Saturday, May 25, 2019

Start Your Summer Reading List...

With these books coming in June:

The Perfect Fraud by Ellen LaCorte
Even though she has never really felt she has “the gift”, upon getting her degree in English Claire Hathaway decides to follow in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps and gives readings, fake to be sure, at Mystical Haven in Sedona, Arizona.  Distanced from her mother, not only geographically, her father’s final stroke and subsequent death brings Claire back to Pennsylvania and her mother, a reunion that awakens Claire’s physic abilities.  A chance meeting of Rena and her daughter Stephanie on the plane home sets Claire on an entirely new course.  Rena and Stephanie are going to see a doctor in Arizona who Rena hopes will bring her young daughter relief from her undiagnosed, lifelong chronic illness. Chapters are told in alternating voices and sympathies switch between Claire and Rena.  This is not an easy thriller, but the characters are so complex and the contrasts to stark it is worth the effort.

And don't miss author Ellen LaCorte at the Headquarters Library on Tuesday July 30th at 7 pm.  Click here to sign-up: 
Those People by Louise Candlish
British author Candlish is not quite as successful with her second domestic suspense novel as she was with her first Our House.  The South London street Lowland Way has created an enclave of sorts: Ralph and his wife Naomi live next door to his brother Finn and sister-in-law Tess and have combined their backyards to make a park-like play space for their combined children.  With Naomi at the helm, the neighbors clear the street of cars on Sunday allowing children to play freely, safe from traffic.  When Darren inherits number one from his aunt, and he and his girlfriend Jodie move in, the neighborhood takes a decidedly unpleasant turn: the couple plays loud music late into the night, disturbing Ant and Em, their next-door neighbors, young parents who are already stressed.  The demolition of a wall and other DYI projects along with a used car repair and sales lot further mar the property and prompt bad reviews of their neighbor across the street Sissy’s B&B website.  At first, the neighbors try to reason with Darren, but soon they lose patience and start to look for alternative ways to “get rid” or their new neighbors.  The story begins by being told in flashbacks, starting eight weeks prior to a scaffolding collapse with tragic results.  Each part is introduced by a different neighbor and their views of the situation leading up to the day of the accident and moving forward with the investigation from there.  The characters, who consider themselves civilized aren’t quite so, and the pace of the plot doesn’t pick up until the actual incident occurs.  An ending that leaves things a bit unsettled may appeal to some, but may frustrate others.  

The First Mistake by Sandie Jones
The second novel from the best-selling author of The Other Woman, a a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, starts off a bit slowly, but then gains momentum with the reveals in the second two-thirds of the book.  Alice and her second husband Nathan run the company AT Designs, which Alice founded with her first husband, now deceased, Tom.  The pair have the opportunity to purchase land in Japan and build and design an apartment building, but Alice has misgivings, especially now that she thinks Nathan is having an affair.  As she confides in her best friend Beth, Alice learns things connected to Tom that she is having trouble believing, things that make her question everything about her life and choices to date.  The tension grows as the twists and revelations keep coming at a rapid pace rewarding readers who persevere. 

The Last Guest House by Megan Miranda
In the seaside town of Littleport, Maine, year-round residents rarely mix with summer vacationers.  Native Avery Greer and wealthy summer resident Sadie Loman are the exceptions.  In high school the two became best friends, Avery eventually taking a job managing the Loman’s summer rental properties for the family company.  At an end of the season house party, Avery waits for her friend who never shows.  Sadie’s body is found washed up on the shore and the police question all of the party attendees until a suicide note is found. While the police are satisfied, Avery is not, and something niggles at her during the winter; the follow summer there are petty break-ins and occurrences at various Loman properties and Avery begins to investigate on her own: Avery has a bit of a bad girl reputation from her late teen age years, but the more she investigates the more questions she has, not only about Sadie’s death, but also about the accident that killed her parents, and about her own past.  As twisty as the rocky shore roads along the beach, the surprises do not stop, even until the last page.

The Girl in the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg
When Finn Hunt lands a job as nanny to Arizona Senator Jim Martin’s granddaughter Amabel, she thinks it’s too good to be true.  Philip Martin, heir apparent to his father’s seat and his wife Marina welcome Finn into their home and lives, and don’t ask too many questions about her past, which is fine with Finn as she’d rather not talk about it; four-year-old Amabel adores Finn, and she has started a relationship with one of Senator Martin’s top aides.  Things start to go wrong when Amabel points out a young woman, Iris, who appears to be following them and then threatens to reveal a secret that would ruin the Senator’s chance for reelection and Philip’s for his own run.  Even after a tragic accident that ends her employment with the Martins, Finn continues to investigate Iris and her claims, putting not only herself in some unbelievable situations, but in real danger.  When Finn’s carefully cultivated and curated world begins to collapse and she realizes it was all a mirage, she realizes she is on her own with no one to help her.  While some of Finn’s motives are unbelievable and part of the plot disturbing, this domestic thriller is still worth a read.

After the End by Clare Mackinstosh
In a departure form her usual thrillers, Mackintosh writes a story that is very personal to her: Max and Pip Adams have a two-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor; after many treatments and surgeries, the parents are facing the fact that it is unlikely that Dylan will live more than a few months.  Max has found an experimental proton therapy available in the United States, but Pip does not want Max to suffer more than he has, possibly prolonging his life only a few years, the quality of his life not guaranteed.  Because the pair cannot agree on a course of treatment, the court must step in and make a recommendation as to what it considers in the best interest of Dylan.  The second part of the book alternates chapters between Max and Pip, each telling the story as if the verdict went in their favor.  Dylan’s doctor Leila Khalili weighs in, but does not give away the true nature of the verdict, nor what she would have done if the child and decision had been hers.  This painful subject is handled delicately, if somewhat awkwardly, as the two narratives diverge and readers must decide which outcome they most prefer. 

The Cutting Room by Ashley Dyer
In their second outing, Detective Chief Inspector Greg Carver and Detective Sergeant Ruth Lake are searching for the Ferryman, a serial killer whom they believe is involved in the disappearances, and presumed murders, of over a dozen men in the Liverpool area.  After an episode of the reality television series “Fact or Fable?” the Ferryman ratchets things up, calling the pair to a gruesome “art installation” that is sections of human brains sealed within Plexiglas.  The Ferryman begins using social media to gain follows and fans, and uses an unsuspecting young man who thinks he is just as clever, to promote his agenda.  The plot is twisty and turny, the characters complex as Carver struggles with his recovery from the duo’s last case, and as Lake faces her past head on, finding what she hopes is not a connection to the Ferryman.  There are some graphic and disturbing scenes, but readers who like their police procedurals on the gritty side will find much to enjoy. 

The Shallows by Matt Goldman
Wise-cracking, yet practical minded retired cop, now private investigator, Niles Shapiro is back in his third outing.  The Minnesota PI has been hired to look into the death of attorney Todd Rabinowitz by Todd’s widow Robin: also by Todd’s law firm, and also by the Greater Lake Minnetonka Police Department, currently without a chief.  Ethics being more the concern of Shap’s partner in the firm and best friend, Anders Ellegaard, he does what he can to satisfy everyone, but when a bomb goes off in the law office, the FBI also wants Shap to consult and he has to cry uncle.  Two more deaths and the fumbling police department are satisfied they’ve solved the crime and more on.  Shap, not as much.   Shap is convinced that Karen Tressler, Congressional candidate and client of Halferin and Silver, Todd’s former law firm, is somehow at the center of all this or at least in up to her next.  Complications in his personal life and the late summer heat and humidity in Minnesota at to Shap’s stress level, but also add character and atmosphere to this series with a complicated plot and a clever PI.

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsoon
This Swedish author making his U.S. debut examines the timeless question: How far would a parent go to save their child? Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell has a history of a violent temper, but everyone in her world is still shocked when she is arrested for the murder of her lover, fifteen years her senior.  Her father Adam, a pastor, struggles with his faith as he provides Stella an alibi that is not accurate; her strong-willed mother Ulrika is an attorney and appears distanced from her family, but during the courtroom scenes it becomes clear how fiercely she loves her family. The narrative is told in three parts, Adam, Stella, and Ulrika, each in the first person, all coming together to crate a complete picture of a family not only in distress, but one that bands together to protect its own.  For fans of Jodi Picoult.

Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker
Dr. Robert Hall has just been feted as Sag Harbor’s Citizen of the Year, his beautiful wife Elizabeth by his side, along with his college-aged son Jonah who is spending the summer with his father and step-mother.  Also spending the summer is Jonah’s college roommate Nick, who is quite handsome, and in Robert’s opinion shares a mutual attraction with Elizabeth.  Robert’s senses are always heightened to affairs, as are Elizabeth’s, as the two were previously married to other people, a fact they feel their neighbors hold against them.  Jonah is having his own struggles as he tries to reintegrate into his father’s life, while at the same time he befriends a younger high school classmate who all but ruined her life and the life of the man whose family she babysat, with an accusation she later recanted.  A surprising twist leads to more shocking events uncovered in this sultry summer mystery with a touch of Gothic.

Montauk by Nicola Harrison
Beatrice Bordeaux, newly married into New York City’s high society, is spending the summer of 1938 in Montauk with the other wealthy wives while the husbands spend their weeks in the city at work, taking the train out on the weekends.  From rural Pennsylvania, Beatrice is having some difficulties adjusting to the entitled life, and her inability to conceive a child, and finds herself spending much of her time away from the other wives, falling in love with the natural beauty and the ocean, and intrigued by the locals and their community.  Bea strikes up a friendship with the laundress Elizabeth and finds herself drawn to Tom, the local lighthouse keeper.  Though she has all the creature comforts she could want, Bea has a sadness in her past she keeps hidden, and finds she cannot forgive her husband’s affairs as easily as some of the other wives forgive their husbands’ their dalliances.  Bea tries to live in both worlds, she tells herself successfully, until the events cause her worlds to collide, revealing secrets, changing everything for everyone.

The Sentence is Death by Daniel Horowitz
The second mystery in which author Daniel Horowitz is the main character, after The Word is Murder, finds him following fired Scotland Yard detective, now PI Daniel Hawthorne who is following behind the police, investigating the death of divorce attorney Richard Pryce who was recently publicly threatened by the ex-wife of one of his clients, and then killed in the same manner, an expensive bottle of wine to the head.  Seems open and shut, but not to Hawthorne and Horowitz who don’t dismiss the subtler clues at the crime scene.  As the pair considers the possibility that this could be connected to Pryce’s college spelunking buddies, one who died tragically during a trip, and another who just died in an accident at King’s Cross Station, the suspects pile up, and the clues take on a different meaning.  Traditional mystery fans will enjoy the dry wit of this unusual pair.

Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland
This follow up to the author’s best-selling Need to Know pulls no punches.  Chief of Internal Investigations at the FBI in Washington, D.C., Steph Maddox is tough as nails---except where her son Zach is concerned. She is certain she knows all there is to know about her seventeen-year-old son until she finds a gun in his closet and her former FBI lover shows up on her doorstep to warn Steph that the FBI is opening a file on Zach as a possible member of a domestic terror cell.  When Steph confronts Zach, he denies everything with such vehemence and disbelief that she is startled: either he’s a really good actor or liar or he’s telling the truth.   Steph chooses to believe he’s telling the truth but can’t figure out who he has been set up by or why and begins the covert investigation of a lifetime, not sure who to trust and just how close they are to her and her family.  This fast-paced, complicated plot will appeal to procedural thriller fans who like humanized characters struggling with moral dilemmas.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

New Books for May

After the Party by Cressida Connolly
Phyllis Forrester and her family have been living in Belgium after World War I.  She is very happy to be returning to Sussex, England with her husband Hugh, and their three pre-teenage children, where she will be close to her sister Patricia, and her aristocratic family and friends, and her more easy-going sister Nina, who runs a summer camp, for which she asks Phyllis’s help in running.  As the threat of another war with Germany looms, Nina introduces Phyllis and Hugh to local political advocates involved in the Party Peace Campaign, setting off a string of activities and events that end with Phyllis’s arrest. Sections of the narrative include Phyllis’s reflections upon being released from jail interspersed among the events of 1938 England. 

How to Forget by Kate Mulgrew

The award-winning actress details her return to her hometown of Dubuque, Iowa to care for her parents, each terminally ill.  Her father has lung cancer, her mother atypical Alzheimer’s disease.  This is an exquisitely written homage to her parents, people who were perfect in their imperfections, people who put all they had into each other and their families, a fact not lost on their daughter.  No detail is too intimate for Mulgrew to share, and interwoven into the narrative is her story, the story of how her parents supported her career decision, even when they didn’t, and how she dropped everything to return to their sides.  Book groups will find a lot to discuss, as will families facing similar crises.  

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
In 1936 Appalachia, 19-year-old Cussy Mary Carter is content to deliver books to people on mule back as part of the WPA funded Pack Horse Library Project.  She is certain no one will marry her anyway, as she has a rare condition known in Kentucky as blue skin.  Cussy’s father wants to ensure his daughter is taken care of, and marries her off to an older man, Charlie Frazier, who dies on their wedding night.  Which is find by Cussy because she would not be able to continue her work as a librarian if she were married.  To save herself from being stalked by an angry relative of Frazier’s, Cussy submits to a local doctor’s tests to learn the cause of her genetic disorder.  This slice of life from Depression-era Appalachia, and the indomitable spirit of Cussy, and her belief that books and reading can solve many, if not all, of life’s problems will appeal to a wide array of readers and offers much for book group discussions.

Biloxi by Mary Miller
Sixty-three-year-old, divorced retiree Louis McDonald with his host of medical problems often feels he has nothing left to live for.  A chance spotting of a “Free Dogs” sign proves to be the impetus for Louis to rethink the non-direction his life has been taking.  Now with a companion to kick around with, Louis finds himself more aware and alert of his surroundings, often seeing things through Layla (his new dog’s name) eyes, confirming the thought that people need someone, or something else to look after and care for, in addition to themselves, to put things into perspective.  Miller doesn’t let Louis off easily, and many readers may not like him, especially at first, but soon, there are glimmers of hope, and maybe, just maybe, readers will catch a glimpse of themselves in Louis and look for their own “Layla”.

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine
The follow-up to this sister-duo’s debut novel is a complicated, ambitious, and not always successful domestic suspense, but there is still enough here to enjoy.  Surgeon Kate English is from one of Baltimore’s elite families.  Her entire circle is shocked by Kate’s mother’s brutal murder.  In a moment of grief, Kate reaches out to her best friend from school, Blaire, who was as close to Kate as a sister, until an argument at Kate’s wedding tore them apart.  And Blaire may have been right about Kate’s decision to marry as she has asked her husband Simon to leave their house suspecting he is having an affaire with his co-worker and longtime family friend Sabrina.  Immediately after her mother’s funeral, Kate begins receiving scary texts “You think you’re sad now, just wait.  By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today.” and gruesome thing are left around the house, such as three dead mice with their eyeballs gouged out and a disturbing nursery rhyme.  There are a lot of strands to this thriller, yet the authors tie it all together in the end.  Fans of the genre will enjoy, readers who loved The Last Mrs. Parrish may be a little disappointed.

The Night Before by Wendy Walker
Sisters Rosie and Laura Lochner chose much different paths after an incident one evening in high school left Rosie under a cloud of suspicion of violence, and possibly murder.  Rosie remained in their hometown, Branston, Connecticut, and married their childhood friend Joe, the two staying good friends with Gabe who completed the foursome growing up.  After a terrible break-up in Manhattan, Laura returns home to the sanctuary of her sister where she meets a man online, Jonathan Fields, has a date, but does not return home from the date.  Frantic, Rosie and Gabe begin to search for Laura, following her footsteps from the night before.  Told in two separate timelines, from Laura’s point of view the night of the date, and from Rosie’s, the search for Laura the morning and day after the date, interspersed with short sessions from Laura’s New York City psychiatrist’s appointments, the story effectively unfolds, as both Laura and Rosie learn that Jonathan Fields is not who he claims to be, in the back of Rosie’s mind always is Laura’s violent past.  This twisty plot where mis-directions abound will keep readers guessing until the final reveals.

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene
Leaving their two-year-old daughter in the care her grandmother seemed the most natural thing in the world, but a tragic accident changed everything for the journalist and his wife Stacy in this heart-breaking memoir.  Greta was sitting on a bench on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when a piece of the building fell, rendering Greta unconscious.  She stayed alive for a day, and then Jayson and Stacy were faced with the unimaginable decision of keeping her alive another day or so in order that her organs could be harvested for donation, a choice they choose to make.  During the next two years, Jayson explores his grief, his anger, and his disbelief over this loss; he finds himself unable to make any sort of sense out of his tragedy.  While the pain of this couple is palpable and almost unbearable at times, the hope with which they continue to live is uplifting and inspiring.