Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Just Jennifer

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
Audrey has just learned she has advanced cancer and not long to live; her fondest wish is that her adult daughters Jess and Lily will reconcile and their teenaged-daughters, nearly the same age, will have a close relationship.  Jess, a struggling television producer, and her older sister Lily, a successful professional marriage to a handsome and powerful attorney, have been estranged for almost thirty years, having been torn apart by a terrible secret and lies.  As Audrey attempts to reunite the sisters, she knows she too will have to reveal her secrets and the role in which she played in the sisters’ estrangement.  What could have been a melodramatic plot with wishy-washy characters is not, but rather a tender, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, and redemptive story.  The women are flawed, yet strong; they recognize their short-comings and stubborn streaks, and ultimately, they each want the same thing: to find their way back to each other, as well as to themselves. 

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay
It is scary enough when one elevator malfunctions spectacularly and plunges thirty floors, killing all four occupants in a New York City high rise, but two more elevator accidents, a car bomb, and a dead many on the High Line set the residents of the city on edge, all on the eve of the opening of a new high rise, Top of the Park, one of the tallest buildings in the city.  Journalist Barbara Matheson, one of mayor Richard Headley’s biggest detractors, gets caught up in the mayhem, as does her daughter Arla, with whom she has a difficult relationship, who has just accepted a job with the mayor’s office, her boss, the mayor’s son Glover, who seems to never be able to please his father, a displeasure the mayor too often exhibits in public.  Detectives Jerry Bourque and Lois Delgado are investigating the dead man on the High Line and quickly realize the man without fingertips has a connection to the elevator incidents and someone doesn’t want the connection made.  Responsibilities for the violence are attributed to terrorism, but foreign or domestic? A domestic group The Flyovers quickly comes to the forefront of the FBI’s notice, but the detectives are not so sure, as their investigation keeps circling back to the mayor’s office.  Tightly written with taut, tense action, well-developed characters having interesting, long reaching and tangled stories round out this all stand-alone thriller with an all-too plausible plot, chilling and realistic.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

New for October...

The Furies by Katie Lowe
Violet has just started a year at Elm Hollow Academy, a private British school, after spending a year of independent living after her father and sister were killed in a tragic car accident.  The school has a long fabled history of witchcraft, and Violet, who has always had a hard time making friends, is very susceptible when she is approached by a group of girls Robin, Grace, and Alex, who encouraged, by their art teacher, form an independent sturdy group that begins to explore the dark arts.  After Violet is raped by a college student, the group performs a ritual designed to hurt the young man, but things ratchet up when the body of a student thought missing is found dead.  Full of feminism, mysticism, obsession, friendship, and revenge, this debut will appeal to older teen readers as well as adults.

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur

At age fourteen, Adrienne Brodeur, the co-founder of the literary journal Zoetrope: All-Story, is awakened in her Cape Cod bedroom one night by her mother Malabar who announces to Adrienne that she has just been kissed by her husband, Adrienne’s step-father Charles’s, best friend Ben.  From that moment on, Adrienne becomes complicate in the affair, helping Malabar meet Ben, who is also married, and keeping their love affair hidden from Charles, who needs extra care after suffering a series of strokes.  Being Malabar’s confidant rather than her daughter takes its toll on Adrienne throughout her teenage and young adult years.  As a young woman she begins to date, and eventually marries, Ben’s son, a union that cannot end well.  Malabar manipulates Adrienne, especially after Ben’s wife learns of the affair, holding a family heirloom necklace of emeralds, diamonds, and rubies, as ransom for Adrienne’s devotion.  Ultimately, Adrienne is able to see this one-sided relationship is emotionally unhealthy, and perhaps at times abusive, for what it is and manages to completely detach herself from her mother, no matter how painful, in order to lead a productive, and happy life, of her own as her own person.   

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
The indomitable Olive Kitteridge is back, a widow after her beloved Henry’s death, and a little mellower…just a little, as she works her way through her seventies, marching toward eighty, head held high.  Told through a series of vignettes, some featuring Olive, some starring Crosby, Maine’s residents, all of whom have been touched one way or another by Olive: Olive remarries, and then is widowed again, she delivers a baby, and reaches a detente with her son Christopher, his new wife, her two step-grandchildren, and two new grandbabies.  Readers who loved Olive in her first book will lover her all the more; fans of Fannie Flagg and Lorna Landvick who have not yet found Olive should not hesitate to dive right in.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Privileged Madison and Lillian were best friends for one year at an elite boarding school to which Lillian had a scholarship; Lillian was expelled, taking the blame for Madison, and the two have kept in touch through letters, but now, almost fifteen years later, Madison, the wife of a politically ambitious senator, reaches out to Lillian, who has almost no ambition, and who has been working low-level jobs for her adult life, to be the nanny to her step-children Bessie and Roland, who are coming to live with her family, children who burst into flames, though they are unharmed, when they are agitated.  The senator wishes to keep this peculiarity from his constituents, preferring instead to show off the son he fathered with Madison to avoid scandal.  Bessie and Roland understand on one level why their new family doesn’t want them around, but on another, don’t understand at all why their father keeps his distance.  To everyone’s surprise, including herself, Lillian is an outstanding governess and is able to make the children realized they are loved, and to show them that family comes in many different forms.  Kevin Wilson has once again written a family drama with an eccentric touch that injects humor, though sometimes black humor, into a heart-felt story with characters to cheer on.

Where She Went by Kelly Simmons
Maggie O’Farrell, Philadelphia beautician never imagined she’d become a helicopter Mom, yet know that her only child Emma, is living away at college, though only across the city, she finds herself calling Emma, and dropping into see her.  Maggie, a widow after her policeman husband was murdered shortly after Maggie learned of his affair with her partner, knows she shouldn’t smother Emma, yet can’t help herself.  When Emma goes quiet, Maggie goes to campus to look for her, finding the dorm room to which Emma was assigned all but empty, and an unusual contact on Emma’s phone “Future Husband”.  Maggie charges forward searching for her daughter, though her daughter is an adult and doesn’t appear to be taken against her will.  As she looks into Emma’s life, Maggie realizes how little she knows about her daughter.  Alternating chapters between Maggie and Emma in alternating timelines, the present and before Emma disappeared, confuse the narrative a bit and does little to build up the tension.  The mother-daughter dynamics far exceed the mystery-thriller elements in the plot.

The Bodies in the Library by Marty Wingate
This first mystery in a new series is homage to the women authors of the Golden Age of Mystery, focuses on the Grand Dame, Agatha Christie. Hayley Burke has just been hired as the curator of the late Lady Georgiana Fowling’s First Edition Library in Bath England.  Hayley has plans to bring the library back to the forefront of scholar’s and enthusiast’s minds, along with Lady Fowling’s long time personal assistant Mrs. Woolgar who seems to be trying to thwart Hayley’s every move.  When a member of the Agatha Christie fan fiction writers’ group, Hayley has allowed to meet at Middlebank House is found dead in the library, Hayley’s duties begin to expand to include amateur sleuth, though she hasn’t read a word of the books in the library.  Also fighting for ownership of Middlebank is Charles Henry Dill, Lady Fowling’s odious nephew.  Readers will enjoy the references to classic mysteries and the setting, but the plot feels a bit like a prologue as it sets up the characters for future books.

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo, trans. From the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer
One of the first titles from the new HarperCollins imprint, HarperVia, international fiction that has been translated into English, this novel explores the life of Adelaida, a young Venezuelan woman who is burying her mother amidst social and political unrest, and unsafe conditions.  Her best friend’s brother has been arrested and is feared dead; most of Adelaida’s money has gone to caring for, and then burying, her mother.  When she discovers her neighbor dead, she finds papers that she thinks will help her escape Venezuela by impersonating the dead woman.  This novel is richly written, filling the senses with the sights, sounds, and smells of a country in turmoil.  Throughout it all, Adelaida holds dear to the memories of her mother, memories that strengthen and sustain her to do more than survive.  An outstanding debut.

The House of Brides by Jane Cockram
This debut novel, an homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is successful on most levels, though not all.  Disgraced social media guru Miranda Courtenay flees from her native Australia to England, to her family’s estate after her deceased mother, who wrote the definitive history of the house, receives a letter from a niece imploring her to come to England to help her family.  When Miranda arrives at the Summer’s estate, she is mistakenly identified as a candidate for the nanny position, a misconception Miranda does not correct as it will give her time to try and learn more about her mother and her mother’s family.  What Miranda finds is a once grand hotel and restaurant, now left idle, her estranged uncle Max, his wife Daphne taken to bed after a car accident that has left their daughter Agatha wheelchair bound.  As Miranda cares for Agatha, her sister and brother, she starts to uncover the secrets to not only her past but to Daphne’s accident in this novel with good pacing, but characters who are not quite as developed as the gothic setting.