Wednesday, March 4, 2020

New for March...

Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Casey Peabody, who as a 14-year-old was a golfing champion, is now thirty-one years old, living alone in a small room in Boston, has just lost her mother, can’t get her novel written, is in massive debt from her undergraduate and graduate schools, and waiting tables at the Harvard Club.  As hopeless as it all sounds, Casey continues riding her banana bike to work each day and plodding away at her novel.  She begins to date a successful writer and one of his students at the same time, looking for some energy to continue propelling her forward.  In the hands of a less experienced author, this book might come across as cluttered and sentimental, but instead it is thoughtfully and beautifully written, often feeling that each word has been carefully chosen.  King is equally comfortable writing about working the front of a restaurant as she is writing about writers’ colonies and retreats, all of which comes together in this elegant story with a very happy, though somewhat trite and too comfortable, ending.

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Shay Miller is striking out on all sides: she lives in Manhattan, but in a friend’s apartment; sure, that friend is a terrific guy, but he he has no interest in Shay except as a friend.  A research analyst who loves statistics, Shay is having a hard time finding permanent work, and on the morning of a very promising interview, she witnesses a young woman throwing herself in front of a subway train.  Shay knows what it feels like to be lonely, but can’t imagine hurling herself off a subway platform.  She finds a necklace she believes to be the young woman’s and becomes obsessed with her and with the statistics surrounding her death.  Sisters Cassandra and Jane Moore, have it all: their own PR firm, a solid circle of friends, a glamorous life, and the ability to seemingly get whatever they want.  And they want Shay.  At first Shay is flattered that IT women want her in their elite circle until it becomes clear to Shay that they are after something else, but what does Shay have that they could possibly want?  This smart cat and mouse game will keep readers guessing until the very end.

Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs

It has been almost five years since the last Temperance Brennan novel, but it was well worth the wait.  A lot has happened to Tempe in the last five years, she has discovered she has a cerebral aneurysm and though she had surgery to keep it at bay, she fears it is interfering with her work and lifestyle.  The medical examiner, Tempe’s boss and friend, was killed, and the new medical examiner in Charlotte, North Carolina is Margot Heavner, who is very forthright in announcing she has no need for Tempe’s consultations and has no plans to call upon her expertise.  Tempe and Heavner go way back to a time when Tempe called her out after an interview.  As Tempe tries to regain her footing, she receives morgue photos of a faceless, handless, unidentified man; Tempe has no idea who sent them and doesn’t care for the way Heavner is handling the investigation and sets off on her own investigation, risking any chance she has of ever working in Charlotte again. With retired police detective Skinny Slidell at her side, Tempe sets out to identify the man, uncover the details in several missing, and abused children cold cases, and even manages to tie in a decades old ferry sinking.  Reichs deftly ties up all loose ends, and carefully interweaves each story into the other in this latest thriller that redefines Tempe Brennan while highlighting all the things readers, and now viewers, have come to love about her.

Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox
Crimson Lake, Australia, is where people often find themselves when they no longer fit into a traditional society.  Ted Conkaffey was a cop with a wife and a beautiful baby girl until he was accused of kidnapping and attacking a thirteen-year-old girl.  Though he was arrested, no charges were ever filed, but he continues to live his life under the stigma.  Little by little, his wife Kelly is letting Ted back into hers and their daughter’s lives, so much so that she will be entrusting Ted with their daughter while she goes to a conference for a week.  Amanda Pharrell is a young woman who, at the age of seventeen, became a convicted murder.  She has many odd behaviors, but she and Ted have formed and unusual PI partnership and have been successful in solving several crimes.  When a young boy goes missing from the hotel room where he and three of his friends are staying while their parents have dinner downstairs, his mother Sara, hires the unlikely pair to find her son.  The timing couldn’t be worse for Ted, but he knows a parent’s anguish.  As he and Amanda search alongside of the police, they run into some unsavory characters, and even turn to them to help locate the boy.  With strong characterizations, a rugged setting, and a tight plot, this series will appeal to fans of Jane Harper and C.J. Box.

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
When he first became a bookseller, Malcolm Kershaw wrote a blog post about eight mysteries that he felt had the best murders.  Years later, someone is committing murders mimicking these murders and the FBI wants to know what Malcolm knows about them.  When an agent begins to get too friendly with Malcolm, including him in too much of her investigation, things take an even stranger turn as they chase a killer from Massachusetts to Maine, where nothing is what it seems to be, and no one knows who could be next.  This brilliantly plotted mystery pays homage to the great murders in classic mystery fiction, while spinning a web of deceit and intrigue making it hard to know what to believe and who to trust.  For fans of Anthony Horowitz and classic murder mysteries.  

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
Patty Watts loved her daughter Rose Gold more than anything; how could she have poisoned her for so many years, keeping her so sick that could barely function without Patty; when Rose Gold figures out what has been going on, Patty is arrested for child abuse and sent to prison.  Now she is being released and Rose Gold has invited Patty to come and live with her and her infant son.  Patty is delighted to have her daughter back, and the baby is a bonus.  But from the beginning Patty feels uneasy about things: Rose Gold has purchased the house Patty grew up in, a house that holds terrible memories for Patty; other things begin not to add up and before long, Patty wonders if maybe Rose Gold learned too well from her mother.  Told in alternating narratives and in alternating time periods, Rose Gold and Patty’s stories unfold into something disturbing and diabolical from this debut author, a voice to watch in the crowded psychological thriller field. 

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore 
The women in this debut novel, set against the oil fields of 1976 Odessa, seek their own form of justice when a 14-year old girl, Gloria Ramirez is brutally assaulted; on the morning after Valentine’s Day, Gloria crawls her way to the porch of Mary Rose Whitehead, beaten and barely alive.  There doesn’t seem to be justice for women in this area of Texas, especially young women such as Gloria.  The women of the town form an alliance, protecting the young girl, and making sure the men of the town know that justice isn’t always something that is handed down in a court of law.  The narrative is told from various points of view, and explores many different social issues including race and class, issues that are still, sadly, relevant today.  How these women tell this story, and what they bring to it from their own lives, helps create a complete, if somewhat dark tale, but each provides strength to others, and ultimately to the community.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Everything is perfect---on schedule---in corporate lawyer Dannie Kohan’s life:  she has just landed the job of her dreams, has an apartment on Gramercy Square, and has just become engaged to David, the man with whom she is a perfect fit; then why on the night of her engagement does she dream of waking up five years later in a loft in Brooklyn with another man?  Over the next five years, Dannie and David continue living together, focusing on their careers, but never make time for marriage; all the while in the back of Dannie’s mind is her dream and that mysterious man.  Fast forward to June 2024: Dannie’s best friend Bella is back from Europe where she often lives a glamorous life with many lovers, and wants Dannie to meet her new boyfriend who turns out to be the man of Dannie’s dreams, literally.  When Bella introduces her boyfriend Greg, Dannie recognizes him as the man from her dream that was named Aaron, which is actually Greg’s first name.  Completely thrown off kilter, Dannie, who has told no one except her therapist about the dream isn’t sure what to do, especially when Bella announces she’s in love, and Greg is the one; when Bella receives unthinkable news, Dannie and Greg begin to form an alliance to help their friend.  While much of this sounds familiar, it feels fresh and new in Serle’s (The Dinner Party) capable hands, and there are some unexpected moments along the way.

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner
Lady Anne began her friendship with Queen Elizabeth II at an early age: she was a disappointment to her father as she was unable to inherit his estate, but quickly gained favor with the royal family as Maid of Honor at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, and Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret until her death.  As a confident of the Princess, she was privy to many personal events in the lives of the Royals, including romantic entanglements, family troubles and illnesses, and traveling to many locations, meeting many celebrities, all the while keeping the confidence of the royal family, and still keeping her sense of self, in this fresh memoir that will appeal to royal watchers and fans of The Crown alike. 

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Vanessa Wye is a sophomore at a boarding school in Maine and is having time making friends and finding her place; when her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, begins showing her some extra attention she is flattered and eventually believes she is in love as their relationship turns sexual.  When their relationship is threatened to be exposed, Vanessa leaves Browick, but remains in touch with Strane.  Almost twenty years later, Vanessa is approached by a reporter who tells her another student of Strane has accused him of sexual abuse and she would like Vanessa to corroborate the accusations; Vanessa, still believing Strane was the love of her life, begins to think back to their relationship and sees things in a little bit of a different light.  This powerful debut is smartly written, will strike a chord with many, and start much debate and discussion.

On the Corner of Hope and Main by Beverly Jenkins
Henry Adams, Kansas, a town originally founded by freed slaves is the setting for the tenth in the “Blessings” series.  It is election time and Trent July has decided that after four years as mayor, it’s time for him to do something else, and husband and wife Barrett and Sheila Payne are each funning for the sea.  Town owner Bernadine Brown, you really can buy everything on eBay, is surprised to see her ex-husband out of work with the oil company he worked for, now campaign manager, just as her romance with Malachi July is heating up again.   Small town antics and pettiness get in the way of the election, but the town’s younger set straightens everyone out and by the end, the community is strong, relationships are mended, and Henry Adams has a new mayor.  While it’s not necessary to start at the beginning of the series, which features small town closeness, rivalries, friendships and all the complications that come with it all, a first visit to Henry Adams is sure not to be the last.

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar
Forty-one-year-old Katherine Ross, the editor of a London magazine had a meteoric rise, but now she feels she is, at best stagnant, at worse, a dinosaur, especially when twenty-four-year-old Lily arrives as her new intern but is quickly given a lot of responsibility by her aunt, who is the new publisher of the magazine.  Instead of being able to take Lily under her wing, Katherine is reminded of what she once was and quickly becomes jealous as she sees Lily taking over much of her work, often publicly shaming Katherine, something Katherine feels may be intentional.  Before long, Lily has taken over many aspects of Katherine’s life, both at the magazine and in her personal life.  Told in alternating voices, secrets are exposed, plots revealed, all with irrevocable consequences for each woman in this tautly plotted debut thriller.

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben
This stand-alone from Coben pairs the unlikely duo of Wilde, a man who lives mostly off the grid in the woods in Ramapo Mountain State Forest (NJ) with his best friend’s mother, attorney Hester Crimstein, to search for a missing teenage girl.  Wilde was found as a child in the woods, alone, but with very good survival skills, and unexpected language abilities for someone living in the woods; unable to locate any parents or family, Wilde was place in a foster home, and eventually adopted, becoming best friends with David Crimstein, who has since died, and is the godfather of David’s son Matthew.  Matthew reaches out to his grandmother, retired from a high-profile law firm, now a talk show attorney, still tough as nails, when his friend, bullied classmate Naomi Pine goes missing.  Matthew wants to keep Naomi’s disappearance as quiet as possible, but when Crash, Matthew’s friend and one of Naomi’s tormenters disappears, as does Naomi a second time after she reappears, it is more serious, especially with a ransom note demanding money and the appearance of a finger.  Crash’s father, a TV producer, has a long, possibly criminal connection, to a political candidate, complete with videotapes that could spell the end for everyone.  At a rapid pace, kaleidoscopic images give way to a clear picture of murder, political intrigue, and long help family secrets all leading up to an ending with several unexpected, and mostly unseen, surprises coming.

Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman
Judy Vogel is lonely: she and her husband Gary are pretty much separated, owing in part to Gary’s high levels of anxiety, though they can’t afford to live separately and want to be in the house together for their 13-year-old son who has problems of his own and is in a Montessori middle school; her writing career stalled after one big picture book and a television deal, and her best friend is dying of cancer.  While cleaning out the basement, she finds the baby sling she never used for her son but begins using for her dog which offers her a little comfort, much in the same way that smoking pot helps calm Gary down.  Through couples’ therapy, puppet people staying at their house, and outright contempt at some of the things going on at Teddy’s school, Judy tries to hold it all together, struggles to make sense of it all, and keep her sense of humor all with a twenty pound sheltie strapped to her chest. 

The Bramble and the Rose by Tom Bouman
In northeastern Pennsylvania’s Wild Thyme Township, Henry Farrell is the law.  When a neighbor reports a headless body that has been mauled by a bear.  Farrell calls in support, including wildlife forensic specialist Mary Weaver, to help identify the man and learn if it was suicide, an accident, or murder.  The discovery of the head and learning the man was former law enforcement, leads everyone to the conclusion it was murder.  Henry has little time to investigate, however, as he becomes the prime suspect in his former lover’s murder and must hold his marriage together amidst the accusations.  His nephew Ryan’s disappearance adds to Henry’s list of things to do when all he’d prefer to be doing is fishing and solving neighborly disputes.  This is the third novel featuring the introspective Henry Farrell and the northern wonderland he calls home.  Well plotted with gorgeous prose, this series is a must for any mystery reader.

The Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman
For over fifteen years, the Core Four, Megan and Terry, Sarah and Doug, Alan and Amber, and Mitch and Jessica have done everything together: graduate college, get married, have children, buy houses, socialize, and now divorce.  Mitch and Jessica are the last of their friends to remain married, but begin to feel the pressure of divorce, and decide to take a good hard look at their marriage and do something to shore it up before it’s too late.  Jessica thinks that having sex with other people might be just the ticket: they set up rules which include no repeats.  When Jessica begins to get in deeper than she expected, things get messy and she and Mitch wonder if things really were good before and all of this wasn’t necessary.  This tender, smart novel explores what goes into a marriage, and serves as a reminder that marriages take work and care to be fulfilling.  Funny dialogue and pop-culture references for the older crowd make this a fast-paced, enjoyable read.

The Return by Rachel Harrison
Elise, Julie, Molly, and Mae were best friends in college, and have remained close, though Elise and Julie share a special bond.  After Julie and her husband purchase a remote inn in Maine, she disappears.  After two years and a memorial service, her friends accept that Julie will not return; all except for Elise who knows she would feel it if Julie were no longer alive.  Two years to the day Julie disappears, she reappears and the friends decide to organize a girls’ weekend to reunite with their friend.  Once together, Elise knows there is something wrong with Julie: she doesn’t look anything like she used to, she has a voracious appetite, including for meat, something that Julie would never have eaten before she disappeared, and the more she eats, the more emaciated she becomes.  Over the weekend it becomes clear that the Julie they’ve gotten back is not the same Julie who left them: but where has she been and who or what has she become?  This horror story is elevated to a new level with the complexities of the women’s relationships and the fierceness with which Elise wants Julie back, and the lengths to which she is willing to go to make that happen.