Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners

Author: Therese ONeill
Stars: 2
Review by: BKF

I was looking forward to reading this book The facts were interesting, but very early on I was turned off by the author's style...an ongoing insertion of the author's 'wit, sarcasm, and cutesy comments' forced me to skim the pages until I finished the book.

The Cuckoo's Calling

Author: Robert Galbraith
Stars: 3
Review by: TLW

Enjoyed the plot and characters. Thought the author was a bit wordy with his descriptions at times--some of which seemed unnecessary.

The Library Book

Author: Thomas R. Schiff
Stars: 4
Review by: libraryaimee

Oversized book of photos from libraries around the U.S.  Gorgeous photos of fabulous libraries that make you want to plan some road trips to visit them!

Whistling Past the Graveyard

Author: Susan Crandall
Stars: 5
Review by: Just Ada

I loved this book. The characters were great and it kept me wanting more. I was sad when it ended.

Missing Pieces

Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Stars: 3
Review by: Just Ada

Listened to this in the car.  It kept my interest, but was not outstanding.  A mystery.

Incendiary

Author: Chris Cleave
Stars: 5
Review by: argee17

Sad. Fast reading. Published in 2005, but very timely.

The Story of the Lost Child

Author: Elena Ferrante
Stars: 5
Review by: Nancy W

This is the fourth book in Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan series.  I read the other 3 earlier this year.  They told the life story of a pair of Italian women who were born in the 1940s.  These books were translated from Italian and the vocabulary was of a higher level.  I liked the story, but was a bit lost when it got into Italian politics.

The Round House

Author: Louise Erdrich
Stars: 3
Review by: mysterylover

A story about a crime on an Indian reservation.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Congratulations to...

... our Week #3 Prize Winners:
  • SandyJ
  • Rainbow

Progress So Far

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Moveable Feast

Author: Ernest Hemingway
Stars: 5
Review by: Cheryl M

An autobiographical work of his days as a poor writer in Paris with his first wife.

The Underground Railroad

Author: Colson Whitehead
Stars: 5
Review by: Cheryl M

The strength of the main character Cora alone is well worth the read but the writer's prose and his ability for you to visualize the scenes enables the reader to be drawn in. For those struggling with the beginning, keep reading!

New for July


Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Billie has been missing for almost a year after leaving on a solo hike and is about to be declared legally dead so her husband Jonathan, and he hopes in turn, teenage daughter Olive can get on with their lives.  Olive is having sightings of her mother and is certain Billie is still alive and trying to let Olive know.   As Jonathan begins to clear out the detritus of not only a marriage but of a life as well, he begins to uncover things about his wife that suggest she kept many secrets from her family.  While Jonathan and Olive struggle with whether or not Billie is dead or has just disappeared and if she did, why did she disappear, they must rearrange themselves for their lives without Billie.  This multi-layered story of a woman’s life and her leaving of that life force Jonathan to take a hard look at his marriage and the woman he married and Olive to consider her vibrant, nature-loving mother in a different light and for father and daughter to find their ways once again, together as a family and separately.  Many different themes will elicit discussion among book groups.

The Breakdown by BA Paris
Driving home one stormy night, Cass takes a short cut through the woods near her house and happens upon a woman in a car; the woman doesn’t appear to be in distress and the rain is coming down in torrents so Cass continues on her way home.  The next day she learns that the woman was murdered a short time after Cass drove on and then she realizes the woman, Jane, is the woman Cass just met and had lunch with not long before; Cass becomes wracked with guilt that she did not stop.  Slowly, Cass begins to forget things and conversations and becomes increasingly afraid she is succumbing to the same fate her mother did: early onset dementia.  But in the back of her mind, Cass thinks there is more to her “forgetfulness” it than that as she begins to receive silent calls daily and beings to wonder if someone is trying to make her mad or at least convince her she is going mad.  Little by little Cass begins to put the pieces together to reveal a picture more terrifying than she imagined.  High tension and an urgency to the narrative keeps pages turning to the shocking conclusion in this second novel from the author of Behind Closed Doors.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Isa left Salten, a boarding school located in a gothic setting on the English Channel, over fifteen years ago, married and has a new baby.  When she gets a three-word text, “I need you” from her classmate Kate she knows that two other women from school, Fatima and Thea, have received the same text and the day has come to answer for the secrets and lies they kept and told while at school.  A bone has been found along the shore in an area near Salten known as the Reach and these four women think they know to whom it belonged.  Joining Kate, who has stayed in the artist studio in which she grew up with her father, the women revisit their school years, including the Lying Game in which players garnered points for various lies and deceptions, the biggest rule being never lie to each other:  but one of them did and it has come back to haunt them.  Even as their shared past is revealed, Isa realizes that not everything is as it seems and if the focus is shifted just a bit, things take on new meanings and that maybe all lies contain a truth and maybe truth is what we tell ourselves and come to believe over time.  Creepy and gothic, this addictive novel is as gripping as it is thoughtful.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Author: Ruth Ware
Stars: 2
Review by: Pam D

It's advertised to be a thriller along the lines of Gone Girl. It isn't. The book got silly around Chapter 29. It wasn't horrible, but I wouldn't recommend a rush to read it.

Firefly Summer

Author: Maeve Binchy
Stars: 5
Review by: BeachBarb

 I reread this Maeve Binchy book which I believe was the first of hers that I read years and years ago. I didn't remember it, just remembered how much I had liked it. It didn't disappoint me the second time around. A great story!!

A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman
Stars: 5
Review by: BeachBarb

I loved Ove, a combination of my dad, my hubby and me.

Wonderfully Dysfunctional: It Must Be Genetic

Author: Buffi Neal
Stars: 3
Review by: BookDancer

Honest and humorous memoir by a local author.

Secrets in Summer

Author: Nancy Thayer
Stars: 3
Review by: BookDancer

Sweet summer romance, set in Nantucket. Good read, on or off the beach!

How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

Author: Louise Penny
Stars: 5
Review by: BookDancer

I'm hooked on listening to these mysteries set in the fictional community of Three Pines, Quebec, performed by Ralph Cosham. They combine the best elements of great whodunits; wonderful characters, great setting and suspenseful, well-crafted plots. Won't stop until I've finished all 12 of them...Louise Penny is my new favorite author!

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Author: Lisa See
Stars: 5
Review by: PKB

Best book I've read all year! Love the history, the setting, the characters and the TEA!

A Voice in the Night

Author: Andrea Camilleri
Stars: 3
Review by: LZ99

Quick, easy read. Enjoyable.



Full Wolf Moon

Author: Lincoln Child
Stars: 3
Review by: jambob

Someone is metamorphing into a werewolf during the full moon! Grisly murders, dark nights, screams and a mystery. A fast summer read by a master thriller author.

The Ship of Brides

Author: Jojo Moyes
Stars: 5
Review by: Just Ada

Excellent read. End of World War 2. Not something I ever knew about--war brides.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Greek Yogurt Kitchen

Author: Toby Amidor
Stars: 4
Review by: Rainbow

These are great recipes using Greek yogurt, I can't wait to try them.

Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng
Stars: 5
Review by: Judy

Wonderful, emotionally moving book about a death and a family. The dynamics within the family both before and after the death are what causes the reader to react emotionally.

"A Rich Spot of Earth": Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello

Author: Peter Hatch
Stars: 5
Review by: Shapoppa

 What an interesting read about Thomas Jefferson's experimental garden written by Monticello's Director of Gardens & Grounds Emeritus, Peter Hatch. If you're an avid gardener, it's a must-read. If you're like me, a lover of American history and someone who likes the idea of an expansive garden, but will settle for a couple of pots on the deck, it's still a must-read! Jefferson kept such detailed notes about his garden and Hatch describes the history of how Jefferson devised his garden, how seeds were tracked, and how the garden was organized, dug, and maintained back then, and today. He even writes about the restoration of the garden in later years. Part II of the book is a catalog of various "fruits, roots, and leaves" that were planted at Monticello. A horticultural achievement.

What We Find

Author: Robyn Carr
Stars: 2
Review by: Amanda Hodge

Read like a Nicholas Sparks book; predictable and cheesy.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: J.K. Rowling
Stars: 4
Review by:Amanda Hodge

Nice to be back in the world of Harry Potter! Very quick read as it is in screenplay format.

Congratulations to...

... our Week #2 Prize Winners:
  • argee17
  • Pam D

Progress So Far

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The Boston Girl

Author: Anita Diamant
Stars: 4
Review by: Just Ada

I listened to this in the car. I had read it a long time ago, but it was very good to listen to.

Ford County

Author: John Grisham
Stars: 2
Review by: BKF

Short stories. Not my favorite John Grisham book.

Three Junes

Author: Julia Glass
Stars: 5
Review by: BKF

Terrific book! It's about a family-- father, mother, three adult sons -- over the course of about ten years and how their lives intersect and take some really surprising turns. It was very adult reading, not at all sappy.






Friday, June 9, 2017

Faithful

Author: Alice Hoffman
Stars: 5
Review by: Kerstin

Compelling story about guilt, forgiveness, and learning to love.

The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping

Author: Aharon Appelfeld
Stars: 2
Review by: Lizzytish

I get the premise of this book. Somehow it felt flat. Two dimensional. Erwin annoyed me somehow. And the pacing was enough to put me to sleep. I felt for the other characters more and was silently cheering them on. Then there was the ending which felt so abrupt. This is just my opinion and I know other people love the book.

The Breakdown

Author: B.A. Paris
Stars: 4
Review by: Linda

I received an advanced copy of this book...it was a fast read, I couldn't put it down.

River Road

Author: Carol Goodman
Stars: 3.5
Review by: bandit


Decent mystery!
 

 

Maid of the King's Court

Author: Lucy Worsley
Stars: 4
Review by: libraryaimee


A YA book about a young girl who becomes a member of the court during Henry VIII's reign.  It doesn't go well for her fellow lady-in-waiting, Katherine Howard!
 

Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng
Stars: 4
Review by: libraryaimee


While reading it I thought it was slow, but after it was over I missed the characters.  A character study of a repressed, bi-racial family.  No one discusses anything emotional which leads to big consequences...emotional and moving.  You don't realize its effect until after it is over!

Whistling Past the Graveyard

Author: Susan Crandall
Stars: 5
Review by: Lizzytish


I loved this book! I love Starla and Eula. A great perspective on blacks in the Deep South during the early 1960's. A story of love and redemption. What is family? What makes one display courage and strength. The author knows how to weave words to tear at your heartstrings.
 
God's job ain't to make our lives easier, it's to make us better souls by the lessons he give us.
 

The Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman
Stars: 3
Review by: Spring J


Very quick read.  By the third part I couldn't put it down.  Grew to empathize with Tom and Izzy.
 

Little Bee

Author: Chris Cleave
Stars: 3
Review by: Pam D


Sarah and her husband are vacationing on a beach in Nigeria when they come across Little Bee and her sister.  No one's life is ever the same again.
 
Each chapter alternates between Little Bee's voice and Sarah's which got confusing at times.  The pivotal moment in the book focuses around the murder of Nigerian villagers for the valuable oil beneath their land.  This one moment, told as a memory, will not be soon forgotten.
 
It's a good book, but not anything I'd rush out to read.

Truly Madly Guilty

Author: Liane Moriarty
Stars: 5
Review by: Angel


This is the second book I've read by this author.  I really enjoy her writing style.
 

The Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman
Stars: 5
Review by: jambob


I know this was a bestseller of 2015, but I just got around to reading it now. It's a very well written story of a heartbreaking moral dilemma with the background of a desolate lighthouse off the coast of Australia. I actually rented the movie at the same time I was reading the end of the book. The movie was filmed from New Zealand, but the scenery was breathtaking.
I highly recommend reading this book and seeing the perspective of the different characters. It is very thought-provoking. I also recommend watching the movie because the wind swept story stays with you for quite a while.
 

Picture Perfect

Author: Jodi Picoult
Stars: 1
Review by: LZ99


I used to think I liked everything Jodi Picoult wrote...but this one proved me wrong.
Not only could I not relate to any of the characters in the book on any level, I found nothing about any of them to be attractive or believable. A personal quirk of mine is to continue reading a book to the end once I have gotten through a certain number of pages...I kept reading this one waiting for the twist or excitement or anything that typically makes Picoult's work so engaging, but this piece fell flat. Extremely repetitive, dull, and predictable. This has me wondering if it's worth picking up another Picoult book ever again.
 

After You

Author: Jojo Moyes
Stars: 4
Review by: Just Ada


You should read her previous book as this is a follow-up.  Both were very good.  I listened to this one.  Good readers.
 

The Secret Life of Bees

Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Stars: 5
Review by: Juli


The Secret Life of Bees was an excellent read; it tackles tough topics in an endearing and graceful manner.  It is a heartwarming story that redefines the meaning of family.  Women and girls of all ages will be moved by the beautiful relationships described in the novel.

Missing Pieces

Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Stars: 4
Review by: bandit


Enjoyable mystery with some unexpected twists.
 

James and the Giant Peach

Author: Roald Dahl
Stars: 5
Review by: PattiK


Realized a few months ago that I have a TON of children's books in my personal library that I have not yet read. This summer I plan to change that reality. This was an easy, quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You Changed My Life

Author: Abdel Sellou
Stars: 3
Review by: PattiK


I'd heard about the movie The Intouchables when I was in Utah recently but wanted to read the book.  I actually got the wrong book ~ this one was written by Driss, the caregiver.  The book I wanted was Second Wind written by the gentleman who Driss cared for.  I have since ordered Second Wind since the library doesn't have a copy.  That said, it was interesting reading Driss' perspective.  I want to read both books before watching the movie which has been HIGHLY recommended.  Perhaps it was his writing style which had me give it a 3 instead of a 4, but nonetheless their story is worth a "look see".
 

A Girl's Guide to Moving On

Author: Debbie Macomber
Stars: 1
Review by: bandit


No depth to the subject matter.

Any Day Now

Author: Robin Carr
Stars: 4
Review by: Keeread


Sequel to her book called What We Find.

Cryptonomicon

Author: Neal Stephenson
Stars: 5
Review by: ReadsWithCats


This is a 910 page novel and it has some mathematics in it, so it is a heavy duty read. Part science fiction and part historical novel it flips back and forth between WWII and almost the present day. During WWII you meet an eccentric cryptographer and his friend Alan Turing and a gung-ho Marine who occasionally serves with the cryptographer. During the present day you meet their descendants, who are also intertwined in each other's lives, as well as a couple of characters who are present in both timelines.
 
Stephenson is a very verbose writer. He weaves a large tapestry of details through several plot lines. If you like to get lost in a book this is a good one to pick.

Stars Over Clear Lake

Author: Loretta Ellsworth
Stars: 4
Review by: BNbook


A mystery and romance with some history.  Takes place in the recent past and the 1940s.
 

Death of a Toy Soldier

Author: Barbara Early
Stars: 3
Review by: Lizzytish


Another debut cozy. However, this is an upscale version. Most cozies are like fast food, where as this one is like an upscale cafe. Delightful characters with a love for puns, bring enjoyment to the story. A retired police officer owns a vintage toy shop which his daughter, Liz, helps run. There is a murder one night in the shop. Liz's Dad can't recall what happened, though he was there. Is it amnesia? Is dementia setting in? She must help clear her dad. It's not all play as she searches for a Clue, while taking a Risk and we're not talking the game of Life here. Or are we?
 

The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency

Author: Mandy Morton
Stars: 2
Review by: Lizzytish


A debut cozy mystery series involving felines. I love cats, I love mysteries. This book? Not so much. There are a few bizarre murders, mixed along with the mundane musings of the 2 main characters. It's a fun concept, and it even had some quirky twists. It was amusing, but not captivating enough to continue the series.
 

Hidden Figures

Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Stars: 4
Review by: Ann Mc


Amazing true story of the black female mathematicians that worked for Langley, supporting the space program.  Many started as human calculators, but were able to get promoted as they were phenomenal.
 

Banana Cream Pie Murder

Author: Joanne Fluke
Stars: 3
Review by: mysterylover


So far I like this Hannah Swensen Mystery the best.  This one really left you wondering until the end. The ending was different than the other books in this series.
 

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Author: Aimee Bender
Stars: 2
Review by: Just Ada


I hope someone else reads this and gives an opinion.  It was very unclear to me.
 

Little Bee

Author: Chris Cleave
Stars: 5
Review by: argee17


Beautiful writing. Fast summer read.

The Homecoming

Author: Robyn Carr
Stars: 5
Review by: Goetz

Last book in trilogy. A Thunder Point novel.

Congratulations to...

... our Week #1 Prize Winners:
  • Ann Marie
  • bandit

Progress So Far

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Released Today!

Don't miss this #1 Library Reads pick published by HarperCollins...

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

This cleverly constructed mystery is both an homage to the Golden Age of mysteries along with poking a bit of fun at the genre in a tongue-in-cheek way.  Publishing editor Susan Ryeland has holed up for the night to read mystery mega-author, the odious Alan Conway’s latest manuscript The Magpie Murders, contained within the pages of Horowitz’s book.  To Susan’s frustration, the last chapters of the book, the ones containing Atticus Pund’s solution to who killed Mary Elizabeth Blakiston, housekeeper of Pye Hall, the home of Sir Magnus Pie.  When she returns to the office, Susan learns that the chapters may be lost to time, as Conway has died over the weekend.  Susan heads to Conway’s home she deduces that he did not kill himself but in fact was murdered.  As Susan begins to investigate ala Pund, she realizes the similarities between Conway’s latest mystery and his own life, recognizing characters from the book as thinly veiled people in his life, Conway’s lover, his wife and even his next-door neighbor.  Susan returns to the manuscript to look for clues and what she finds, over the series of Atticus Pund’s oeuvre is even cleverer than she originally suspected.  Fans of traditional and contemporary mysteries will dive headlong into this latest work from the creator of Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War and not want to leave until the last suspect has been unmasked.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Just Jennifer

The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech


This sophomore offering by the author of the mystical Season of the Dragonflies introduces readers to country singer and fiddle play Jo Lover who is about to make it bigger on the country music scene than in her wildest dreams.   She has carefully cultivated her image which is about to be placed in jeopardy when her small record label merges with Columbia Records who brings along her ex-boyfriend J.D. Gunn.  When the record execs dream up a joint concert for the duo, their chemistry takes over and the pair goes viral and Jo becomes afraid of not only having to give up her dreams of being a solo artist but is also fearful that the secrets of the past that she has so carefully hidden will be revealed destroying her carefully crafted persona.   Jo soon realizes there may only be one way to get her career back, but at what cost.  Soulful and bittersweet, plays out like a country music song and illustrates the often unseen, at times uglier side of the music industry and the struggles artists, especially women, must face in order to realize their dreams.  As Jo learns, though, success and happiness don’t always go hand in hand nor do they necessary line up with one’s dreams and how success and happiness were viewed.  Creech is a fresh voice in woman’s fiction; book groups will find much to discuss, perhaps against a background of country music.

Crooked Lane Books

Crooked Lane Books is a recent newcomer to the world of mystery publishing.  Founded in 2014, they are committed to publishing high quality mysteries and getting them into the hands of the people who love them the most.  Two of their cozy mysteries coming out this spring highlight the talent of two seasoned mystery authors, E.J. Copperman and Maia Chance, each with a new series.  Copperman’s Edited Out is the second in “A Mysterious Detective Mystery” featuring a mystery author whose main character may have just come to life, and Chance’s is the first “An Agnes and Effie Mystery” featuring a great aunt and niece who team up to restore an old in to its former glory. 

Edited Out by E.J. Copperman
Mystery writer Rachel Goldman has writer’s block: after several entries into the Duffy Madison series, Duffy Madison has appeared before Rachel, seemingly sprung from the air certain he came about when Rachel created him.  Now Rachel cannot write a story for the fictional Duffy without worrying about the effects it may have on the living Duffy who is a consultant for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office missing person’s squad, ironic because the man who claims to be Duffy may actually be a missing person himself.  Rachel decides the only way to purge herself of the real Duffy is to uncover Duffy’s past and determine once and for all whether or not he is Damien Mosley who disappeared about the same time Duffy appeared.  The unlikely pair heads off to Poughkeepsie from where Damien, and presumably Duffy, hailed, where they interview people from Damien’s past and learn that Duffy cannot be Damien---but if he’s not Damien, who is he?  Rachel is a bright young woman with a sardonic streak (which she would say she is entitled to being from New Jersey) and a soft spot for her unlikely sidekick Duffy.  Copperman has written a clever mystery in which the plot is mirrored in Rachel’s writing.  The idea that Duffy sprang to life from Rachel’s imagination is intriguing and their investigation into Duffy’s identity is sure to provide further engaging adventures for this unlikely duo.  Few out there do wry humor better than Copperman. 

Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance
The author of two other mysteries series debuts with this humorous cozy series featuring a one-time, but still glamourous model, Great Aunt Effie, and her niece Agnes, who still harbors anger toward her aunt for suggesting to an agent that Agnes would make a good “husky” model while the girl was still in her teens.  Agnes has just been unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend and kicked out of their apartment, and finds herself back home with her father in Naneda, NY. Agnes has also just been fired from her job at the library where she breaks an artifact that the head of the historical society, Kathleen Todd believes was done on purpose.  Effie, who has just inherited the rundown Stagecoach Inn from a cousin is back in town to restore it to its former glory and may have just threatened to wring Kathleen’s neck if Agnes doesn’t get her job back.  Unfortunately for Effie (and Kathleen as well), Kathleen is murdered, strangled, and Effie becomes the prime suspect, forcing Agnes and Effie to join together to save each other’s back…but will they be able to do that without killing each other (figuratively) in the process?  This over the top cozy is filled with delightful, entertaining characters that will endear themselves to readers and keep them coming back for more.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New for June

 Check out the catalog www.ipac.hclibrary.us and place your holds now for these titles coming in June...

You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron

Forty years ago, four-year-old Janey Woodham was playing with her sister Lissie in their front yard and disappeared when Lissie’s attention was distracted by a puppy.  Also gone was the custom doll Janey’s mother made for the girl using Janey’s own hair.  Every year on the anniversary of Janey’s disappearance, Miss Sorrel, their mother, places an ad in the local paper offering a reward for the return of Janey’s doll, hoping that it will lead to finding Janey or at least learning what happened to her.  Lissie returned to live with Miss Sorrell many years ago, bringing along her now college age daughter, constantly haunted by her inattentiveness that day.  Now, a young woman has brought a doll that Miss Sorrell is certain is Janey’s but before Miss Sorrel can verify the doll, the young woman disappears, Miss Sorrell and Lissie are seriously injured in a home accident and most of Miss Sorrell’s prized doll collection is stolen.  Certain that they are close to the truth of what happened to Janey, Lissie tumbles down a rabbit hole looking for information leading to the answers of her sister’s whereabouts, but finds much more than she bargained for, something far sinister and life altering than she ever imagined.

Fateful Mornings by Tom Bouman
Spring has finally arrived in Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania but there is no rest for Officer Henry Farrell.  Kevin O’Keeffe comes to Henry hoping Henry can help find Kevin’s girlfriend Penny who has disappeared.  Kevin admits to other crimes but swears he didn’t harm Penny.  Henry’s search takes him into New York State and he finds himself following a trail of crimes, some petty, some not so petty, and heroin, all of which lead back to, or near to, Kevin.  Henry is an exceptionally nuanced, flawed, and surprising character with a passion for traditional fiddle music and another man’s wife.  The prose that describes the setting is clean and crisp making this part of the Rust Belt seem like it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  There is no urgency to the narrative, but rather a slow and steady pace that leads to many unexpected “huh” and “aha” moments as all the story threads are neatly tied up.  An exceptional sequel for this Edgar award winner.

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder
Sister and brother Alice and Paul are loathe to attend their half-sister Eloise’s over-the-top, slightly pretentious wedding in London; Alice, who has made living productively on Klonopin an art, is dating her married boss, and still grieves a miscarriage almost a decade later, insists that she and Paul must attend the wedding.  Paul, a counselor at a clinic where questionable practices (such as having a germ-o-phobe stand inside a trash pail to help overcome her anxiety), is increasingly unhappy with his boyfriend who has been lobbying Paul to invite a third man into their bedroom, flatly refuses to attend the wedding: he hates Eloise, and hasn’t spoken to his mother Donna since she erased all traces of Paul and Alice’s father after his death two years ago.  Alice prevails and the pair finds themselves on the other side of the Atlantic, dysfunctional as ever.  Yet something happens to each of them while they are there: Paul speaks up and stands up for himself with his boyfriend and Alice takes a long hard look at where her life has been and what new options she may have.  Donna, still in love with the idea of her first husband, Eloise’s father, is mostly impervious to the angst in her younger children’s lives.  This delightful, raucous, bordering on raunchy sometimes, novel is like a guilty pleasure as readers imagine, perhaps even recall, their own dramas and “the people we hate” at their own weddings.  A tender ending is a reminder that above all, hope and love continue to abide.

The Child by Fiona Barton
When the skeleton of a baby is found at a London construction site, three women, whose lives would have likely never otherwise crossed, are brought together as each, for her own reasons, tries to determine who the child is with irrevocable results for each.  Kate is a print journalist who watches her colleagues lose their jobs as online media takes over and wonders when it will happen to her; Kate sees a snippet about the baby and becomes convinced finding out who the child is could be the story of a lifetime.  Emma is happily married but with a secret in her past, sees the same bit and knows who the baby is because she buried a baby in that spot years ago.  Angela has been mourning her daughter who was kidnapped from the hospital the day she was born and is certain the baby is hers; a DNA test proves that it is, but how can it be as the infant is wrapped in a newspaper dated in the 1980’s and Alice was born in the 1970’s.  As inconsistencies and contradictions begin to pile up, Kate, Emma, and Angela dig further into the past and find life changing, but heart breaking, answers.

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly
Laura and Kit met in university and have been chasing eclipses together ever since.  During one fateful trip to Cornwall, Laura stumbles on a young woman who, in Laura’s opinion, is being raped. While Laura stays to help Beth, Kit chases her attacker, Jamie, who is captured but maintains the sex, while rough looking, was consensual.  Laura and Beth reconnect after the trial and Beth insinuates herself into Kit and Laura’s life.  When things get out of hand, Laura and Kit vanish from Beth’s view, removing every trace of themselves from the world as they are able, marry, and live under assumed names.  Now pregnant with twins, Laura’s anxiety levels build as Kit prepares to head north of Scotland to the Faroe Islands to see a total eclipse, setting in motion a chain of events that will not only change everything for everyone but will change everyone’s perspective of the events that have occurred.  Cleverly framed against the phases of an eclipse, this story will keep readers guessing until the very end and will provide much for lively book group discussions.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Thirty-year old Lydia lives a quiet life, one she curated for herself, working as a bookseller, spending her days among the books she loves, co-workers who are as accepting as they are offbeat, and the BookFrogs, regulars at the bookstore who have found a niche of their own at Bright Ideas.  Lydia is horrified when one of the youngest BookFrogs, Joey Molina, hangs himself on the upper level of the store.  Lydia then finds herself heir to his few possessions and books, remainders and reminders of Joey’s life.  Lydia is very disturbed as she flips through the page of Joey’s books and sees that they have been defaced, but in a way meant to leave Lydia a message.  As Joey’s clues reveal a strange and disturbing tail, Lydia finds herself reliving the terror in her younger self when she was the sole survivor of the Hammerman who brutally murdered her friend Carole and Carole’s parents while Lydia hid under the sink.  As players from this time begin to reappear in Lydia’s life: the detective who never solved the case, her eccentric and anti-social father, her childhood friend Raj, Lydia begins to see a different picture of what occurred that night and how Joey is connected to it.  This riveting debut is as clever as it is diabolical and will appeal to readers to enjoy a good puzzle along with interesting characters, and a strong plot.  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Just Jennifer

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor
Shaka Senghor is a member of Oprah’s Super Soul 100, a group of 100 leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity (website).  He is also a convicted murderer who plead guilty to second-degree murder and served nineteen years in prison, seven of those years in solitary confinement.  Senghor grew up in a neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the 1980’s.  He was a good student who had good grades and ambitions, wanting to become a doctor.  Just before he became a teenager, his parents’ marriage dissolved and the abuse from his mother increased; Senghor ran away from home and began dealing and taking drugs to stay alive, and was shot three times on a street corner in his neighborhood, but no one offered him any help or any hope.  By age nineteen, he was imprisoned for murder, angry with himself and his world, both of which had let him down.  In prison, after becoming the “worst of the worst” Senghor spent time in solitary confinement, but something unexpected happened there: after a letter from his young son, he rediscovered his passion for learning and his gift for journaling and storytelling and most of all: Hope.  He read everything he could from the prison library, began meditating and journaling to learn more about himself and to learn to forgive himself, and ask the same of others, for the wrongs he had committed.  Upon his release from prison, not quite forty-years-old, Senghor vowed to continue his work of self-discovery and became an activist, writer and speaker to help mentor young men and women who might find themselves in similar situations to his own, and help them find a different way out.  Senghor’s story is not an easy one to read about, but there is something in his story that offers hope for his future and for the future of others in this raw and honest memoir.  Senghor is a Fellow at the MIT Media Lab and Kellogg Foundation and has spoken at TED.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.


Cookbooks for the Spring

Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg
Joshua McFadden, the former chef de cuisine at Franny’s in Brooklyn, has relocated to Portland, Oregon where he is the chef at Ava Gene’s and taking full advantage of all the vegetables available to him.  Subdividing summer into three season, early, mid-, and late, McFadden takes vegetables most typical of that micro-season and finds new and inventive things to do with them.  Potatoes make two appearances, early and late, as do beets, carrots, turnips, and onions each with completely different results.  Go to recipes include the typical toasted nuts and seeds, and dried breadcrumbs, but brined and roasted almonds and frico will add another dimension to almost any vegetable.  McFadden provides a chapter “My Larder” which includes his favorite go-to ingredients complete with storage tips though no sourcing.  The recipes in the book range from the typical, English Pea Toast to the more unexpected Raw Brussels Sprouts with Lemon, Anchovy, Walnuts, and Pecorino.  Artichoke Hearts and Asparagus, typically steamed or roasted, star raw in an early season salad.  While some of the dishes include the addition of pasta, grains, or meats, most are vegetarian but hearty enough to be a stand-alone light meal with a loaf of bread.  This cookbook is one that home cooks will find themselves turning to repeatedly.

The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School by Alison Cayne
Alison Cayne founded the Haven’s cooking school in New York City five years ago and has written a book with one hundred recipes and basics that new as well as more seasoned home cooks will be glad to have at their fingertips.  Cayne, the mother of five children, necessitated her to become an efficient, health-conscious, sometimes thrifty home cook.  She has taken those skills and turned it into her vocation, helping other home cooks master the basics and have confidence to go beyond them.  Each chapter not only has step-by-step recipes but focuses on the skills necessary to create them so that home cooks can improvise when ingredients are not readily available.  Toasted Farro with Roasted Winter Vegetables and Tahini Dressing gives a basic recipe but then leaves the three cups of winter vegetables up to the taste of the cook. Brussels Sprout Salad with Parsnip Ribbons or Braised Parsnips with White Wine and Vanilla are simple in technique for any weeknight dinner, but elegant enough to be added to any Thanksgiving table.  The chapter on dressings offers the basic proportions and step-by-step instruction and then some out of the ordinary recipes such as Carrot-Ginger Dressing.  Cayne’s confident tone will not deter readers but fill them with confidence cook their way through the book and then venture out on their own.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

All These Wonders

The Moth Presents: All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown
For 20 years, The Moth Radio Hour has been inviting some of the most creative minds of the time to tell their stories to audiences.  While the tradition of oral storytelling and oral history is paramount to our live and stories, if they are not captured and preserved they can lose or change meaning with each retelling, or worse, be lost to time forever.  Sadly, though, many stories told aloud do not always translate well to the written word.  Not so with this collection.  Mining twenty years and untold number of hours, of podcasts (or their predecessors) forty-five stories are presented here for readers to enjoy and listen to.  As with any diverse audience, each person’s experience will be their own, though reading is often a solitary endeavor and the shared experience of others is missed; however, this collection lends itself to a discussion group whether read in its entirety or each piece used as a springboard for discussion, such as for a Socrates CafĂ©.  Emmy winning actor John Turturro tells a story about a blackout in New York City which becomes a short history of his family and familial love.  Best-selling author Meg Wolitzer describes her time at a summer camp where she meets Martha a woman with whom she still remains friends.  A man faces a kidney transplant, a mother deals with her daughter not only coming out to her but then learning her daughter is also transgender; the mother must now recognize and acknowledge her feelings, her daughter’s feelings, but also how she views her family and even herself as a mother and woman.  A musician muses on his life in foster homes, away from his parents who drank heavily until he meets the one person who changes his life.  First love, favorite childhood toys, or transformative journeys are all contained within these short vignettes, glimpses of an everyday life event that because extra ordinary because we talked about it.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.


Just Jennifer

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

As the Sparrow sisters and their New England coast town of Granite Point slowly heal from recent events, including the near destruction of the Sparrow sisters’ nursery. Sorrel finds herself invited to bring her special gardening gifts to an English country estate where Sir Graham Kirkwood would have her restore a Shakespeare Garden that has lay fallow, perhaps even toxic, for many years.  Graham’s wife Stella is recovering from a serious illness that may have been brought on by her attempts to restore the walled garden.  While Sorrel can feel the grief and sadness emanating from the garden, she does not believe it is cursed.  As Sorrel sets to work learning about the house’s history---much of the story, which is woven into tapestries---she finds an unlikely ally in Graham’s university aged daughter Poppy and in Stella’s brother Andrew, a minister, currently on leave who, like the garden, is filled with sorrow and heartbreak.  Sorrel is determined to heal the garden and bring it back to its former glory, perhaps at the same time helping Andrew to heal, and healing parts of herself that are still broken.  This lush story is filled with history, plant lore, Shakespearean references and English tradition.  The characters are quirky and will quickly become beloved to readers, even with Sorrel’s sisters across the Atlantic, available only through Skype.  Add in the mystery of the tapestry and the “curse” of the garden, this inviting book will draw readers in and have the air filled with the heady scents of the flowers.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Just Jennifer

The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

World War II has taken its toll on Europe and especially on the small Normandy village of Vergers in this familiar yet dependable novel.  The town is occupied by German soldiers and food and supplies are in short supply, yet they are buoyed by the hope and sustenance provided to them by their young village baker.  Emmanuelle, Emma, began her apprenticeship to Ezra Kuchen the village baker at thirteen.  Now twenty-two, she has seen the horrors of war, including Ezra being forced to suffer the indignity of wearing a yellow star and being forced away from his shop at gunpoint, taken away from the village never to be seen or heard from again.  Taking over for her mentor, Emma bakes her baguettes for the soldiers and manages to bake enough bread to share with the villagers and is able to established an underground network allowing for her to trade for the supplies the villagers need to survive until the Allied troops arrive to save them.  Many of the usual World War II are present here, the characters often stereotypical, but overall, Emma’s tenacity and the resilience of her neighbors provides an uplifting look into a small village shortly before the D-Day invasion.

Coming in May

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Fans of Hawkins’s first psychological thriller Girl on the Train have been clamoring for her second novel but many may be disappointed with her sophomore offering.  In a small English town, the river meets residents and visitors whichever way they go.  At one point, the river opens up and forms what is known locally as the Drowning Pool, a place where many women have drowned over the years, local lore claims women accused of being witches were drowned there hundreds of years ago, but this year, the river has claimed the lives of two women: fifteen-year-old Katie Whittaker and now Nel Abbott, the mother of Katie’s best friend, a photographer and author who was writing a history about the secrets of the Drowning Pool, many of the locals angry for her bringing these incidents to light and writing about them with a certain distanced eye.  Nel leaves behind a fifteen-year-old daughter Lena and a sister from whom she had been estranged, Jules, who now returns home to sort through her sister’s affairs and care for the niece whom she has never met.  Nel’s story, and those of the most recently drowned women, unfold through the narratives of over half a dozen characters, most of whom are unreliable and have reason to either wish harm to Nel or even be glad she is gone.  This technique makes it difficult for plot cohesion and for pacing which doesn’t pick up until about three-quarters of the way through the book.  If readers haven’t skipped ahead to the last few chapters in impatience, there is a final twist waiting at the end that will surprise most readers, but the trip to get there can be arduous at times.

It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
When Aubrey Miller drops her duffle bag in the ivy-covered Whipple Hall at Carlisle College, an Ivy League school in Belle River, New Hampshire, she feels she has finally made it out of Las Vegas and has no intentions of ever turning back.  She loves her roommates, hard-working, focused Jenny Vega who grew up in Belle River, and spoiled Kate Eastman whose family, currently father, have been longtime donors to the college and board members.  The three form an uneasy and unusual friendship until an event during their freshman year binds them even closer together.  Twenty-two years later, the three are back in Belle River: Aubrey, a yoga teacher with two children, is married to a philandering surgeon; Jenny is the mayor of the town, married to another townie who owns a construction company that benefits from the college and Jenny’s connections to the college, and Kate, who is married to Griff, the boy who adored her through college and until recently, had a trust fund of his own.  Before the weekend is over, one of them will be dead, their husband the first blamed, because it’s always the husband…or is it?  Slowly, long kept secrets are revealed, affairs exposed, and financial and marital troubles come to light providing a cast of suspects, in this twisty suspense novel with an ending that isn’t as easy to figure out as it first appears. 

The Heirs by Susan Rieger
After Rupert Falke’s death, his widow Eleanor and their five grown sons are shocked to learn their father may have had a second family.  Harry (an attorney), Will (a Hollywood agent), Sam (a medical researcher in a committed relationship with Andrew), Jack (a musician), and Tom (a federal prosecutor) grew up privileged in Manhattan, their father an orphan from England, and self-made man with a little help from his wife’s Eleanor’s family fortune.  All five boys attended Princeton and made solid lives for themselves.  A letter from Vera Wolinski claiming her two adult sons were also Rupert’s stating that they should share in the man’s inheritance and legacy sets the boys reeling but not Eleanor. She has plenty of money and is willing to share and it doesn’t really matter one way or the other to her whether or not the boys are in fact Rupert’s.  Her sons do not share her sentiments and as they sort through this new twist in their histories each finds himself examining his life and future leading to some difficult and surprising decisions.  At the same time, more of Eleanor’s past is revealed casting doubt on what the reader knows, leaving room for speculation as to what was and what might have been.  

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
Boston newspaper Leah Stevens needed a new start after being accused of fabricating a source; a chance meeting with an old roommate Emmy Grey, also in need of a change, lands Leah and Emmy in a small town in western Pennsylvania, Leah with a fresh teaching certificate and a new outlook.  When a woman, looking eerily like Leah is found left for dead near a lake in the town and Emmy goes missing, Leah’s reporter instincts kick in and she finds herself searching for answers about Emmy, answers she thought she knew until the police are able to not only locate Emmy, but verify she even existed.  Now that the police know about Leah’s past, they being to question her credibility, especially when they find Leah has a connection to the man they have in custody for the attack on the woman by the lake.  Leah knows they only way she can restore her reputation is to find Emmy, but how do you find someone who may have never existed in the first place?  How well do we know our friends, but even more, how well do they know us?  Sometimes, it seems, too much, in this psychological thriller with keenly observed characters.

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
Eighteen years ago, in a small Arizona town, a teenager disappeared.  Jess Winters and her mother Maud had just moved to Sycamore and Jess often took late night walks, always leaving a note for her mother, always returning.  When she does not return one morning, Maud becomes frantic to find her, hoping that Jess ran away, but not believing that Jess would leave and not get some word to her mother that she was safe.  Now, newcomer Laura Drennan who has also moved to Sycamore to recover from her divorce and start a new life finds bones in a dried out crevice, bones that prove to be those of Jess Winters leading to the entire town wondering, what happened to Jess? Was it a tragic accident or murder?  Told in both the past and present, and from multiple points of view, the tale of a sad town emerges, a town full of sad people, but people who stay with hope.  As the story of the last months of Jess’s life in Sycamore are relived and revealed, her story, and those of her friends, becomes sadder, more tragic and senseless.  As the community comes together to learn what happened to Jess, they begin to forgive and to heal.  This debut novel is full of compassion and wisdom and compelling characters, broken and flawed, but not without hope nor the possibility of redemption. 

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
This much different novel from Lehane tells the story of Rachel Childs, whose mother was a best-selling author of a classic relationship book yet has never known her father, something Rachel struggles with, searching for him from time to time; Rachel, a journalist who, while on assignment in Haiti, has a breakdown on air and becomes a reclusive shut in, something that causes her marriage to fall apart.  A series of chance meetings finds Rachel with a second husband who helps her out of her shell and back to the world until another chance meeting makes Rachel question everything she thought she knew about her seemingly perfect husband, drawing her into a web of conspiracy and deception until she no longer knows who to trust.  Rachel knows she must steel herself if she is to learn the truth about her husband and stay alive in the process but must overcome her fears, real and imagined, before it is too late.  Rachel’s story slowly unfolds and readers are lulled into a certain sense of security and comfort until one moment changes everything and they are drawn into Rachel’s world and the fast-paced, high tension chase that ensues.

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Lilian Girvan is the mother of two young children and still grieves for the husband who died in a car accident not fifty feet from their home.  Lili has recovered from a mental breakdown and is able to care for her daughters again, and works as a graphic illustrator and still depends on her quirky, often over-sexed sister Rachel for support and backup.  When Lili is asked to illustrate a series of gardening books for the Bloem seed company she agrees, even though it means taking weekly gardening classes at a local botanical garden.  Encouraged to bring her daughters and sister, Lili arrives and finds an odd assortment of gardeners, all there for different reasons; as the group plans, plants, and tends to their gardens, they begin to form an unusual friendship and begin tending to each other.  Lili predictably finds love with the instructor Edward Bloem, but continues to hold him at arms’ length until she knows her own heart.  This tried and true plot is anything but boring as Waxman keeps the wry observations coming from the most unlikely places, often Lili’s five-year-and seven-year-old daughters, wise and mature beyond their years.  This heartfelt and often humorous story will win many fans for debut author Waxman. 

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
The daughter of two attorneys, Alexandria thought she knew she was firmly against the death penalty until her first summer job at a law firm in Louisiana where she watches a video of convicted child molester and murderer Ricky Langley.  Alexandria has such a visceral reaction to this man, and wanting him to die for his crimes, she begins to question everything she believes and starts to dig more into not only Langley’s case but into his past.  As Alexandria starts to learn more about Langley, a familiar cord is struck. There are no direct parallels to how the two grown up, or so she thinks, there is something that feels very familiar to Alexandria; she finds herself comparing Langley’s childhood with her own and learns family secrets that had long been kept from Alexandria and her siblings, some secrets Alexandria even kept from herself.    As Alexandria begins to face her own past and learns more about the narrative of Langley’s case as it has evolved, she learns more about herself, forgiveness, and the will of the human spirit to triumph even amidst the bleakest of circumstances. 

The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal
After the death of her husband, Julia Alden never thought she would find love again; when she finds it with divorced American obstetrician James Fuller she is more surprised than anyone.  Neither willing to commit to remarriage at this time, James, along with his teenage son Nathan, moves in with Julia and her teenage daughter Gwen.  Gwen and Nathan appear to hate each other and the new adults in their lives and Julia is at her wits end to figure out how to make a go of her new relationship and her new family.  In addition, Julia’s former in-laws, also involved in a tense relationship are still a large part of hers and Gwen’s lives and then there is James’s ex-wife who flits in and out of their lives.  As Gwen and Nathan’s hormones take over the new family’s life turns on end in a predictable twist with predictable outcomes.  What is not predictable however, is the ease and grace with which the story is told and the characters portrayed and laid out.  Segal doesn’t let anyone off with an easy answer or solution, but allows the family to work their problems out with love and humor.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
If ever there was a heroine readers wanted to cheer for, it is Eleanor Oliphant.  Eleanor is an office worker in Scotland who is very strident and has her life scheduled to perfection: Wednesday nights are her weekly chat with Mummy, Friday nights are vodka and pizza from town.  Eleanor has awkward social skills and an often bad habit of saying exactly what is on her mind, being very precise in her observations.  While Eleanor feels all this is perfectly normal for her, she has no friends and still bears the scars, physically and mentally, of a fire she was in and subsequent time in the foster care system.  When her company hires a new IT man, Raymond, and Eleanor’s path begins to cross his, her life begins to change in subtle ways.  When the two rescue Sammy, an elderly man who has fallen in town, they become bound even closer and Raymond, who is unkempt and awkward in his own way, but much less regimented, sees something in Eleanor and becomes determined to be her friend.  Along the way, Eleanor begins to become more a part of everyday life and finally faces the truths and a past that have damaged her and kept her from having relationships and perhaps, a happier life.  

Just Jennifer

Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon


This first in a new mystery series finds former private school head and recently widowed Maggie Detweiler and her friend Hope Babbin on their way to the Oquossoc Mountain in for a weeklong cooking class in Bergen, Maine, where Hope’s son Buster, a former student of Maggie’s is the deputy sheriff.  The Inn is lovely, as are the owner and his staff, but one particular guest, Alex Antippas, is so odious his mere presence threatens to ruin the week for everyone.  While death is always a shock, no one is surprised when it is learned Alex was murdered in his room.  The women are surprised to learn the local police are focused on the Inn’s recently fired receptionist Cherry Weaver as their suspect.  Maggie and Hope disagree and push Buster into investigating further, helping it along with their own theories and observations.  While the storyline has a lot of potential, the characters feel a little stiff and very similar to one another at times and there are a few too many coincidences and loose ends left, loose ends that are not likely to be tied up in a future entry to the series.  An intriguing set up at the end provides the clues to Maggie and Hope’s next adventure and Gutcheon’s prose is lovely as she describes Maine in the early autumn. Readers are likely to be curious enough to return to the next installment.  One word of caution:  while the book by all appearances is a traditional cozy, a genre that generally lacks strong language, the f-word is used, while judiciously and in-character, several times by the most unpleasant Mr. Antipass.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Just Jennifer

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman

Almost immediately out of college, Jess Martin had a best-selling novel, but has been struggling with a follow-up ever since.  His wife Clare is also a would-be writer but has taken a job as a copy editor to pay the bills and support the couple’s Brooklyn lifestyle while Jess continues to write.  Nearly out of money and options, the couple decides to move to the Hudson Valley where surely life will cost less money.  The only situation they are able to afford, however, is as caretakers for the rundown home, River House, known locally thanks to some graffiti as Riven House, of an almost reclusive author, Alden Montague, who was a former mentor to both Jess and Clare.  At first, the situation seems almost too good to be true: Jess is writing again, and it looks as if the young couple will be able to get back on their feet financially and get their marriage back on track.  Soon, though, the dark, oddly octagonal house with hidden rooms and passages begins to show its true self and the abandoned rooms begin to give up their secrets including ghostly figures and crying babies all tied to long ago family secrets.  As Clare slowly begins her descent into darkness, she is certain she is being haunted, but can’t understand why no one believes her.  This creepy, dark, twisty novel is full of all kinds of gothic goodness as secrets are revealed and Clare’s madness turns to clarity.  A modern day read for Mary Stewart and Shirley Jackson fans.

Just Jennifer

Pretend I’m Not Here by Barbara Feinman Todd

When Barbara Feinman Todd began her career in journalism in 1982 as a copy assistant at The Washington Post journalism---and politics---was a much different animal than it is today.  Todd thrived on the newsroom atmosphere, which in those days included the smell of ink, newsprint, and cigarettes, the clatter of typewriters and news feeds, and people shouting and running in an out, an energy not found in most modern newsrooms.  After working for Bob Woodword at the Post, Todd continued as his researcher for his book Veil and inadvertently fell into a career ghosting for big politico names such as Ben Bradlee, Carl Bernstien, and Hillary Clinton though she was rarely given credit for her assistance, particularly in the case of Mrs. Clinton, a slight which led to a series of events and revelations that became public in Woodword’s book detailing the Clinton White House.  Used to being in the shadows and behind the scenes, Todd’s memoir often reads like a tell-all about the closed door politics in not only the news world but in the White House and Capitol.  Heavily involved in journalism at Georgetown (where Feinman Todd is the founding Journalism Director) and the Pearl Project, having co-authored an eBook on fellow journalist Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder, Feinman Todd’s story, at times, has a bit of a “poor me” tone, though in the end she owns up and admits she made her own choices and those choices led her to where she is today, even though the path may not have been as exciting as she would have liked it to have been.

The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan
World War II has taken its toll on Europe and especially on the small Normandy village of Vergers in this familiar yet dependable novel.  The town is occupied by German soldiers and food and supplies are in short supply, yet they are buoyed by the hope and sustenance provided to them by their young village baker.  Emmanuelle, Emma, began her apprenticeship to Ezra Kuchen the village baker at thirteen.  Now twenty-two, she has seen the horrors of war, including Ezra being forced to suffer the indignity of wearing a yellow star and being forced away from his shop at gunpoint, taken away from the village never to be seen or heard from again.  Taking over for her mentor, Emma bakes her baguettes for the soldiers and manages to bake enough bread to share with the villagers and is able to established an underground network allowing for her to trade for the supplies the villagers need to survive until the Allied troops arrive to save them.  Many of the usual World War II are present here, the characters often stereotypical, but overall, Emma’s tenacity and the resilience of her neighbors provides an uplifting look into a small village shortly before the D-Day invasion.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Coming in April

Coming in April...

Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton
American Delaney Nichols has settled into her new role as a bookseller’s assistant at the Cracked Spine, a bookshop specializing in rare books and ephemera in Edinburgh.  Her current task is to retrieve an “Oor Wullie” comic book from a man at Castle Doune for her boss Edwin MacAlister.  At Castle Doune Delaney finds the man she is to meet dead; while waiting for the police to arrive, Delaney spies the Oor Wullie stuffed into a crevice; without thinking, Delaney snatches up the valuable book and secrets it away to Edwin.  Once back at the Cracked Spine things get complicated as Edwin learns the identity of the dead man, the son of the man, Gordon, a man who Edwin had been close to as a young man, a man who died while he was out with friends, including Edwin.  Even more startling, Gordon appears in the Cracked Spine very much alive and confesses his deceit to Edwin.  As Gordon’s story begins to unfold it becomes clear that there is more to the story than he’s admitting to, something that may have gotten his son killed.  The further into the past Delaney delves, the more secrets she encounters and the ore danger she puts herself in as these secrets are revealed until she finds herself with a killer in her midst.  Strong characters and a chilly Northern Scottish setting combined with a twisty plot full of secrets and intrigue make this literary mystery one worth spending some time with.

The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell
Lilly and Neave are sisters less than a year apart and in spite of their different personalities---or because of them---they grow up to be a formidable team: Lilly the outgoing beauty and Neave, quiet and bookish, for whom a penny dreadful The Pirate Lover becomes a how-to-guide.  After World War II, the sisters find themselves out of work as the soldiers return home and the pair decides to create a home sales beauty company, a business that takes off beyond their wildest dreams.  As they are reaching the pinnacle of their success, Lilly disappears and Neave is reasonably certain what happened and is terrified that she might be next.  A good story is made more interesting by an unusual structure and various points of view that demonstrate that universal truths are just that---no matter in what form they are found.

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner
Marin’s life seems to be all in order: she’s on the fast track to partner at her Manhattan law firm, he’s engaged to a Wall Street mogul and her Main Line Philadelphia parents are attentive without being smothering.  Marin’s thirtieth birthday celebration, however, proves to be the catalyst of things unraveling for everyone: Marin’s parents announce their intention to divorce; Marin’s father admits to having an affair with a younger woman, and Marin breaks the news that she has broken off her engagement because she is in love with another man.  A surprise phone call from Rachel, a young woman claiming to be Marin’s half-sister and a misstep on her job that causes her to lose her job sets Marin reeling.  When Rachel arrive in Manhattan on her way to Cape Cod to visit the grandmother neither she nor Marin knew, Marin’s mother Blythe is also in town and the three set off on an ill-conceived road trip that turns into a summer full of revelation and healing, not just for the three women but also for a family with long held grudges and secrets.  This story of families in crisis and families healing and recreating themselves is as welcoming and refreshing as the first breeze of summer.

The Outrun: A Memoir by Amy Liptrot
In the Orkney Islands off the northern coast of Scotland, an outrun, according to the author, is a uncultivated field with rough grazing at the furthest reaches of a farm.  This is the land to which Amy Liptrot decided to return, the land of her birth, after moving to London to escape life on the farm and her father's mental illness, but where she lived life on the edge, drinking heavily and finding herself in rehab.  Amy returns home to reflect and recover and along the way discovers that maybe home, even in the most northern reaches of the world, may be the best place.  This gorgeously written memoir is not only a moving story of a young woman's recovery but an homage to a rough land that renews hope and invigorates life, offering a new perspective on everything.

Miss You by Kate Eberlen
At eighteen Tess’s life is spread out before her: she and her best friend Doll have spent the summer traveling through Italy and Tess has just secured a spot at University where she will read literature.  While in Florence, Tess glimpses Gus who is traveling with his parents as the three heal from the death of Gus’s older brother Ross seven months earlier.  When Tess returns home she is faced with her mother’s imminent death from cancer; from this point forward, Tess’s life will take on a much different shape than she expected, taking on the responsibility of her five-year-old sister Hope who has her own problems to overcome.  Over the next sixteen years, Tess and Gus lead separate lives, each often feeling that something just isn’t quite right and happiness is just out of each’s grasp.  As their paths crisscross, sometime with glancing blows, they never truly properly meet up again until fate decides the time is right.  Will the pair be able to overcome their pasts and finally realize their destinies?  Heart breaking and achingly beautiful, this story with lovely characters is for anyone who has every hoped and never lost hope.  Book groups will find much to discuss in these pages.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
In a group of vignettes centering around now best-selling author Lucy Barton, the residents in and around Amgash, Illinois recall and re-evaluate the choices they’ve made in their lives and the effect those choices have had not only on their lives but those around them and their community.  After Tommy Guptill’s dairy farm barns burned down, he moved his family to town and took a job as a school janitor where he kept watch over the student body, but in particular over the odd and lonely Lucy Barton.  Now in his seventies, Tommy visits Lucy’s brother who lives in isolation and shares his burden with Tommy, who, now in possession of this knowledge must make a choice to forgive or not.  A high school counselor finds solace and inspiration in Lucy’s latest book and unwittingly uses her new insight to help Lucy’s niece.  Lucy returns to her hometown after a seventeen-year absence and visits with her siblings: an attempt at a reconciliation, a chance to assuage her guilt for leaving the small town or an attempt to rebuild the family that was always broken? Parents and children, their own and those of others, and relationships in all their various forms are explored and revealed in this honest and ultimately uplifting novel that will make you believe, Anything IS Possible.

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Just after Jon Casey marries Wailer in August of 1980, the recent college graduates, along with some of their friends slip into the now closed Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia but not everyone emerges.  Locked in, one of them disappears and no one is sure what happened to her.  Thirty-five years later, a skeleton is found in the prison and each of these friends still harbors a secret, some of which could prove the innocence of now celebrity chef Casey as it is his then new bride’s skeleton that has been found and he is charged with her murder.  Judith Carrigan was with the group that night and knows she can help clear Casey’s name but at what cost?  Judith, above all the friends, has secrets that she knows if revealed could cost her the life she has built, including her adoring husband and son.  This rich novel explores many themes including love, loyalty to the past as well as the present, identity and what is worth keeping hidden and what is worth revealing and at what cost each.

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
After attending a business conference, Hannah is eager to return home to share the news of her impending promotion with Matt Stone, her live-in boyfriend of four years.  Hannah’s joy quickly turns to terror when she returns home to an empty house---empty of everything that was evidence that Matt had every been part of her life; in addition, matt has scrubbed social media of his presence and has disconnected his mobile phone.  Hannah is stunned by turns and hurt and afraid for what may have happened to Matt.  Her best friend Katie encourages Hannah to grieve for the relationship she thought she and Matt had and then to move on with her life.  Then Hannah begins to feel she is being stalked and begins to receive messages that she is certain are from Matt.  Little by little, Hannah begins descending into a darkness as all the truths start to unravel and a different tale begins to emerge, one that is equally chilling and disturbing but with a different slant, making this dark debut one to devour yet savor at the same time.