Thursday, October 23, 2014

Can't Keep It To Myself: You

I want to recommend this book to everyone I talk to, because I enjoyed it that much. And yet, I realize that this is not a book for everyone. It is twisted. It is clever. It made me laugh out loud and then a couple of pages later, I was recoiling in horror. The novel is You, by Caroline Kepnes, and I found it as troubling as I found it fascinating.

Love means different things to different people. To narrator Joe Goldberg, it means finding the perfect girl and then finding out everything he can about her. Guinevere Beck, who goes by Beck of course, is that perfect girl, and she just happens to walk into the bookstore where Joe works. She buys the right books, says the right things, and just that quickly, Joe is hooked. Because Beck is beautiful and smart and funny and well-read. And perfect. And of course, with a little work on Joe's part, Beck realizes just how right Joe is for her, too.

What follows is a love story for the ages, one of madness, obsession, passion, desire, and fascination. This is as much a creepy cat-and-mouse thriller as it is literary love story, as told by the most demented, unreliable narrator possible. The more obsessed Joe becomes with his perfect Beck, the more the reader becomes aware that Beck, herself, is so much more deeply flawed than she would have others believe.

This was impossible to put down, one of those delectable books that makes you keep turning pages even as you dread the inevitable end. Kepnes is so good at what she does, so insidiously clever, that by the time I realized that I was rooting for the villain, it was far too late. Fans of classic Stephen King and of Gillian Flynn's work, this one is for you, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you skip it.

Then when you've read it, come to the library and find me. Because you're going to need someone to talk to about it. Believe me, I understand.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Meg's Picks: November 2014

I'm back from vacation and I've been reading up a storm! I've got lots to share and great titles to recommend over the coming weeks. To get us started, I've got a few up-coming titles that I especially want to point out to my fellow readers.

Us, by David Nicholls. Why is this on my radar? Well, several reasons. First, it was long-listed for The Man Booker Prize. Second, Nicholls' 2010 novel, One Day, was enormously popular. And third? The premise has me hooked, knowing as I do how sensitively Nicholls writes about matters of the heart. Douglas Petersen's quiet reserve hides a sly wit that seduces beautiful Connie into a second date...and eventually marriage. Now almost thirty years later, they live in the London suburbs with their moody seventeen-year-old son, Albie. And Connie has decided that she wants a divorce. What follows is Douglas's endearing and achingly optimistic attempt to save his marriage and connect, at long last, with the son who has felt like a stranger in his own house, all over the course of a potentially ill-timed family trip around Europe. I am actually counting the days until this one is released, folks.

Citizens Creek, by Lalita Tademy. Tademy is the bestselling author of Cane River, which was an Oprah Book Club pick in 2001. She has also been quiet for nearly 7 years, since Red River was published in 2007. She returns here with the story of Cow Tom, born into slavery in 1810 Alabama and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday. Cow Tom is gifted with the extraordinary ability to master languages, allowing him to act as a translator for his master and later to be hired out to US military generals, enabling him to earn money and eventually purchase his freedom. But this is also the story of Cow Tom's granddaughter Rose, who becomes the leader of their family in the face of political unrest. There is a lot of buzz about this, so fans of historical novels should especially take note.

Let Me Be Frank With You, by Richard Ford. Ford returns to the world of Frank Bascombe, a character who readers may remember from novels like The Lay of the Land, as well as Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner winning Independence Day. Bascombe is reinvented here, through four interconnecting novellas, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, as Frank tries to make sense of a world undone by calamity. Ford is known for his intensely insightful prose, and I don't think readers will be disappointed here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reading Ahead: November 2014, part 4

I realize that there are two kinds of people in this world when it comes to holidays: those who eagerly anticipate, and those who dread. If you're part of the first category, you're in luck, because I have a few holiday-themed novels you might want to add to your reading list to help you get into the spirit of things. If you're part of the latter group, I apologize. Feel free to skip this post and come back next Tuesday.

The Mistletoe Promise, by Richard Paul Evans. Elise Dutton dreads the arrival of another holiday season. Three years earlier, her husband cheated on her with her best friend, resulting in a bitter divorce that left her alone, broken, and distrustful. Then, one November day, a stranger approaches Elise in the mall food court. Though she recognizes the man from her building, Elise has never formally met him. Tired of spending the holidays alone, the man offers her a proposition. He suggests that they pretend to be a couple for the next eight weeks, with a few ground rules, one of which is that the contract is void as of Christmas Day. What Elise never considered was that this might be just what she needed to mend her broken heart, or that she's not the only one with secrets to keep. A love story for the holidays.

A New York Christmas, by Anne Perry. For the first time, Perry's Christmas offering moves to the young metropolis of New York. The year is 1904. Twenty-three-year-old Jemima Pitt, the daughter of Thomas Pitt, head of Britain’s Special Branch, is crossing the Atlantic. She is traveling with an acquaintance, Delphinia Cardew, who is to marry the aristocratic Brent Albright in a high-society New York wedding—a grand affair that will join together two fabulously wealthy families, titans of the international financial world. But Jemima senses a mysterious shadow darkening the occasion. Missing from the festivities is Delphinia’s mother, Maria, who is marked by disgrace. Nearly sixteen years ago, Maria abandoned young Delphinia and disappeared—and now the Albrights refuse to mention her name. But when Harley, the groom’s charismatic brother, asks Jemima to help him search for Maria and forestall the scandal that would surely follow if the prodigal parent turned up at the wedding, she agrees to assist him, never suspecting that she is walking into mortal danger herself. Mystery lovers will appreciate a serious story with a holiday flair.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reading Ahead: November 2104, part 3

I've got lots to share today, and I hope you're ready, because here we go!

Private India: City on Fire, by James Patterson & Ashwin Sanghi. Can't keep up with the sheer number of Patterson titles coming out? Yup, me either. On the off chance that you're caught up and itching for more, Patterson takes his Private series to the elite PI office in India, headed by Santosh Wagh, who investigates a serial killer with a puzzling signature: the killer targets women, and then leaves mysterious tokens with the bodies. An interesting change of scene in the globe-trotting series.

Wicked Ways, by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush. Two best-selling authors team up here to craft a thriller in which a woman's birthright holds the key to a series of brutal murders. Elizabeth Gaines Ellis is just a normal suburban wife and mother, at least that's what she tells herself. Sure, life isn't perfect. A mean boss. A cheating husband. A traffic cop who seems unduly harsh. She has bones to pick--who doesn't? But she never intended for any of them to wind up dead. No one seems to take her seriously, but the more scared and angry Elizabeth becomes, the higher the body count climbs. Definitely one for fans of either author to check out.

The Girl Next Door, by Ruth Rendell. Rendell has been heralded as one of the greatest novelists of her generation, so if you haven't read her, you might just want to use this as your opportunity to start. Nearing the end of World War II, a group of children in a small neighborhood outside of London find an earthen tunnel that becomes their secret garden, a place to play and trade stories and secrets. At least, until one of the parents finds out and puts a stop to it. Six decades later, beneath a house on the same land, construction workers find a tin box containing two small skeletal hands, one male and one female. Once the discovery becomes national news, the old friends come together once more to recall their days in the tunnel to the investigating detective. Is the truth buried in the memories of this aging group of friends? Fans of mysteries and suspense novels, as well as Rendell's legion of fans, will all want to make sure to pick up a copy.

The Cinderella Murder, by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke. In a first-time collaboration, “Queen of Suspense” Mary Higgins Clark partners with bestselling author Alafair Burke to deliver a brand new suspense series about a television program featuring cold case murders. TV producer Laurie Moran is delighted at the success of the pilot for her reality drama, Under Suspicion, a cold-case series that revisits unsolved crimes by recreating them with those affected. And she has the perfect case lined up to feature in the next episode: the death of a beautiful and multi-talented UCLA student, dubbed The Cinderella Murder. But as Laurie and her crew dig deeper, guaranteed ratings may also spell danger for them. The critics are buzzing about this collaboration, which starts the beginning of a new series for the pair.

The Job: A Fox and O'Hare novel, by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg. The FBI had one demand when they secretly teamed up Special Agent Kate O’Hare with charming con man Nicolas Fox—bring down the world’s most-wanted and untouchable felons. This time it’s the brutal leader of a global drug-smuggling empire.  The FBI doesn’t know what their target looks like, where he is, or how to find him, but Nick Fox has a few tricks up his sleeve to roust this particular Knipschildt chocolate–loving drug lord.

I'm back on Thursday with a few titles to recommend if you're thinking about snow and mistletoe already!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reading Ahead: November 2014, part 2

Something about autumn always pushes me toward reading more thrillers--the darker the better. If you've got a similar yearning, November has new titles you'll look forward to!

Revival, by Stephen King. Over a half century ago, a charismatic preacher arrives in a small New England town. With the help of his wife, Reverend Jacobs transforms the local church. Then tragedy strikes, and in its wake the Reverend denounces his faith and is banished from the shocked town. Years later, one of the town's inhabitants, a man now sober after years struggling with addiction, meets the Reverend again and now the many terrifying meanings of Revival are revealed. This is being touted as a masterwork from King, "in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe." I'm a fan of King's work anyway, so I'm beyond intrigued about this latest novel.

Blue Labyrinth, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. One of Aloysius Pendergast's most implacable enemies has arrived on his doorstep as a corpse. His death bears all the hallmarks of the perfect murder, save for one enigmatic clue: a piece of turquoise lodged in the dead man's stomach. That single piece of evidence will lead Pendergast from an abandoned mine, to a desolate sea, and then deep into his own family's sinister past. As ancient secrets begin to resurface, Pendergast must escape a subtle killer bent on revenge...

Flesh and Blood, by Patricia Cornwell. In this 22nd Scarpetta novel, the master forensic sleuth finds herself in the unsettling pursuit of a serial sniper who leaves no incriminating evidence except fragments of copper. The shots seem impossible, yet they are so perfect they cause instant death. The victims appear to have had nothing in common, and there is no pattern to indicate where the killer will strike next. First New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and then the murky depths off the coast of South Florida, where Scarpetta investigates a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. And it is there that she comes face to face with shocking evidence that implicates her techno genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta’s own flesh and blood.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reading Ahead: November 2014, part 1

I know that time seems to be whipping by, but I hope you're all getting a chance to slow down and enjoy the change of seasons, even if it's just for an afternoon or an evening here and there. There's been quite a bit of rain lately, and evenings are cooler, so to me those times call out for a cup of tea and an evening curled up with a good book. If you're looking for a title or three to add to your reading list for the coming weeks, here are a few to keep in mind.

Hope to Die, by James Patterson. November finds Patterson greeting readers with a new Detective Alex Cross novel, as our hero faces his deadliest enemy yet, a stalker who has kidnapped Cross's family. What will Cross sacrifice to save the ones he loves?

Betrayed, by Lisa Scottoline. Back with a new Rosato & Associates novel (after 2013's Accused), Scottoline's latest finds maverick lawyer Judy Carrier taking the lead in a case that's more personal than ever.  Judy has always championed the underdog, so when Iris, the housekeeper and best friend of Judy's beloved Aunt Barb, is found dead of an apparent heart attack, Judy begins to suspect foul play.  The circumstances of the death leave Judy with more questions than answers, and never before has murder struck so close to home. Scottoline is a trailblazer when it comes to crime fiction, with strong, relatable female lead characters, thrilling twists and fast-paced plots.

The Escape, by David Baldacci. In his blockbuster thrillers Zero Day and The Forgotten, readers met John Puller. A combat veteran and special agent with the U.S. Army, Puller is the man they call to investigate the toughest crimes facing the nation. But all his training, all his experience, all his skills will not prepare him for his newest case, one that will force him to hunt down the most formidable and brilliant prey he has ever tracked: his own brother.

The Burning Room, by Michael Connelly. In the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die almost a decade after the crime. So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet nine years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but all other evidence is virtually nonexistent. Now Bosch and rookie Detective Lucia Soto, are tasked with solving what turns out to be a highly charged, politically sensitive case. Beginning with the bullet that's been lodged for years in the victim's spine, they must pull new leads from years-old information, which soon reveal that this shooting may have been anything but random.

I'll be back next week to share more titles to look forward to next month. In the meantime, happy reading!