Wright
This dark comedic debut examines where politics, money, ambition, and humanity meet in this keenly observed, oh so timely tale.  Washington D.C. political consultant Andre Ross has pulled himself up, and has a record as a juvenile, but a reputation for being tough as nails and using edgy tactics to win campaigns, mentored by his boss, firm owner, Mrs. Fitzgerald, or so he thought.  After Dre goes too far in one campaign, Mrs. Fitzgerald sends him packing to South Carolina with a small amount of money and one assistant, her twenty-year-old grandson, and one last chance to prove himself.  Dre, an African American man, finds himself in Carthage County trying to convince the impoverished, God fearing people in this rural town to let an international conglomerate mine gold on their land, to the company’s benefit.  Dre knows he needs a local face to front he campaign and finds it in bar owner Tyler, who is easily swayed by the trappings and flash of his perceived importance, but it is his wife Chalene who becomes the lead on the campaign, naively thinking --- or maybe not, that if people like you, they will vote your way.  Dre and Chalene are tow very authentic voices, Dre conscious of his past, often feeling like an imposter, Chalene, pregnant with the family’s seventh child, quickly learning and asserting herself showing just how strong a woman she can be.  

Hid From Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming.
Reverend Clare Fergusson and Millers Kill, NY police chief Russ Van Alstyne are getting used to being new parents, Clare’s still new sobriety, and the chance that the voters may opt to have the police take of the MKPD leaving Russ without a job.  Russ gets called out on a report of a dead woman in a party dress on the road, no apparent cause of death, a tableau that eerily mirrors a death in 1952 and one from 1972 in which Russ was the suspect, neither of which have been solved.  Russ, with the help Reverend Clare in between shepherding her flock at St. Alban’s Church and taking care of their young son, races against the clock to solve all three murders before the big vote which is dividing their small town.  After several years’ absence, Russ and Clare will be welcomed back by longtime readers of this series as well as new readers; this mystery is rich in backstory and detail and Spencer-Fleming’s exacting writing should propel this book to the top of every mystery lover’s to-be-read list for this year.

The Compton Cowboys: A New Generation of Cowboys in Americas Urban Heartland by Walter Thompson-Hernandez
 In Compton, California, ten black riders on horseback cut an unusual profile, their cowboy hats tilted against the hot Los Angeles sun. They are the Compton Cowboys, their small ranch one of the very last in a formerly semi-rural area of the city that has been home to African-American horse riders for decades. To most people, Compton is known only as the home of rap greats NWA and Kendrick Lamar, hyped in the media for its seemingly intractable gang violence. But in 1988 Mayisha Akbar founded The Compton Jr. Posse to provide local youth with a safe alternative to the streets, one that connected them with the rich legacy of black cowboys in American culture. From Mayisha&;s youth organization came the Cowboys of today: black men and women from Compton for whom the ranch and the horses provide camaraderie, respite from violence, healing from trauma, and recovery from incarceration. The Cowboys include Randy, Mayisha's nephew, faced with the daunting task of remaking the Cowboys for a new generation; Anthony, former drug dealer and inmate, now a family man and mentor, Keiara, a single mother pursuing her dream of winning a national rodeo championship, and a tight clan of twenty-somethings--Kenneth, Keenan, Charles, and Tre--for whom horses bring the freedom, protection, and status that often elude the young black men of Compton.  (From the publisher)

For more suggestions, don't miss Library Reads each month