Saturday, April 4, 2020

New for April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

New for March...

Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Casey Peabody, who as a 14-year-old was a golfing champion, is now thirty-one years old, living alone in a small room in Boston, has just lost her mother, can’t get her novel written, is in massive debt from her undergraduate and graduate schools, and waiting tables at the Harvard Club.  As hopeless as it all sounds, Casey continues riding her banana bike to work each day and plodding away at her novel.  She begins to date a successful writer and one of his students at the same time, looking for some energy to continue propelling her forward.  In the hands of a less experienced author, this book might come across as cluttered and sentimental, but instead it is thoughtfully and beautifully written, often feeling that each word has been carefully chosen.  King is equally comfortable writing about working the front of a restaurant as she is writing about writers’ colonies and retreats, all of which comes together in this elegant story with a very happy, though somewhat trite and too comfortable, ending.

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Shay Miller is striking out on all sides: she lives in Manhattan, but in a friend’s apartment; sure, that friend is a terrific guy, but he he has no interest in Shay except as a friend.  A research analyst who loves statistics, Shay is having a hard time finding permanent work, and on the morning of a very promising interview, she witnesses a young woman throwing herself in front of a subway train.  Shay knows what it feels like to be lonely, but can’t imagine hurling herself off a subway platform.  She finds a necklace she believes to be the young woman’s and becomes obsessed with her and with the statistics surrounding her death.  Sisters Cassandra and Jane Moore, have it all: their own PR firm, a solid circle of friends, a glamorous life, and the ability to seemingly get whatever they want.  And they want Shay.  At first Shay is flattered that IT women want her in their elite circle until it becomes clear to Shay that they are after something else, but what does Shay have that they could possibly want?  This smart cat and mouse game will keep readers guessing until the very end.

Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs

It has been almost five years since the last Temperance Brennan novel, but it was well worth the wait.  A lot has happened to Tempe in the last five years, she has discovered she has a cerebral aneurysm and though she had surgery to keep it at bay, she fears it is interfering with her work and lifestyle.  The medical examiner, Tempe’s boss and friend, was killed, and the new medical examiner in Charlotte, North Carolina is Margot Heavner, who is very forthright in announcing she has no need for Tempe’s consultations and has no plans to call upon her expertise.  Tempe and Heavner go way back to a time when Tempe called her out after an interview.  As Tempe tries to regain her footing, she receives morgue photos of a faceless, handless, unidentified man; Tempe has no idea who sent them and doesn’t care for the way Heavner is handling the investigation and sets off on her own investigation, risking any chance she has of ever working in Charlotte again. With retired police detective Skinny Slidell at her side, Tempe sets out to identify the man, uncover the details in several missing, and abused children cold cases, and even manages to tie in a decades old ferry sinking.  Reichs deftly ties up all loose ends, and carefully interweaves each story into the other in this latest thriller that redefines Tempe Brennan while highlighting all the things readers, and now viewers, have come to love about her.

Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox
Crimson Lake, Australia, is where people often find themselves when they no longer fit into a traditional society.  Ted Conkaffey was a cop with a wife and a beautiful baby girl until he was accused of kidnapping and attacking a thirteen-year-old girl.  Though he was arrested, no charges were ever filed, but he continues to live his life under the stigma.  Little by little, his wife Kelly is letting Ted back into hers and their daughter’s lives, so much so that she will be entrusting Ted with their daughter while she goes to a conference for a week.  Amanda Pharrell is a young woman who, at the age of seventeen, became a convicted murder.  She has many odd behaviors, but she and Ted have formed and unusual PI partnership and have been successful in solving several crimes.  When a young boy goes missing from the hotel room where he and three of his friends are staying while their parents have dinner downstairs, his mother Sara, hires the unlikely pair to find her son.  The timing couldn’t be worse for Ted, but he knows a parent’s anguish.  As he and Amanda search alongside of the police, they run into some unsavory characters, and even turn to them to help locate the boy.  With strong characterizations, a rugged setting, and a tight plot, this series will appeal to fans of Jane Harper and C.J. Box.

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
When he first became a bookseller, Malcolm Kershaw wrote a blog post about eight mysteries that he felt had the best murders.  Years later, someone is committing murders mimicking these murders and the FBI wants to know what Malcolm knows about them.  When an agent begins to get too friendly with Malcolm, including him in too much of her investigation, things take an even stranger turn as they chase a killer from Massachusetts to Maine, where nothing is what it seems to be, and no one knows who could be next.  This brilliantly plotted mystery pays homage to the great murders in classic mystery fiction, while spinning a web of deceit and intrigue making it hard to know what to believe and who to trust.  For fans of Anthony Horowitz and classic murder mysteries.  

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
Patty Watts loved her daughter Rose Gold more than anything; how could she have poisoned her for so many years, keeping her so sick that could barely function without Patty; when Rose Gold figures out what has been going on, Patty is arrested for child abuse and sent to prison.  Now she is being released and Rose Gold has invited Patty to come and live with her and her infant son.  Patty is delighted to have her daughter back, and the baby is a bonus.  But from the beginning Patty feels uneasy about things: Rose Gold has purchased the house Patty grew up in, a house that holds terrible memories for Patty; other things begin not to add up and before long, Patty wonders if maybe Rose Gold learned too well from her mother.  Told in alternating narratives and in alternating time periods, Rose Gold and Patty’s stories unfold into something disturbing and diabolical from this debut author, a voice to watch in the crowded psychological thriller field. 

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore 
The women in this debut novel, set against the oil fields of 1976 Odessa, seek their own form of justice when a 14-year old girl, Gloria Ramirez is brutally assaulted; on the morning after Valentine’s Day, Gloria crawls her way to the porch of Mary Rose Whitehead, beaten and barely alive.  There doesn’t seem to be justice for women in this area of Texas, especially young women such as Gloria.  The women of the town form an alliance, protecting the young girl, and making sure the men of the town know that justice isn’t always something that is handed down in a court of law.  The narrative is told from various points of view, and explores many different social issues including race and class, issues that are still, sadly, relevant today.  How these women tell this story, and what they bring to it from their own lives, helps create a complete, if somewhat dark tale, but each provides strength to others, and ultimately to the community.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Everything is perfect---on schedule---in corporate lawyer Dannie Kohan’s life:  she has just landed the job of her dreams, has an apartment on Gramercy Square, and has just become engaged to David, the man with whom she is a perfect fit; then why on the night of her engagement does she dream of waking up five years later in a loft in Brooklyn with another man?  Over the next five years, Dannie and David continue living together, focusing on their careers, but never make time for marriage; all the while in the back of Dannie’s mind is her dream and that mysterious man.  Fast forward to June 2024: Dannie’s best friend Bella is back from Europe where she often lives a glamorous life with many lovers, and wants Dannie to meet her new boyfriend who turns out to be the man of Dannie’s dreams, literally.  When Bella introduces her boyfriend Greg, Dannie recognizes him as the man from her dream that was named Aaron, which is actually Greg’s first name.  Completely thrown off kilter, Dannie, who has told no one except her therapist about the dream isn’t sure what to do, especially when Bella announces she’s in love, and Greg is the one; when Bella receives unthinkable news, Dannie and Greg begin to form an alliance to help their friend.  While much of this sounds familiar, it feels fresh and new in Serle’s (The Dinner Party) capable hands, and there are some unexpected moments along the way.

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner
Lady Anne began her friendship with Queen Elizabeth II at an early age: she was a disappointment to her father as she was unable to inherit his estate, but quickly gained favor with the royal family as Maid of Honor at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, and Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret until her death.  As a confident of the Princess, she was privy to many personal events in the lives of the Royals, including romantic entanglements, family troubles and illnesses, and traveling to many locations, meeting many celebrities, all the while keeping the confidence of the royal family, and still keeping her sense of self, in this fresh memoir that will appeal to royal watchers and fans of The Crown alike. 

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Vanessa Wye is a sophomore at a boarding school in Maine and is having time making friends and finding her place; when her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, begins showing her some extra attention she is flattered and eventually believes she is in love as their relationship turns sexual.  When their relationship is threatened to be exposed, Vanessa leaves Browick, but remains in touch with Strane.  Almost twenty years later, Vanessa is approached by a reporter who tells her another student of Strane has accused him of sexual abuse and she would like Vanessa to corroborate the accusations; Vanessa, still believing Strane was the love of her life, begins to think back to their relationship and sees things in a little bit of a different light.  This powerful debut is smartly written, will strike a chord with many, and start much debate and discussion.

On the Corner of Hope and Main by Beverly Jenkins
Henry Adams, Kansas, a town originally founded by freed slaves is the setting for the tenth in the “Blessings” series.  It is election time and Trent July has decided that after four years as mayor, it’s time for him to do something else, and husband and wife Barrett and Sheila Payne are each funning for the sea.  Town owner Bernadine Brown, you really can buy everything on eBay, is surprised to see her ex-husband out of work with the oil company he worked for, now campaign manager, just as her romance with Malachi July is heating up again.   Small town antics and pettiness get in the way of the election, but the town’s younger set straightens everyone out and by the end, the community is strong, relationships are mended, and Henry Adams has a new mayor.  While it’s not necessary to start at the beginning of the series, which features small town closeness, rivalries, friendships and all the complications that come with it all, a first visit to Henry Adams is sure not to be the last.

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar
Forty-one-year-old Katherine Ross, the editor of a London magazine had a meteoric rise, but now she feels she is, at best stagnant, at worse, a dinosaur, especially when twenty-four-year-old Lily arrives as her new intern but is quickly given a lot of responsibility by her aunt, who is the new publisher of the magazine.  Instead of being able to take Lily under her wing, Katherine is reminded of what she once was and quickly becomes jealous as she sees Lily taking over much of her work, often publicly shaming Katherine, something Katherine feels may be intentional.  Before long, Lily has taken over many aspects of Katherine’s life, both at the magazine and in her personal life.  Told in alternating voices, secrets are exposed, plots revealed, all with irrevocable consequences for each woman in this tautly plotted debut thriller.

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben
This stand-alone from Coben pairs the unlikely duo of Wilde, a man who lives mostly off the grid in the woods in Ramapo Mountain State Forest (NJ) with his best friend’s mother, attorney Hester Crimstein, to search for a missing teenage girl.  Wilde was found as a child in the woods, alone, but with very good survival skills, and unexpected language abilities for someone living in the woods; unable to locate any parents or family, Wilde was place in a foster home, and eventually adopted, becoming best friends with David Crimstein, who has since died, and is the godfather of David’s son Matthew.  Matthew reaches out to his grandmother, retired from a high-profile law firm, now a talk show attorney, still tough as nails, when his friend, bullied classmate Naomi Pine goes missing.  Matthew wants to keep Naomi’s disappearance as quiet as possible, but when Crash, Matthew’s friend and one of Naomi’s tormenters disappears, as does Naomi a second time after she reappears, it is more serious, especially with a ransom note demanding money and the appearance of a finger.  Crash’s father, a TV producer, has a long, possibly criminal connection, to a political candidate, complete with videotapes that could spell the end for everyone.  At a rapid pace, kaleidoscopic images give way to a clear picture of murder, political intrigue, and long help family secrets all leading up to an ending with several unexpected, and mostly unseen, surprises coming.

Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman
Judy Vogel is lonely: she and her husband Gary are pretty much separated, owing in part to Gary’s high levels of anxiety, though they can’t afford to live separately and want to be in the house together for their 13-year-old son who has problems of his own and is in a Montessori middle school; her writing career stalled after one big picture book and a television deal, and her best friend is dying of cancer.  While cleaning out the basement, she finds the baby sling she never used for her son but begins using for her dog which offers her a little comfort, much in the same way that smoking pot helps calm Gary down.  Through couples’ therapy, puppet people staying at their house, and outright contempt at some of the things going on at Teddy’s school, Judy tries to hold it all together, struggles to make sense of it all, and keep her sense of humor all with a twenty pound sheltie strapped to her chest. 

The Bramble and the Rose by Tom Bouman
In northeastern Pennsylvania’s Wild Thyme Township, Henry Farrell is the law.  When a neighbor reports a headless body that has been mauled by a bear.  Farrell calls in support, including wildlife forensic specialist Mary Weaver, to help identify the man and learn if it was suicide, an accident, or murder.  The discovery of the head and learning the man was former law enforcement, leads everyone to the conclusion it was murder.  Henry has little time to investigate, however, as he becomes the prime suspect in his former lover’s murder and must hold his marriage together amidst the accusations.  His nephew Ryan’s disappearance adds to Henry’s list of things to do when all he’d prefer to be doing is fishing and solving neighborly disputes.  This is the third novel featuring the introspective Henry Farrell and the northern wonderland he calls home.  Well plotted with gorgeous prose, this series is a must for any mystery reader.

The Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman
For over fifteen years, the Core Four, Megan and Terry, Sarah and Doug, Alan and Amber, and Mitch and Jessica have done everything together: graduate college, get married, have children, buy houses, socialize, and now divorce.  Mitch and Jessica are the last of their friends to remain married, but begin to feel the pressure of divorce, and decide to take a good hard look at their marriage and do something to shore it up before it’s too late.  Jessica thinks that having sex with other people might be just the ticket: they set up rules which include no repeats.  When Jessica begins to get in deeper than she expected, things get messy and she and Mitch wonder if things really were good before and all of this wasn’t necessary.  This tender, smart novel explores what goes into a marriage, and serves as a reminder that marriages take work and care to be fulfilling.  Funny dialogue and pop-culture references for the older crowd make this a fast-paced, enjoyable read.

The Return by Rachel Harrison
Elise, Julie, Molly, and Mae were best friends in college, and have remained close, though Elise and Julie share a special bond.  After Julie and her husband purchase a remote inn in Maine, she disappears.  After two years and a memorial service, her friends accept that Julie will not return; all except for Elise who knows she would feel it if Julie were no longer alive.  Two years to the day Julie disappears, she reappears and the friends decide to organize a girls’ weekend to reunite with their friend.  Once together, Elise knows there is something wrong with Julie: she doesn’t look anything like she used to, she has a voracious appetite, including for meat, something that Julie would never have eaten before she disappeared, and the more she eats, the more emaciated she becomes.  Over the weekend it becomes clear that the Julie they’ve gotten back is not the same Julie who left them: but where has she been and who or what has she become?  This horror story is elevated to a new level with the complexities of the women’s relationships and the fierceness with which Elise wants Julie back, and the lengths to which she is willing to go to make that happen. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Cozy Up with these New Mysteries from Kensington…

Murder in an Irish Cottage by Carlene O’Connor
In the fifth Irish Village Mystery Series, Garda Siobhan O’Sullivan plans to spend her holiday with her five siblings in Kilbane, helping to run her family’s cafĂ©, named after their deceased mother, Namoi; her fiancĂ©, Macdara, is also a Garda, and when his cousin Jane calls for help, he and Siobhan, who is on holiday, go to Jane’s rural village where they find Ellen, Jane’s mother, dead, apparently smothered with a pillow, and perhaps poisoned by tea drunk from a nearby cup in the cottage that is scheduled to be demolished because the local villages insist the cottage, built on a local fairy path, is cursed.  The local Garda don’t take kindly to Siobhan and Macdara’s presence, but when a friend of theirs from school tells them that Ellen was far from the most popular person in the village, their suspect list increases exponentially.  The contrast and interplay between the more outgoing Siobhan, who isn’t ready to rule out Macdara’s cousin Jane as a suspect, and Macdara, who doesn’t want to think his cousin may have been involved in killer her mother, This Irish mystery is sure to charm readers new to the series as well as longtime fans, full of plenty of folklore, and a bit of fairy magic.

Death by Chocolate Frosted Donut Sarah Graves
Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree”, former Wall Street money manager, moved to Eastport, Maine over a decade ago after her bitter divorce, and hoping to get her son Sam away from the bad influences and friends he found in the city where she began to fix up her old house and, with the help of her friend Ellie, solved several murders.  Now Jake and Ellie run the Chocolate Moose, a chocolate bakery on the island, catering to locals and tourists, and currently, a host of pirates, young and old, during the town’s annual Pirate Festival.  In town for the festivities is Henry Hadlyme, an insufferable television food personality who likes nothing, including the Chocolate Moose.  After a very public argument with him, Hadlyme is found dead in the bakery’s basement, dead, run through with Jake’s husband’s sword, making her the prime suspect.  Though local police chief Bob Arnold is fairly certain Jake had nothing to do with the man’s death, she is still the prime suspect, and so Jake and Ellie fine themselves once again sleuthing, and before long, come up with a long list of other people, currently in Eastport, who are also not loosing much sleep over Hadlyme’s death.  Fans of Graves’s first long running series to feature Jake and Ellie, Home Repair is Homicide, will eat up this new series, focusing on the chocolate bakery, but with all the Northeast island charm they’ve come to know and love; readers new to Eastport will not be at a disadvantage, however.  Plenty of chocolate baked goods, impish pirates, and plenty of seafaring, including a mysterious ship firing on the town, add to this cozy mystery.

Statue of Limitations by Kate Collins
The author of the Flower Shop series returns with the first in an all new series with a gardening theme.  Recently divorced Athena returns to her coastal Michigan hometown with her son to work in her family’s garden center.  Alone in the center one night, Athena finds someone trying to steal a life-sized statue of the goddess Athena, claiming that it is his family’s, and that her grandfather had no right to buy it for his Greek restaurant.  Adding to her headaches, all the shops on Greene Street, where her family has their shop, are slated to be torn down to make room for more condos after the project was cancelled by the family’s patriarch, who then suddenly died.  A second murder makes Athena suspicious, and when her grandparents are approached by the developer sweetening the deal for them to sell, Athena kicks into high gear to save Little Greece and keep her family businesses thriving.  Blogging about her family’s antics, who do not realize they are the subjects of the entertaining blog, help Athena work out some of her frustrations and see things in a different light.  With delightful characters and a close-knit Greek community, fans of Collins’s last series will be delighted to see her back.

Murder Makes Scents by Christin Brecher
The second mystery to feature Nantucket candle maker Stella Wright finds Stella and her mom, Millie, a perfume expert, recently returned from a perfume conference in Paris where Millie wasn’t able to sit on the panel “The Art of Scent Extractions” as it was cancelled after a murder.  Back at home, Stella receives a note threatening her mother who the note’s writer claimed smuggled a secret fragrance formula out of Paris.  A host of zany characters at Stella’s cousin Airbnb, mixed in with the cast of locals, keeps things light as Stella searches for a trans-Atlantic killer as she is about to celebrate a milestone birthday.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

It's Leap Year!

Which means an extra day this year to read all the books coming out in February...

Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little
Film editor Marissa Dahl has had a string of less than stellar assignments, owing, perhaps to her quirky personality and behavior; she has a good eye for editing, though, and is hired as the replacement editor for legendary director Tony Rees on a film depicting the unsolved murder of a young starlet decades ago.  Marissa doesn’t learn much about the assignment other than it requires her to travel to Kickout Island, a small island off the coast of Delaware and a long non-disclosure agreement.  Once she arrives, she doesn’t learn much else about the production, other than it has been riddle with accidents, firings, and more rumors than she would normally expect on a movie set.  At the hotel she meets two teenage girls, Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, intent on solving the murder, drawing Marissa, who they realize can access “insider information” under the guise of research for work, into the investigation.  Full of movie references and industry gossip, this sophomore thriller intersperses a post-production podcast providing additional details into Marissa’s time in on the set and subsequent film references.

Mercy House by Alena Dillon
Sister Evelyn and like-minded nuns run Mercy House in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section.  Once known as a very dangerous section, Bed-Sty is slowly gentrifying, though not fast enough for some women suffering abuse.  Evelyn and the other nuns, who enjoy more freedoms since Vatican II, minister to these women, helping them in any way they can, giving them refuge, holding daily Reiki sessions, even hand holding through divorce and abortions, all of which are strictly forbidden by Canon Law.  When Bishop Hawkins arrives on their doorstep as part of a country-wide audit of orders of Religious Women, who realize they must live in the here and now if they are to truly help people, along with Evelyn’s soul searching and need to forgive herself, and the possibility of losing everything she has built over the year, makes this a realistic story with with broad appeal and book group potential.

All the Best Lies by Johanna Schaffhausen
Over a decade ago, FBI agent Reed Markham rescued a then   Now, that teenager is Ellery Hathaway, a policeman from Boston who has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation deeming her fit for duty.  Reed, having just learned that the man he thought was his adoptive father, State Senator Angus Markham, is actually his biological father and decides it’s time to investigate his mother’s murder, a crime that occurred over forty years ago with a young Reed, then Joey, lying in a crib in the next bedroom.  With a clear calendar for the foreseeable future, Ellery agrees to travel to Las Vegas, where the crime occurred, with Reed to discover what happened to Camilla.  At first, Reed gets a lot of cooperation from the local law enforcement, but soon gets pushback, though he’s not sure if they don’t want their resources going to a decades old murder, or if someone knows something they want to hide.  One thing is clear, what Reed learns along the way is enough to destroy certain people and the lives they’ve created for themselves, including his own.  At the same time, Ellery’s long estranged father is reaching out to her and she must decide if she is willing to let him back into her life, and for how long.  A growing relationship adds to tensions between Reed and Ellery as they each struggle to overcome their pasts and shape their futures.  This outstanding second entry into a series with strong, complex, compelling characters will appeal to fans of Julie Keller. 
teen aged Abby Hathaway from a killer.

The Holdout by Graham Moore
Ten years ago, an LA jury acquitted Bobby Nock, an African American teacher of killing his 15-year-old student Jessica Silver, with whom he was having an affair.  Maya Seale, now a defense attorney was the only original not guilty vote, and was able to convince her fellow jurors to acquit.  Now, the jurors are reassembling for a docuseries on the case and fellow juror Rick claims to have evidence refuting their verdict, even though Jessica’s body has never been found. Rick’s body is found in Maya’s hotel room and she becomes the number one suspect and not investigates with all the zeal of an attorney in order to clear her name.  Told in the present through Maya’s eyes, and in the past by each juror, this legal thriller has plenty of twists and turns, and drawn out tension until the very end. 

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
At the stroke of midnight each New Year’s Eve, beginning in 1982 as she is about to turn nineteen, Oona Lockhart leaps to a different age, which she will be for one year, until she makes the next leap.  Her first leap is into 2015 when she is 51…but in her mind, she knows she is still nineteen, trying to decide whether she should go on tour with her band and boyfriend Dale, or move to London and continue her studies.  In 2015, Oona has no idea which she chose, and spends the year of her first leap trying to settle into her new life, a life which her mother and her friend and confidant Kenzie have reached chronological; knowing what has happened with Oona along the way, they try to ease her into her current reality without causing too much shock.  Just as Oona is set in 2015, the ball drops again and she leaps into another year.  Eventually, Oona gets the hang of leaping, and tries to enjoy being a club-hopping party girl in one year, and the wife of a struggling restaurateur the next.  Each year, Oona writes herself a note before her leap, hoping she can be her best self in the next year, knowing it probably won’t happen.  Oona learns to handle her fate with grace and humor, and learns to lean on her mother and Kenzie, accepting what they will and won’t tell her.  Oona is a heartfelt character readers will fall in love with as she navigates her fate; she learns to look forward to her future, even if it is really her past.

No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez
On the way home to her family one rainy night, veterinarian Cassie Larkin sees a man attacking a woman on the side of the road; Cassie calls 911 and then jumps out of her car to help the woman with little disregard for her own safety. The attacker threatens Cassie to leave the woman alone, and then steals Cassie’s car.  Cassie is shaken as the attacker has her car and can find where she and her husband Sam live with their two children Leo and Audrey.  The next night, Sam is trick-or-treating with Audrey, calls Cassie and says “we need to talk” and then disappears.  It seems to Cassie Sam has been having an affair and wants out of their marriage; but then threats begin, and someone is very close to her family, but why and who, has something against Cassie, she cannot fathom.  One thing is clear, Carver Sweet hates her: but who is he, and why does he hate Cassie so much?  Desperate, Cassie turns to her somewhat estranged father Red who provides the answers Cassie needs to locate her husband and children, and to unlock a past that has been kept well hidden.  This well paced-plot slowly reveals the necessary details until everything falls into place for Cassie, a strong protagonist, who summons everything she has to save her family.

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West
Helicopter Mom Julia Abbott lives for her children in the upscale neighborhood of Liston Heights, Minnesota; all her energies and activities are channeled toward her children, so much so that when she pops into school to see if her son Andrew has made the cast list for the upcoming musical, she accidentally elbows a student which is, of courses caught on a phone and goes viral, sending Julia into a downward spiral.  English teacher Isobel Johnson is loved by the students, but not so much by the parents; Isobel’s progressive curriculum pushes the envelope with the conservative community as she explores social issues such as the motherhood penalty, white savior complex, and explores queer theory alongside The Great Gatsby.  A pop-up Facebook group for parents of Liston Heights High gives the parents an open forum to complain about teachers, and each other, proving that it’s not just the students who can be the mean girls in high school.  West lets no one off the hook as she explores parents, school administrators, and teachers, all profess to have the best interests of the children at heart, but who, under a microscope are all being pulled in many directions, not all of which align with the students’ needs.  A frank portrait of an elite high school and its community shown through the eyes of the adults. 

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day
As a child, Alice Fine was kidnapped from her backyard, but rescued within 24-hours by her policeman father who immediately moved his family to Chicago where he joined his family construction firm; Alice hasn’t forgotten the ordeal and feels there is something she knows about her kidnapping that is just out of her reach and volunteers for the Doe Pages, a site dedicated to finding missing people hoping to remember an important piece of her past.  When she recognizes the man she believes to be her kidnapper as a recent missing person post, Alice knows it’s time to step up her search.  At the same   time, Merrily Cruz is searching for a man she knows as her not-quite-step-father.  When Alice and Merrily’s searches and paths ross, old lies and secrets are revealed and the two must detangle a web of deception that has been been with them almost their entire lives in this twisty thriller, the latest from Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark winner Rader-Day.

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
Seventeen-year-old Juniper Whitman and her family, mother, Julie, step-father Brad, and younger sister Lily, have moved to the Oak Knoll neighborhood in North Carolina; they had, what the neighbors consider, an extravagant house built on a lot they cleared, to the distress of their backyard neighbor Valerie Alston-Holt, all the trees, and possibly have damaged her oak tree in the process: an oak tree that becomes a metaphor for her son Xavier.  Julie, who came from a poor background, and was a single mother for almost ten years, often seems almost grateful to Brad for choosing her; Brad is gregarious and outgoing, the owner of a successful HVAC company he built from the ground up, but he has an edge to him, such as mistaking Xavier, who is half-black, as a hired hand when Brad sees him cleaning up his yard, which his family either fails to see or overlooks.  Juniper, who has taken a pledge of purity, and Xavier are drawn to each other, a relationship they keep from the Whitmans; when Valerie sues Brad Whitman and the company that built his house over her dying oak tree, things Brad’s true personality emerges, and things spiral out of control to the point of no return. Family dynamics are complicated, relationships with neighbors are complicated, and many social issues are touched upon: ecology, modern day race relations, and sexual harassment, in this first modern day novel from Fowler; back stories and commentary is provided by a first person plural narrator, much like a Greek chorus, claiming to represent the neighborhood.  Fans of Jodi Picoult and Southern family fiction will enjoy this; book groups will find a lot to discuss.

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough
Marcie is Jason Maddox’s second wife and knows how hard it is to be accepted into the elite social crowd of Georgia, all the while under the scrutiny of the legacy Southern belles, yet she can’t help but feel a little superior to Keisha when her husband, William Radford, many years her senior, returns from London with his new bride.  Marcia begins to suspect Jason and Keisha have a mutual attraction and befriends Keisha if for no other reason, than to keep an eye on her.  Keisha has her own agenda, encouraged by a ragtag assortment of relatives, con men and voodoo women, and very few people are surprised when William is found near death.  The surprise comes when they learn who else is a suspect in the attack, and who sides with whom, all leading up to a final evil twist that some readers might think they see coming, but as with Pinborough’s earlier novels, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
What begins as a quiet story of a vacation in paradise turns deadly when a teenage girl’s body is found in a cay and two local men arrested, but then quickly released; years later in New York, Alison’s sister Claire searches for answers as to what happened to her sister on the island and learns more about the sister she realizes she never really knew as she follows one of the men arrested in connection with her sister’s disappearance..  This family drama slowly draws readers in as a search for the truth that turns into an obsession.  This debut novel will be hard to put down, but it deserves to be read slowly so as not to miss a thing. 

Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge
Late one night, Aidan Poole is Skyping with his girlfriend Zoe when he hears sounds of a struggle off screen.  Aidan is desperate to learn what has happened to Zoe, but delays in calling the police and reports the incident anonymously.  Detective Jonah Sheens is suspicious from the very beginning and wants to find out who reported the incident certain it will lead to a suspect.  As the police investigate, they uncover many suspects who might have killed Zoe in a fit of passion or in a jealous rage.  The months leading up to her murder are told from her point of view, exploring the relationship between her and Aidan, her roommate and best friend, Maeve and Angeline, and a co-worker Victor who was carrying a torch for Zoe.  As each person and their relationship with Zoe is revealed, it becomes even more unclear who may have murdered her.  The narrative is effective, told in alternating timelines, making a good case for several suspects, but only one was crafty enough to almost get away with murder.  This sophomore effort from Lodge is every bit as compelling as her first thriller, She Lies in Wait. 

For more great titles, check out