Thursday, January 22, 2015

Meg's Picks: February 2015, part 1

Some months are more spectacular than others when it comes to fiction releases that make me sit up and take notice. This February is definitely going to be spectacular in that regard! Here are a couple of examples (and stay tuned for next week's posts, because there are more where these came from!).

The Swimmer, by Joakim Zander. Klara Walldéen was raised by her grandparents on a remote archipelago in the Baltic Sea, learning to fish and hunt and sail a boat through a storm. Now, as an EU Parliament aide in Brussels, she is learning how to navigate the treacherous currents of international politics: the lines between friend and enemy, truth and lies. But Klara has accidentally seen something she shouldn’t have: a laptop containing information so sensitive that someone will kill to keep hidden. Suddenly, she is thrown into a terrifying chase across Europe, with no idea who is hunting her or why.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action, an operative so dedicated that he abandoned his infant daughter to keep his cover. Now, he is the only man who can save Klara . . . and she is the only woman who can allow him to lay old ghosts to rest. Because in the end, you cannot hide who you are. Critics are already raving about this international thriller, praising everything from its perfect pacing to its dazzling character portraits--more than one has been astounded that this is indeed a first novel. High praise indeed--thriller readers should definitely add this to their to-read list!

The Forgotten Girls, by Sara Blaedel. Sara Blaedel is referred to as the "Queen of Crime" in her native Denmark, so American readers can now rejoice that she's bringing her work to the US.

The body of an unidentified woman was discovered in a local forest. A large, unique scar on one side of her face should have made the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. As the new commander of the Missing Persons Department, Louise risks involving the media by releasing a photo of the victim, hoping to find someone who knew her.
Louise's gamble pays off: an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a "forgotten girl." But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates more than thirty years ago. Now Louise is left with more questions than answers.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reading Ahead: February 2015, part 5

One of the best parts of the cold weather (I'm trying for some silver lining here, folks. Work with me!) is that it lends the perfect excuse to curling up on the couch with a great book for some easy reading. If that sounds good to you, here are a few up-and-coming easy-reading titles you may want to line up for a weekend avoiding the cold weather.

Prodigal Son, by Danielle Steel.  Twin boys grow up in the same family, in the same town. Dramatically different, they become bitter enemies, even as children. One good, one bad. One leaves his peaceful hometown, but when all else fails, the prodigal son returns, twenty years later. The reunion of brothers, sweet and healing at first, exposes shattering revelations of good and evil. A suspenseful story of suspicion, betrayal, and a life-and-death struggle for survival as the question arises again and again, which twin is good and which is evil?

Obsession in Death, by J.D. Robb. Eve Dallas has solved a lot of high-profile murders for the NYPSD and gotten a lot of media coverage. She, and her billionaire husband, Roarke, are getting accustomed to being objects of attention, gossip, and speculation.  But now Eve has become the object of one person’s obsession. Someone who finds her extraordinary and thinks about her every hour of every day. Who believes the two of them have a special relationship. Who would kill for her, again and again… Fans are already lining up for this new title, so put your requests in now!

Double Fudge Brownie Murder, by Joanne Fluke. Life in tiny Lake Eden, Minnesota, is usually pleasantly uneventful. Lately, though, it seems everyone has more than their fair share of drama--especially the Swensen family. With so much on her plate, Hannah Swensen can hardly find the time to think about her bakery--let alone the town's most recent murder. Nervous about the upcoming trial for her involvement in a tragic accident, Hannah is eager to clear her name once and for all, but her troubles only double when she finds the judge bludgeoned to death with his own gavel--and she is the number one suspect. Cozy mystery fans, if you're not reading this series, I highly recommend you start! If you're new to the Hannah Swensen series, start with The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reading Ahead: February 2015, part 4

I get asked, often, for recommendations of books that would generate great discussions for book clubs. The three following titles? I think they'd each fit the bill quite nicely, for different reasons. I'm actually going to suggest several to my book club when it's time to choose titles again!

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. Hannah's new novel takes readers to France in 1939, as Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he leaves for the Front. She can't believe that the Nazis will invade France, but she is very, very wrong, as her home is requisitioned, forcing her to choose to live with the enemy, or find herself and her daughters on the street. Meanwhile, Vianne's younger sister, Isabelle, joins the Resistance in Paris after a heartbreaking betrayal. A novel of resilience, survival, love and freedom in the midst of chaos. Hannah is a reader favorite, and I think this may find her an even wider audience. Fans of Jojo Moyes's The Girl You Left Behind or Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key should make a point to pick this one up.

A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor. Reviewers are raving, calling the novel "flawless", "stunning" and "luminous".

Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby. Set in 1960's London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reading Ahead: February 2015, part 3

Historical fiction fans, take note! A couple of big titles are coming your way next month, including the newest installment to Jeffrey Archer's super-addictive bestselling Clifton Chronicles!

The Marriage Game, by Alison Weir. Weir, established biographer of the Tudors, returns again to her fictionalized accounts of Queen Elizabeth I. Only twenty-five and newly crowned, Elizabeth vows to rule the country as both queen and king. But her counselors continually press her to form an advantageous marriage and produce an heir. Though none of the suitors have yet worked their way to her throne, the dashing—though married—Lord Robert lays claim to Elizabeth’s heart. Their flagrant flirting, their unescorted outings, and the appointment of Lord Robert to Master of Horse inspire whispers through the court, and even rumors that Elizabeth has secretly given birth to Lord Robert’s child. 
Events take a dark turn when Robert’s wife is found dead. Universal shock is followed by accusations of murder. Despite the scandal, Elizabeth and Robert manage to navigate the choppy political, economic, and religious waters around them. But the greatest obstacle to marriage between the Queen and her true love may come not from outside forces, but from within.

Mightier Than the Sword, by Jeffrey Archer. Fifth in this riveting family saga (new to it? Start with book one, Only Time Will Tell), Mightier Than the Sword opens with an IRA bombing of the maiden voyage across the Atlantic of the MV Buckingham, resulting in loss of life and a number of repercussions that will shake the Clifton clan, spread amongst several continents, to their very core. Anticipation for this installment in the series is high, and critics are calling it the best of Archer's work to date. High praise, indeed!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reading Ahead: February 2015, part 2

Want something a little extra special, off the beaten track, a suspense or thriller novel out of the ordinary? Try one (or both) of the following titles. Both are getting some extra buzz from critics and advance readers, and neither is your standard fare.

The Alphabet House, by Jussi Adler-olsen. British pilots James Teasdale and Bryan Young have been chosen to conduct a special photo-reconnaissance mission near Dresden, Germany. Intelligence believes the Nazis are building new factories that could turn the tide of the war. When their plane is shot down, James and Bryan know they will be executed if captured. With an enemy patrol in pursuit, they manage to jump aboard a train reserved for senior SS soldiers wounded on the eastern front. In a moment of desperation, they throw two patients off the train and take their places, hoping they can escape later. But their act is too convincing and they end up in the Alphabet House, a mental hospital located far behind enemy lines, where German doctors subject their patients to daily rounds of shock treatments and experimental drugs. The pilots’ only hope of survival is to fake insanity until the war ends, but their friendship and courage are put to the ultimate test when James and Bryan realize they aren’t the only ones in the Alphabet House feigning madness.

Hush Hush, by Laura Lippman. On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.

But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn’t sure he approves. Tess Monaghan is asked as a personal favor to assess Melisandre's security needs, and reluctantly agrees, only to be drawn into the investigation when Melisandre becomes the lead suspect in a murder.