In the follow up to the debut Bull Mountain, Sheriff Clayton Burroughs is struggling with the aftermath of not only taking down his brothers’ illegal mountain enterprises, but killing them as well. As Burroughs deals with the guilt o this, he is also trying to be a good husband and a new father at almost forty years old. Wanting nothing to do with the empire his brother built, he finds himself drawn back in as another family wants to take over the operations and use Bull Mountain as a safe and protected thoroughfare for their drug trade. Dangerous, violent, and heart-breaking all at once, readers may suspect what is coming, but the final sentence of the book offers big impact, shifting the kaleidoscope, making all the difference
They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall
This attempted homage to Agatha’s Christie’s And Then There Were None falls a little short, but provides some frightening moments, and enough tension for a quick light read. Miriam Macy has fallen far: her husband has left her and is remarried to their daughter’s dance teacher; she has lost her job, and has been involved in some incidents that cause the police to call her on a regular basis. Miriam is not the least bit surprised when the forty-five year old receives an e-mail to participate in a reality television show: she and six other people, a promiscuous widow, an ex-policeman, an obnoxious attorney, a chef with a drug problem, a financial advisor, and a nurse with no bedside manner, receive invitations to fly to Mexico, from where they will be transported to a remote island to vie for a grand prize. Miriam is glad to be away from her daily woes, her arguments with her husband and his new wife, and the text her seventeen-year-old daughter sent her: I hate you. Once on the island, though, there seems to be no reality show, the only thing the group has in common is they’ve all used attorney Phillip Omeke. As each of her fellow “contestants” begin to die, Miriam stops thinking about herself, winning the prize, and survival. A backstory that is slowly revealed provides some context and a bit of interest to this otherwise lackluster thriller, but doesn’t make Miriam any more likable as a character.
Cape May by Chip Cheek
In September 1957, newlyweds Henry and Effie come to Cape May from Georgia for their honeymoon. Cape May is not how Effie remembers it from her summers as a child and the pair plan to leave early until they meet Clara and her friends. This sophisticated, sensual group of people unleashes feelings in both Effie and Henry that they never could have imagined. What happens in during the following week changes Effie, Henry, and the course of their marriage forever, in this novel that explores what love is: what it means to be loved, to love, as well as faithfulness and fidelity, and innocence lost. Smart and sexy, with sophisticated, eloquent prose; plenty for book groups to discuss.
Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault by Cathy Guisewite
For thirty-four years, the award winning comic strip “Cathy” entertained readers with the ups and downs, perils, joys and heartbreaks of single womanhood. In this collection of essays of varying lengths, Guisewite turns her pen to words and to her life as she talks about the decision to adopt her daughter as a single mother, her brief marriage, and what it’s like to age somewhat less than gracefully, facing indignities such as your feet growing a full size seemingly overnight, facing a closet full of clothes in which nothing fits, and trying on clothes in a dressing room, a tiny, young, attractive woman standing watch. She also addresses the struggles of being part of the sandwich generation as she tries to help her aging parents who don’t want nor think they need her help. In the vein of Nora Ephron or Erma Bombeck, but with a voice all her own, this collection will become beloved to longtime fans of “Cathy”.
The Editor by Steven Rowley
When James Smale’s first novel is purchased by Doubleday, he is over the moon; when the young gay fifty thingswriter realizes his editor is to be none other than Jackie O. he cannot contain himself. Growing up, James’s mother adored the Kennedy’s, though James had a difficult relationship with both his parents. This becomes apparently obvious to Mrs. Onassis as she reads James’s novel and all but sends him home to reconcile with his mother and, with a little luck, find a new ending to his novel. Once home, James uncovers family secrets that will not only rewrite the ending to his novel, but to his entire life. Rowley mines the depths of family relationships, especially mothers and sons, and uses Jackie O. as a touchstone for James as he works his way through his new reality. A fun portrayal of the former first lady turned editor caps off what could be a maudlin story and keeps it from becoming bogged down in family drama.
Under the Table by Stephanie Evanovich
Zoey Sullivan has left Ohio and her unhappy marriage to start over in Manhattan living with her little sister while she gets her catering business started. A job catering a dinner party for wealthy computer nerd from St. Croix, Tristan Malloy will help her bottom line and open up new opportunities, Zoe hopes. What she doesn’t expect is to fall into such an easy friendship with Tristan who is good looking, but dorky and could use some help with his social graces as well. Zoey offers to give him a makeover, not realizing that as he is turning into the new man about town, she is falling hard for him. This light, romantic, reverse Pygmalion story is perfect fare for the start of spring.
The Better Sister by Alafair Burke
Chloe Taylor seems to have it all: a handsome husband who is a partner in a prestigious Manhattan law firm, a step-son who seems to have it together, and a career at a print magazine that most women would kill for in the current digital age. Chloe has an interesting backstory, however: she is the younger sister of her husband Adam’s ex-wife Nicky, who is the mother of Chloe’s step-son Ethan. Chloe and Nicky have been estranged for over fourteen years, but the murder of Adam at the couple’s East Hampton beach brings Nicky, who is still Ethan’s legal parent, to Manhattan and back in the forefront of Chloe’s life. Nicky has gotten her life together in the past decade, but is still a bit of a flake, in Chloe’s opinion, but when Ethan is arrested for the murder of his father, Nicky springs into action as only a mother can, and has a legal right to do so, in many cases. With their love and concern for Ethan as their common ground, the two sisters find their way back to each other, but as they do, secrets hidden for many years begin to emerge, shifting the kaleidoscope, revealing an entirely different picture. Well written, though with only one outcome, fans Lisa Scottoline, and of family dramas and legal battles will enjoy this standalone novel.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Miracle Creek, Virginia has almost nothing going for it. Korean immigrants Pak and Young Yoo have immigrated there from Seoul with their daughter Mary and operated a hyperbaric oxygen chamber that offers therapeutic relief from conditions ranging from infertility to autism. A fire in one of the oxygen tanks causes a fatal explosion killing on of the patient’s mothers and one of the young boys, Henry, who was being treated for autism. One year later, Henry’s mother is on trial for the fire and seems resigned to the fact that she will be convicted, and at times reveals herself to be relieved that her son has died. As the trial unfolds, the patients who were present that evening and the Yoos begin to tell their stories to each other and to the court creating a much different picture of what occurred that evening. Kim’s debut is rich in characterization and complex plot, but she deftly weaves all loose ends together, no matter how far-fetched or coincidental incidents seem at the time, into such a complex picture, expressing the malleability of the truth, what it means to be a parent, especially a mother, and what it means to be a stranger in a strange land, even when it is the land of your birth.
The Light Years by Chris Rush
Growing up in a privileged Catholic family in New Jersey with an alcoholic father and a mother who is rather vague where her seven children were concerned, artist, designer Chris was in the middle and spent much of his pre-teen years trying to figure out where he fit in. He knew he was not like his other brothers, his sixteen-year-old sister Donna became a kindred spirit, introducing him to a world of drugs and the freer, alternative lifestyle of the late sixties. Chris is sent to an all-boys Catholic boarding school after he hears his father say he might be “queer” and is bullied, and then expelled. His next “art” boarding school suits him better, but again, it is not for him. He travels across the United States to be with Donna in Tucson, but ends up having to hitchhike and almost ends up dead. Chris focuses on his pre-teen and teenage years in this honest, raw memoir, which is sometimes very uncomfortable as he bounces from school to school, from family to sister, in search of his true self, and a place to call home and in which he can be himself and comfortable as himself.