Saturday, January 27, 2018

New in Febraury

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

The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Just Jennifer

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

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

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Books for a New Year

Check out these new books coming this month.  

Eternal Life by Dara Horn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Just Jennifer

New titles for December:

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
James is a Member of Parliament and a crony of the current Prime Minister.  His wife Sophie feels very lucky to have a loving, successful, handsome husband, a lovely home, and two charming children.  One woman threatens to ruin it all with the secret she is about to reveal, but Sophie doesn’t believe the young woman and vows to stand by James no matter what.  Kate is the barrister who is to prosecute the case, her specialty: high-profile sex crimes.  Kate is zealous in her prosecution as always, but this time is different for Kate and she is determined James will be punished for his crimes…all of them.  Sophie and James have been together since their time at Oxford, and there is something from those many years ago that Sophie doesn’t know and could change everything if she finds out.  What starts out as a pretty straight forward case…and story…quickly takes a sinister turn and takes readers into dark places as the tension edges up and secrets are revealed. 

The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen
Ellery Hathaway is a police officer in the quiet suburb of Woodbury, MA where she is sleeping with the chief of police, Sam, and where she waits each July around her birthday for another resident to disappear.   Ellery, once Abigail, is the only person who survived the serial killer Francis Coben who is on death row.  Yet for the past three years, someone has sent Ellery an anonymous birthday card and shortly after someone disappears and is never found.  Sam doesn’t think there is any connection to Ellery’s kidnapping so she turns to the one person she thinks will help her, FBI agent Reed Markham, the man who rescued her, the man who has written the book about her case, and the man who is currently on leave from the FBI after a botched case.  Markham has to investigate unofficially, but when a pair of hands belonging to the first young woman who disappeared, Coben’s signature was to remove the victim’s hands, appear on Ellery’s front porch she knows she isn’t crazy and is more determined than ever to solve the case before there is another victim.  This first novel by the winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition is full of twists and turns, and damaged characters.  Though then ending may feel a little rushed, and in need of a more detailed motive, there is enough interest to keep readers turning the pages as they follow Ellery, Markham, and Ellery’s dog Speed Bump down the dark road into Ellery’s past which has found its way into her present. 

Just Jennifer

The Missing by CL Taylor

Fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson has been missing for six months, disappearing in the middle of one August night.  His mother Claire has come apart, blaming herself, and having dissociative episodes that make her wonder if deep down she doesn’t know more than her conscience being knows.  After another appeal for information about Billy, Claire tries to return to work and a semblance of normal life, but she quickly realizes her husband Mark has been keeping secrets, as has her nineteen-year-old son Jake and his girlfriend Kira, who has been living with the family recently.  But what about Billy? What secrets did he keep from his family and what, if anything, do those secrets have to do with his disappearance?  This twisty turny plot is full of unreliable characters, including and most of all, the one who is missing.  As Billy’s story starts to unfold, it becomes clear that he may hold the key to his own disappearance.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

New for November

Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane
Raymond Ambler, the curator of crime fiction at the New York Public Library’s grand 42nd Street Library, has solved a crime or two in his day.  He is trying to gain custody of the young grandson he just learned of, as his son is serving time in state prison.  Ambler is approached by former NYPD cop and mystery author Paul Higgins who wants to donate his papers to the library, but wants some of the papers to be kept under wraps.  Shortly after, a young woman who has just started working with Ambler and his colleague, sometimes date, Adele Morgan is found murdered in Ambler’s office.  Ambler assumes that his pal homicide detective Mike Cosgrove will investigate the case, but soon the Intelligence Division takes over and an Islamic scholar who has been studying at the library, and with whom Adele has struck up a friendship, becomes a person of interest.  At the same time, Ambler is contacted by a childhood friend who took the rap for the murder of a trucker’s union boss, he believes his brother to have committed.  Now that the brother has died, Ambler’s friend wants to clear both their names and maybe find the real murderer.  All of these events don’t seem related, but Ambler keeps an open mind and before he knows it, pieces start to fall into place and his life is once again at risk as he chases a killer.  There are so many disparate pieces to this mystery, it is hard to believe they will all fall neatly into place, but neatly they do with plenty of library lore and New York City history along the way; intelligent, thoughtful characters add to this enjoyable mystery.

The Secret, Book, and Scone Society by Ellery Adams
Nora Pennington has come to Miracle Springs, North Carolina to escape her previous life and to heal.  Living in a converted caboose and helping visitors to her bookstore Miracle Books, select books to help them heal, Nora has achieved a sense of satisfaction if not peace. The owner of the Gingerbread House, Hester, can bake comfort into her custom-made scones, while June works at the spa with hot springs, and Estella has her salon to pamper visitors.  Shortly after a visiting businessman has a consultation with Nora, her is found dead on the train tracks, a death the police quickly rule a suicide.  Though Nora knew Neil only a short time, she cannot believe Neil committed suicide and turns to the three other woman, as damaged as she, to band together in order to figure out what really happened to Neil, bring a killer to justice, and in the process, learn to trust each other, and to heal from the past, and forgive themselves.  This first book in a new series will welcome readers to the world of Miracle Springs and the warm, caring women who live there.  There are very few surprises to the murder investigation, though one revelation at the end is startling, adding a little more interest.  It is the setting and the four main characters that add charm and warmth to this mystery.

Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
Chicago event planner Margot Cary has been fired after one of her society galas goes spectacularly wrong control.  Out of work with no hopes of getting an event planning job in the country thanks to a viral You Tube video, Margot is surprised when her great aunt Tootie invites Margot to the family compound in Lake Sackett, Georgia to work in her estranged family’s funeral home/bait shop.  Margot has had no contact with the McCready’s, including her father, since her mother moved from Lake Sackett with Margot when Margot was a toddler.  Overwhelmed by her extended, gregarious family, and their small town Southern ways, such as carbs, pork, and deep-frying everything, or knowing everyone’s business before they know it themselves, Margot vows to lick her wounds and get out of Lake Sackett as quickly as possible.  Slowly and surely, though, Margot realizes things aren’t all bad in Lake Sackett: she likes her family, is getting to know her father, and has caught the eye of the most eligible bachelor, elementary school principal Kyle Archer, who as a widow with two young daughters, comes with his own set of issues.  This first book in a new series welcomes readers to Lake Sackett with eccentric, loving characters, and invites them to sit and stay for a spell with a tall glass of sweet tea.

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Hanna Casey returns from London to her hometown on Ireland’s West Coast peninsula of Finfarran after more than twenty-years of marriage, which she has just learned has been a farce, with her teenage daughter Jazz in tow.  Working as a librarian in Lissbeg, Hanna remains embittered five years later, still in her childhood home under the scrutiny of her nagging mother, Jazz now living in France, a flight attendant who visits from time to time.  Determined to take her life back, Hanna decides it is time to restore the rundown cottage left to her by her great aunt Maggie.  Upon hearing that the town may close Hanna’s beloved library, she finds herself fighting a battle on a second front to keep what she considers the center of the town and to convince the naysayers that a town without a library is a town without a heart.  Driving around the coast in her mobile library gives Hanna plenty of time to think and plenty of encounters with people who often irk and irritate her, but whom she comes to realize depend on Hanna and her mobile library not just for reading materials but for companionship and community. This heart-warming novel is perfect for book groups or anyone who adores libraries and recognizes that they are more than a collection of books…they are a collection of community.

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Using land records, letters, and diaries, this book provides a detailed historical account of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the time during which Laura Ingalls grew up and wrote about in her famed autobiographical novels.  This fascinating book provides context for many of the events described in the Little House books and Wilder's writings as well as dispels any myths that her daughter Rose was a ghostwriter for the beloved series.  Told in great detail is the story, so often left untold, of Laura as a young bride, then young mother, and a woman who moved her family around to survive, and who suffered many great losses during her lifetime, but somehow managed to turn these near defeats into something cherished by generations to come.  This is a masterful tribute to the legendary author as well as the gripping historical account of America is sure to have wide appeal. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Just Jennifer

Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made into Pie by Mary-Frances Heck

Sweet potatoes often get a bum rap, prepared as the ubiquitous and gratuitous mashed, marshmallow covered dish on many Thanksgiving tables.  This cloyingly sweet dish, however does a disservice to the complex tasting, nutrient packed tuber.  Sweet potatoes are available year round, come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, from the most widely known orange fleshed to a white fleshed and a purple fleshed.  While these root vegetables are a perfect vehicle for almost any flavor, they lend themselves particularly well to citrus, more aromatic herbs and spices such as cayenne, cinnamon, garlic, and ginger, and also blend well with many proteins, dairy, meat and poultry, and nuts and seeds.  Heck takes cooks through a variety of ways to prepare sweet potatoes beginning with the basics: steaming, roasting, puree, and French fries, and then moves on to appetizers with big (and sometimes surprising flavors): Veggie Temaki, and buffalo seasonings. Soups and stews include sweet potatoes were traditional white potatoes are found, Chicken and dumplings, chowders, and with braised sausage and beans.  Side dishes, salads, and main dishes each offer new ideas for uses and will have home cooks thinking “where else can I use sweet potatoes?” The Brad and Baked Goods section uses sweet potato puree for the basis of a very tender, structured dough (yeast and quick) that can be turned into a variety of baked goods.  Sweet potatoes will add extra nutrition to chocolate babka and cinnamon rolls, and make the basis of a galette that will be a vehicle for a variety of toppings, sweet, and savory.  Where will sweet potatoes turn up in your cooking next?

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Coming in October

The Summer Reading Club may have ended, but there's no reason to stop reading!  As the nights grow cooler, cozy up with one of these new books...

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash
Six days a week, in rural North Carolina in 1929, Ella May Wiggins, mother of four, makes a two-mile trip to American Mill No. 2 where she works a night shift earning nine dollars for a 72-hour week.  The mill is a prime target for burgeoning union activities with the promise of better working conditions and better pay; Ella May is all for unionizing, but at what cost to her family, friends, and community?  Seventy-five years later, Ella May’s daughter Lilly writes her nephew telling the story of his courageous grandmother, revealing the events that led up to one fateful night in 1929 that changed everything.  Other voices weave in and out, telling Ella May’s story, a story based on actual people and events, and the origins of the American Labor Movement in this soulful novel with gorgeous prose and carefully drawn characters, belying the sorrow and tragedy it relates.  A pick for October.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
This prequel to Practical Magic takes readers back a generation to the 1950’s and 1960’s when the three Owens children are born and raised in New York City, warned by their mother Susanna to charges her children to stay away from her hometown in Massachusetts, avoid moonlight, Ouija Boards, red shoes, Downtown Manhattan, and never fall in love.  Franny, Jet, and Vincent know they are different from other children, but don’t realize there family, especially women, have been cursed since 1620 when their ancestor was accused of being a witch because she loved the wrong man.  Franny, the eldest, is the most brooding with her pale skin and shocking red hair; Jet is the beauty and can intuit what others are thinking; Vincent, more of a free spirit, has been doing his own thing since he was born.  When Franny turns seventeen she is summoned by her aunt Isabelle to come to the Owens’s home town.  She brings her brother and sister, setting each on a dangerous course, courses that will change their lives and the lives of those they love.  There is something magical about the way Alice Hoffman writes, as she guides these three siblings from childhood to adulthood, as they learn to live, and to love and above all, be true to themselves. pick for October.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
Daphne Parrish is leading the perfect life: or so Amber thinks.  Daphne is pretty enough, has a lovely house on the Connecticut shore, is married to billionaire Jackson Parrish who seems to adore her, and has two bright young daughters.  And Amber wants her life, or at least her husband.  Amber finds a way to insinuate herself into Daphne’s life by claiming she, like Daphne, had a sister who died of Cystic Fibrosis, first being part of a fund raiser for the CF foundation Daphne started and runs, and then by becoming the best friend Daphne so desperately needs, all the while plotting to become the next Mrs. Parrish, leaving Daphne and her two daughters out in the cold.  Little by little, Amber works her way into Jackson Parrish’s life, first as his assistant at work and then in his bed, all the while not knowing the terrible secret Daphne harbors, and not knowing that Daphne in turn knows the dirty secret Amber has been hiding, two secrets that will ruin everything for both women if they let them. Written by sisters, this intricately plotted book has characters as despicable as they come and characters who will be sympathized with even though they seem to have it all.  Fast-paced, the narrative propels this book forward toward one final “gotcha”. pick for October.

The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison

M.J. Stark thinks she has it all: she’s about to be appointed editor-in-chief at her dream job at a New York City magazine and a gorgeous doctor for a boyfriend, though he does live on the West Coast. When her promotion doesn’t happen exactly as planned, M.J. takes off for Pearl Beach, California, convincing herself and others that she has given up her career to live with her true love Dan.  M.J. finds herself at loose ends in California and becomes friendly with Dan’s next-door neighbor Gloria, who readers know was part of a Dirty Book Club fifty years before.  When Gloria’s husband dies unexpectedly, she jets off to Paris to fulfill the promise the club members made to each other to live in Paris together when they were all single.  Each of the original (and only) four members of the Dirty Book Club have chosen a young woman to take her place in the club and M.J. finds herself invited to be a member along with Addie, the wild one of the group, Jules, the romantic, and Britt, the hard-working mother and wife who doesn’t realize what is going on under her own roof.  The four women are as different as oil and water and have no real interest in getting to know each other or in keeping the club together, but little by little, each grudgingly realizes they need a change in their life and begin to confide in one another and learn to be honest with each other and themselves.  Readers see M.J. as the main protagonist work through why she left New York and came to California, and what she must do in order to be true to herself and her dreams.  Harrison’s first adult novel sometimes has a high school mean girl feel to it,  and the only insight readers get into the original women of the DBC is through letters each left in specific books, but overall is a breezy, fast-paced read with a certain amount of appeal.

The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey
Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is a born police officer and working in her hometown of Smithson in Australia gives her an edge, as she knows a lot of the history and secrets of the residents.  She is not as disciplined in her personal life, however, living with the father of her young son, resisting his requests to get married, and carrying on an affair with her married partner Felix.  Rosalind Ryan, an English teacher at the school where she taught English and drama, and that she attended with Gemma, is found floating in the lake, her body surrounded with red roses, on the night after her triumphant production of her retelling of Romeo and Juliet.  The town is stunned, and no one can believe Rose was murdered, but her death opens up long repressed memories for Gemma and she is forced to revisit her high school years to try and learn what she is missing, the events and actions that might have lead up to this ten years later.  Gemma’s past and present are about to collide in unexpected ways as she must struggle to finally come to terms with her ex-boyfriend’s suicide, the mess she and Felix are making of their personal lives, and uncover Rose’s secrets, past and present, to solve her murder, in this taut debut novel with a complex, yet sympathetic protagonist.  

If You Knew My Sister by Michelle Adams
Irini Harringford’s parents gave her away to live with her aunt and uncle when she was three-years-old though she has never been told why.  Irini has tried to live a normal life, is now a doctor, and has tried not to worry about why she was given away instead of her older sister Elle.  Irini and Elle were never close, either as sisters or cousins, though Elle has appeared at different times throughout Irini’s life, mostly causing trouble for Irini, though it seems at the time Elle has come to her rescue.  After six years, Irini thinks she has exercised Elle from her life when she gets a phone call from Elle that their mother has died and Irini should come to Scotland for the funeral.  Hoping to put her past to bed once and for all, Irini makes the journey but realizes that her sister still has a hold over Irini and she finds herself drawn back into her family’s history of secrets and lies, and becomes determined to find the truth about why she was given away, even though it is much more complicated and twisted than she ever imagined.  The tension builds as Irini’s past is slowly revealed, culminating in a secret few will have seen coming.

Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan
Noah Sadler has lived with childhood cancer for most of his life.  In and out of treatments, when he is finally able to return to school he feels like an outsider except for Abdi Mahad, a Somali immigrant, who immediately befriends him and the two become best friends.  Now, the night of Noah’s father’s controversial photography exhibit, Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol’s Feeder Canal, Abdi the only witness and Abdi appears to be in shock and isn’t, or can’, tell anyone what happened.  Detective Inspector Jim Clemo, just back from leave after his last tragic case, is assigned to investigate what looks like a terrible accident.  As Clemo investigates, he sees the incident is not as cut and dried as it looks, and learns there may be a deeper connection to Edward Sadler’s latest photo exhibit of refugee camps than anyone suspected.  Two families are in pain, over the potential loss of Noah and over the tragedy of Abdi being with him at the time of the accident and the loss of his best friend.  Accusations begin tearing apart the community, making each family face truths they were not ready to reveal to anyone, including themselves, but must do in order to heal.  This heartbreaking novel is satisfying on many levels: a well-paced mystery, psychological suspense, and empathetic characters in impossible situations facing impossible dilemmas.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Congratulations to...

...the Grand Prize Winners of the 2017 Adult Summer Reading Club:
  • Headquarters Library: Ann Mc
  • North County Branch Library: ExLibris
  • South County Branch Library: Cindy
  • Member Libraries & Bookmobile: Dorman
Thank you to the Friends of the Library for generously supporting the club, and thank you to all of you club members for your enthusiastic participation!  See you next summer!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Midnight at the Bright IDEAS bookstore

Author: Matthew Sullivan
Stars: 5
Review by: Judy E

A first novel for Matt Sullivan...a real hit for me. I read this book in 2 days over Labor Day...the vibrant characters, descriptions of the bookstore and its Bookfrogs, and the happenings really caught my attention. Lydia and the Hammerman will draw you into this mystery big time.

The Prince of Tides

Author: Pat Conroy
Stars: 4
Review by: BeachBarb

So, I haven't quite finished this book, but it was a goal of mine to read it this summer after visiting Beaufort in the spring and buying the only Pat Conroy book in the book store, A Lowcountry Heart, Reflections on a Writing Life. I enjoyed reading that, and it whet my appetite to re-read some of his more well known books. Even though I am only 42% finished with this book, I am determined to finish before I declare summer over. I am enjoying it better than I did when I read it years ago. We have also watched the movie early this summer.

The Burry Man's Day

Author: Catriona McPherson
Stars: 2
Review by: Lizzytish 

Set in the 1920's in a small town in Scotland. The Burryman is a tradition that's carried out every year. I don't know why, but it was not a smooth read. The writing seemed choppy and the plot was confusing at time. I could not relate with any of the characters or feel for them. Just an odd read for me. Near the end it became more enjoyable.

Clutter Free

Author: Kathi Lipp
Stars: 3
Review by: LZ99

Common sense, but good reminders. Have read it before, but a refresher wasn't a bad idea!

The Husband's Secret

Author: Liane Moriarty
Stars: 5
Review by: Miss Lucy

Liane Moriarty's books are amazing. She surprises me every time.

I'd Rather Be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers

Author: Guinevere De La Mare
Stars: 3
Review by: Miss Lucy

Good essays, cool art, and kindred spirits.

Cocoa Beach

Author: Beatriz Williams
Stars: 2
Review by: Just Ada

Very confusing plot and a really strange ending.

Between the World and Me

Author: Te-Nahisi Coates
Stars: 5
Review by: Brooke S

 Wow - did not expect this short (~150 pages) book to grip me so hard and fast. Written from the perspective of a one-sided conversation with his son, Mr. Coates discussed and explores life as a black man in America. Poignant and gut-wrenching realities, but written with such moving and clear language and history, Toni Morrison is correct, this should be 'required reading.'

The Best of Roald Dahl

Author: Roald Dahl
Stars: 5
Review by: Brooke S

Collection of (adult) short stories [some of which were mentioned in Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of AJ Fikry]. I had not read his short before and they were dark and funny.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Stars: 5
Review by: Brooke S

Read in under 24 hours - a quick, delightful read. We are reading for our book club, and this prompted me to read up on some of the many literature references in the book - another welcome digression.

Danny the Champion of the World

Author: Roald Dahl
Stars: 5
Review by: Brooke S

I re-read this book with my 9 year old (read one book together each summer) - and this is my favorite Dahl book. The close and dear relationship between father and son is heart warming, and the adventures of the big secret methods of poaching tickled my daughter. Fun read!

A Dragons Heart

Author: Terry Bolryder
Stars: 3
Review by: Saraswati

This is a story with vague references to other stories of Bolryder. This is about a couple of dragons looking to find their mates and refuse to look at what's right in front of them.

Heatsridge Shifters Series

Author: Olivia Arran
Stars: 3
Review by: Saraswati

This series is about a town of registered shifters and focuses on the bears that patrol South 1 side of town and a group of purists that want to destroy them. The bears are Nate, Jake, Brent, Cade and Austin. There is a lot going on in this series and has a few spin off series to read.


Author: Ruby Lionsdrake
Stars: 3
Review by: Saraswati

This a continuation of the previous stories and picks up where our main characters are stranded in another universe when the gate they travel through does not allow them to go back. The series makes jokes about the links with the Star Gate TV/Movie series.

Farewell Dorothy Parker

Author: Ellen Meister
Stars: 3
Review by: argee17

"To hear her relatives tell it, you would think she was the love child of Oscar Wilde and Fran Lebowitz..." Since I'm a fan of both, this was a fun read.


Author: Raina Telgemeier
Stars: 4
Review by: Miss Lucy

What would the Summer Reading Club be without a graphic novel?!! Ghosts is a beautifully illustrated book about Dia de Los Muertos. It explains this annual Mexican tradition in a tender, non-threatening way, via a loving story about sisters, friends, and family... and dearly departed ancestors, of course!

Jack: Straight from the Gut

Author: Jack Welch
Stars: 3
Review by: Summer Breeze

He could have dug a lot deeper, instead it was filled with a lot of corporate clichés. Although he is venerated in the business community, his company has not recovered in the 16 years since he left, so it was difficult to believe anything I read.