Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Just Jennifer

There's still a few weeks left this summer to read some great books...

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny 
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache may have retired from the Quebec Sûreté, but cannot stay away completely when he takes a job as the head of the Sûreté Academy, much to the surprise of his wife and friends, as many of his detractors and even enemies are employed there as well.  Hoping to spark the interest of four cadets that Gamache is afraid he may lose, especially Amelia Choquet, a cadet Armand has a special affinity for, in spite of her poor attitude and the tattoos that cover her body, he brings them to Three Pines where a mysterious map has been found in the wall of the bistro and asks them to decipher the clues and read the map of the area, and perhaps learn why Three Pines is perpetually left off published maps.  A closed room murder at the academy casts suspicion on all the cadets and instructor, but strangest of all, a copy of the map from the bistro is found with the dead body.  Little by little, more is revealed about the Surete Academy, Three Pines, Amelia and even Gamache, as this series continues to be one of the best realized in both sense of place and person. 

Behind Closed Doors by PA Paris 
Grace has taken over the responsibility for her younger sister Millie who has Down’s syndrome but will be leaving her school to come and live with Grace within the year.  Having this responsibility, Grace is shocked that a man as handsome as Jack not only falls in love with her but seemingly with Millie as well, offering to make a home for both of them.  While on their honeymoon in Thailand Grace realizes there is a dark and terrifying side to Jack, a side of his personality that she never anticipated, one that is cruel and sadistic.  Jack holds Millie’s safety as a threat over Grace to control Grace as she desperately seeks a means to escape the nightmare that has become her life, a life few believe when she tries to tell them as Jack has carefully crafted a façade that paints Gras as vulnerable and even unstable in this compulsively readable chilling tale.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbola Mbue
Jende Jonga emigrated from Cameroon to the US and is living in Harlem with his wife Neni and son.  Jende has just gotten a job as chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive and Neni is enrolled in college, working for the Edwards in the Hamptons during the summer: all things seem hopeful for the Jongas.  Until the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  As the Edwards carefully constructed life begins to crack and crumble, the Jonga’s find themselves doing things, independent of each other, things that they never imagined themselves, or each other doing.  Confronted with the harsh realities of life in America, the Jongas make an incredibly difficult, bittersweet decision, but on Jende feels he and his family can live with and in the long run, will be better off with in this modern take of the search for the American Dream.

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
Sean Jackson is turning fifty and feels at the top of his game: he has made a fortune in the London real estate market and has women practically falling at his feet, to the displeasure of his second wife.  The weekend long party Sean plans for himself begins with his ex-wife dropping off his teenage daughters unexpectedly and ends with the disappearance of one of his three year old twins.  Who is never found.  Twelve years and two wives later, Sean is dead and as his family, and those who were at his fateful party weekend reassemble to pay their respects secrets, jealousies and accusations begin to come out and one of Sean’s older girls Mila, finds shocking clues to the disappearance of her younger half-sister, but when the truth finally comes out can she trust the people telling her that what she learns is the entire truth and who is the real monster and who is truly to blame?  As dysfunctional as they come, the families that Sean Jackson creates will suffer because of his ego, some of them to the point of ego in this psychological thriller that has a touch of Marwood’s sardonic humor and some chilling characters the likes of which we can hope to never encounter.

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs
Annie Rush appears to have it all: she is producing the cooking show she always dreamt of (though she had dreams of being the star), she is married to a great man---who also happens to be one of the co-hosts of her show (though lately things haven’t been going so well in their marriage) and she just realized she’s pregnant (but she’s not quite sure she’s ready for a baby).  All at once, her life is turned topsy-turvy and Annie is involved in an accident, waking up a year later from a coma with a long road to recovery and a lot of things to remember.  Instead of LA, she wakes up near her hometown of Switchback, Vermont where her family has been producing maple syrup for years.  Annie isn’t even aware she is married at first and concentrates on her recovery under the care of her divorced mother and father, brother and sister-in-law, four nieces and nephews and the high-school-boyfriend, now judge, she left behind.  Slowly, Annie regains her memory, with a few surprises along the way, and in the process of regaining her life she learns she is now divorced and begins to reevaluate the choices she made and decides that this time she is going to be the one really making the decisions…but can she have everything she wants?  A timeless story that once again reaffirms the power of family to heal and that time worn adage, you CAN go home, but Annie makes sure it is for her reasons and not someone else's.

Sorrow Road by Julia Keller
Acker’s Gap, West Virginia is besieged by snow storm after snow storm and prosecuting attorney Bel Elkin’s daughter Carla has called Bel abruptly and said she is leaving Washington, D.C. where she has lived to be near her father since high school and is coming home.  Bel is worried about Carla on the slippery roads especially when she learns that a law school friend has been killed in an accident just hours after she met with bell and asked Bel to look into the death of her father at a local nursing home Thornapple Terrace where other Alzheimer patients have been dying at an alarming rate.  Bel becomes suspicious and looks into the deaths as her daughter, who is being very secretive about her return takes a job collecting oral histories from rural West Virginia, including the nursing home in question.  A parallel story of three young friends in 1938 who join the Navy six years later has startling connections to the modern day deaths.  Acker’s Gap is filled with exceptional characters, especially Bel who has many demons from her past, demons she is hoping she didn’t pass on to her daughter, demons that she hopes do not cause her to give up a relationship she cherishes more than she will admit to herself.  The plot drags a little in places and isn’t as tight as past entries in this series, nonetheless, a visit to Acker’s Gap is always welcomed. 

The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood
Unsure of what to do after her husband of 25-years leaves her, Ava joins a local book group, the members of which are choosing the book that matters most to them for their monthly selections.  As Ava works her way, grudgingly at first, through the selections and through her grief, she is unaware that her daughter has left her art program in Venice and is living in Paris, having fallen into some bad circumstances.  Though Ava begins to heal she is still haunted by her mother’s death when Ava was a young child and the book that that matters most to Ava, a book that proves to have healing powers that far exceed any reasonable expectations in this book that takes a woman from loss and desperation to joy and hope, making this a book that will surely be the book that matters most to future readers. 

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
Be prepared to be charmed: after accidentally setting fire to the exclusive Boston dinner club where she is the chef, Olivia Rawlings escapes to Guthrie, Vermont where her best friend is living.  Offered a job at the Sugar Maple Inn, Livvy decides to stay for a while, navigating the local town and sorting out her life, a life that has been marked by running away from things.  In Guthrie Livvy rediscovers the simple joys of a perfectly baked apple pie, playing her banjo and the big heartedness of friends who become family as Livvy discovers the life she is meant to leave, even if it isn’t the life she thought she’d live.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
Anne and Marco Conti are certain their infant daughter Cara will be safe at home while they attend a small dinner party next door, especially if they take turns checking on her every half hour.  But when they return at home the end of the night, Cora is missing and Anne and Marco are suspects, especially Anne who has been struggling with post-partum depression.  As the investigation begins to unfold, secrets about each other, their families and even their next door neighbors emerge creating a baffling crime with many unseen twists and turns that ends with a final shocking and unexpected desperate act.

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
Told in alternating voices and decades, the glamourous world of the Barbizon Hotel during the 1950’s is brought to life by a present day reporter whose life in the hotel, now condos, is falling apart.  As Rose becomes obsessed with a story that involves hotel resident, Darby McLaughlin, who came to Manhattan to attend secretarial school in 1952 and stayed, she becomes wrapped up in a suspicious death involving Darby and a maid, the truth about which when revealed may change everything for everyone, or may change nothing, fading away quietly into history.

With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel
Grace Bradshaw has lived with the knowledge that the state will determine the date and time of her death.  Grace is on death row, having been convicted of the murder of her infant son almost twenty years ago.  It has been almost twelve years (eleven years, five months and twenty-seven days) since she last heard her daughter’s Sophie’s voice, but it is the memories of Sophie and the hope of reconciliation that keeps Grace going.  After the death of her father, Sophie gave up the visits to her mother, trying to put the tragedies of her life behind her to create a new life, one that doesn’t include a mother convicted of murdering her baby brother.  And she succeeds: she is married to a successful plastic surgeon who is devoted to her as is his family, and her past is safely behind her until her mother runs out of appeals and the date of her execution is set: February 15.  Wrestling with her own demons, Sophie returns to her hometown and past where she finds evidence that may exonerate her mother if it is not too late.  Even if it is too late, Sophie must decide if it’s not too late to reconcile with her mother and if she does, at what cost to Sophie’s present life will it be.  As Grace spends her last weeks writing to Sophie, trying to shed light on what happened, Sophie fights for the mother she gave up on, trying to forgive her mother and herself for the past decade.  Mothers and daughters, the families we are born into and the families we create, our stories and our histories are all neatly woven into this compassionate, haunting story.

No comments: