Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
Mike and Verity have a very intense, bordering on dangerous , relationship, playing a game called “Crave” in which Verity makes Mike jealous by letting another man hit on her, especially at a bar, fingers the silver eagle necklace her gave her, and then he swoops in, literally, to save her. But now Mike sits in a prison cell, awaiting trial for murder; his barrister has Mike write his account of the relationship with Verity, leading up to the murder. Slowly, a story of obsession emerges, but on whose part? Mike is certain that Verity’s announcement she is getting married after his two years spent, at her request, in America, is just one big Crave: why else would she have invited him to the wedding? Is Mike the predator or the prey? This twisty psychological thriller, unusual in that there is an unreliable male narrator, will have readers guessing until the very end…and beyond. A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
A group of Brooklyn mothers all giving birth in May have formed a group to offer support and give advice in the days leading up to the births of their babies, and in the weeks following, assuring everyone they are not alone. In the midst of record breaking July heat, the women decide they need a night out on the fourth of July; they especially encourage the single mother among them, Winnie, who they feel needs the night out more than any of them. Nell arranges for her babysitter to watch Winnie’s son Midas so the group can spend the evening letting off a little steam. Winnie, nervous leaving Midas for the first time, has a webcam app on her phone to keep an eye on her son; Nell erases the app so Winnie will stop watching Midas and have a little fun. The evening out quickly turns to disaster when Alma calls hysterical saying that Midas is gone. What follows is a carefully plotted thriller as the police search to locate Midas; each woman’s life is carefully examined, their secrets revealed in this honest, frank look at the mommy culture and all the pressures that come along with being a new mother, as women struggle to be all things to everyone, including themselves. Book groups will find many topics to discuss in this original twist on the suburban, psychological thriller with a lot of depth, and an ending that surprises but makes all the pieces that were there all along quickly fall into place. A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org
House Swap by Rebecca Fleet
Caroline and Francis decide to house swap for holiday this year rather than traveling to France; they leave Leeds to spend a week in the suburbs of London, and hope that the time away from their son, their jobs, and everything else will help set their marriage on the road to recovery after Caroline had an affair with a co-worker. Once in the house things are not as smooth as they had hoped: Francis is still Francis, and Caroline still had the affair. Slowly, Caroline notices there are “reminders” or her affair everywhere: flowers her lover bought for her, “their” song playing on a CD, and she realizes that the person with whom they swapped the house has a hidden agenda and wonders what kind of danger she has put them in, or what kind of danger her family home four hours away, might be in. Slowly, Caroline begins to realize that this house swap was anything but random, and that someone is menacing her, but to what end? This domestic thriller shirts back and forth between the present and the past and tells the story from various points of view, until the final shocking secret is revealed.
Wicked River by Jenny Milchman
Natalie and Doug Larson’s honeymoon goes terribly wrong, but Natalie doesn’t realize how wrong until it is almost too late. Doug has convinced his new bride that a weeklong canoe trip through six million acres of the Adirondack’s is the perfect way for them to celebrate their love for each other and to become even closer. Natalie, a city girl, is unsure, but wants to please Doug and agrees. Their adventure takes a turn for the worst when they become lost and are without their GPS; Natalie and Doug struggle to survive as they try to make their way out of the deep forest in which they are the only humans. But the woods are not uninhabited as the couple believes them to be; there is something evil hiding around each turn in the river and a mad man, whose agenda is known only to him, seems to befriend him until he wants to hurt them. This chilling plot will leave you breathless, slowly creeping up on you with Jenny Milchman’s deceptive prose as she describes the lush forest and the clear river alongside pure evil. Nuanced characters and a wicked fast-paced ride down the rapids as Natalie and Doug fight to survive in the wilderness, and Natalie struggles to understand what her new husband has been keeping from her will keep you riveted until the exciting conclusion.
Little Disasters by Randall Klein
In the heat of the summer, an unnamed incident in midtown Manhattan shuts down the subway system, and essentially, the entire island as two men try to return home to Brooklyn to their families and women they love. Michael, married to cookie entrepreneur Rebecca, has been having an affair with Jenny since just after the couples met in the maternity ward at the hospital. The two were supposed to meet at the northern end of Manhattan at the Cloisters, but Jenny texted Michael at the last minute she couldn’t come, so Michael begins his long trek to Brooklyn, his wife and son. Paul, Jenny’s partner, is under the East River when the subways stop and must first surface and make it to the island before beginning his trek home. The narrative flows easily between the year earlier when the two couples were waiting expectantly for the birth of their children, the tragedy that followed, the events that brought the couples together, eventually leading to the affair, leading up to Michael and Paul’s trips on the hottest summer day, back to lives that are much different than they expected. Told from various points of view, the reader doesn’t necessarily get the full picture until all parties have weighed in. This keenly observed domestic story is a strong debut that should be well-received.
My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley
David Hedges was married to Julie Fiske thirty years ago, but they decided they’d be better as friends than as husband and wife. David moved to San Francisco and though he is living in an enviable apartment with an even more enviable low rent, he finds himself at a low point in his life: his boyfriend has left him for an older man, his job helping the uber-rich children get into college is now grating on his nerves, he has gained a little bit of weight, and he has just learned that the aforementioned great apartment is being sold out from under him. Julie is running an illegal Airbnb on the coast in Massachusetts and is trying to get together enough money to buy her soon-to-be second ex-husband out while dealing with her surly teenage daughter Mandy, so who can blame her if she smokes a little too much pot? Her ex and his new girlfriend want Mandy to come live with them feeling Mandy needs more structure in her senior year before college; without thinking, Mandy, who has recently learned of her mother’s first ex-husband, blurts out that David is helping her with her college applications. Mandy, who is on the cusp of doing something really stupid, reaches out to David, she indicates that it might be a good idea if he came east for a visit, and given his current situation, why not? Julie is surprised to see David on her doorstep, but before long, the three have settled into an easy routine. David and Julie as comfortable with each other as they were thirty years ago, as they learn ways to help each other reclaim their lives. This elegantly written, keenly observed novel of manners in the 21st century is generous, funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking as it delves into family and relationships in all their various forms.
Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin
An woman, unnamed until the end of the book, has befriended, under the guise of being his daughter, a 61-year-old photographer, Carl Feldman, who is living in an assisted living home, diagnosed with dementia, and accused, though acquitted, of being a serial murderer. The young woman is convinced that Feldman is responsible for her sister Rachel’s disappearance twelve years ago and has been obsessed with Feldman, confronting him, and making him confess. Using his photographs as proof that he murdered young women, the narrator springs Feldman from the home and takes him on a driving tour of Texas, tracing the dead women, and leading up to Rachel’s disappearance. The two strike an unusual bond during their trip and Feldman ends up helping the woman more than he thought he could with a very surprising ending for each. A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org
Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane
Life behind the doors of a sorority house often gives the appearance of perfection: but look a little deeper and you’ll find insecurities, petty squabbles, and even hatred, just like anywhere else. Margot is dead and this debut follows members of an unnamed New England sorority through the times before and after her death, focusing on several young women, but also bringing in the “Greek chorus” in some chapters as the story unfolds. One young woman tells her affecting story of her dying mother and the lasting effects that had on her; another young woman, the anorexic, hides the relationship she had with another, more seemingly together woman with whom she was best friends for much of her childhood, and a father brings his newly pregnant mistress to meet his daughter. Each individual episode reads like a disparate short story, Margot’s death connecting them all, bringing to light the uncertainty, pressure, and stress of pledging a sorority. This novel never looks away from the pain that is often under the veneer of these young women as they attempt to belong to something much bigger and lasting, or so they think, than themselves as individuals.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Harriet “Hal” Westaway is one overdue notice from financial ruin: she is late on her rent, utilities, and the repayment on the loan she made with a less than reputable source. Her tarot business on the Brighton Pier does well, but not well enough to support her meager lifestyle. A letter from a solicitor informing her she is a beneficiary to her recently deceased grandmother’s will is a shock: Hal believes both her Westaway grandparents have been dead for years and she knows of no others. But, the windfall could help to put her back on track with her finances and if the solicitor thinks she is an heir, who is she to argue. She travels to Trepssan House in Cornwall where she meets her uncles for the first time, and an elderly housekeeper who is less than pleased to meet the newest relative. The more Hal learns about her “family” and its history and the history of the house, the less she wants to be connected to it, but she still feels a strong draw and connection, if she can only figure it out before she loses her life. This gothic mystery is deliciously creepy and spine-tingling with a strong protagonist and a surprising outcome. A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org
Reality television, sibling rivalry, women entrepreneurs, and social consciousness all play a part in Jessica Knoll’s second novel. Reality television star Brett is dead, and her sister Kelly, new to the cast of Goal Diggers, tells the story of Brett’s life and death to Jesse, part of the crew, sparing no details about their fellow cast members. Brett the youngest cast member, unashamed of her less than perfect body, and gay, is the driving force behind SPOKE, spinning classes that donates a bicycle to young women in Morocco who must often walk more than ten miles for clean water, often getting attacked on the way. Kelly, a single mother with a business savvy and precious twelve-year-old daughter has come into the business, hoping to add yoga studios, and ultimately herself to the Goal Diggers cast. In between the interview, different case members tell their stories and of their relationships with Brett: Stephanie Simmons, a best-selling author, struggles with depression, and her less than perfect marriage; Jen has made her name with a juice bar and vegan lifestyle but craves, and indulges in, turkey bacon; dating website designer Lauren may not have it as together as she appears to. As each woman’s response to the pressures of constantly being in the spotlight is explored, their facades begin to crack, and jealousies, some petty, some not so, come to light, making the final revelation of Brett’s death and the events surrounding it a surprise, in this look at reality television culture. A LibraryReads selection www.libraryreads.org