Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Meg's Picks: February 2018, part 1

If you're looking for something riveting to read, I have a few suggestions...

The Hush, by John Hart. Hart's latest is a big deal for several reasons. First is Hart himself, the only author to have ever won consecutive Edgar Awards for Best Novel (2008 for Down River and 2010 for The Last Child). Second is that The Hush takes place in the same world Hart created in his incredibly popular The Last Child. It's been ten years since the events that changed Johnny Merrimon's life and rocked his community. While Johnny has tried to maintain his privacy, books have been written about his experiences, and after a decade, the fascination remains. His only friend is a hold-over from childhood, and they share a bond of what they experienced in their youth...and what they lost. Jack, however, is unnerved by the darkness that Johnny now calls home, and seeks to bring his old friend back. A novel of persistence, the power of friendship, the pain of the past.

White Houses, by Amy Bloom. Bloom's latest novel (following 2014's Lucky Us) is a unique historical love story, that of Eleanor Roosevelt and "first friend" Lorena Hickok. The two met in 1932 when Hickok was reporting on FDR's first presidential campaign. Told from "Hick's" point of view over the course of meeting, becoming friends, and ultimately the open secret of her presence in the White House and her job in the Roosevelt administration. A poignant tale of fascinating people in compelling times.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Reading Ahead: February 2018, part 3

Feel like you have no time to read? You're not alone. There are many ways to fit a little extra reading into your life. Like short stories (see the latest title from Joyce Carol Oates, below) which take hardly any time at all. Or some easy reading (like Sophie Kinsella's latest), in which the pages simply fly by!

Beautiful Days, by Joyce Carol Oates. Oates's stories are, like her novels, richly diverse, exploring the intimate, secret inner lives of people both like us, and very unlike us. These are characters independent, bold, defiant, sometimes with grave consequences. If you share her fascination with the social, psychological and moral boundaries that govern our behavior (and really, isn't that what all good stories are about, deep down?), this collection should absolutely be on your reading list.

Surprise Me, by Sophie Kinsella. No one can ever know what goes on inside a marriage...sometimes not even the couple themselves. Sylvie and Dan have been together for ten years and they have a great life together: good communication, fulfilling jobs, lovely twin daughters. And then someone mentions that they could be together another sixty-eight years, and the suggestion breeds instant panic. The couple decides to implement Project Surprise Me, each of them surprising one another with gifts, dates and experiences, in order to keep things fresh. Some of these, of course, wind up with hilariously disastrous results. Other endeavors, however, reveal secrets each never dreamed the other might have been keeping all this time...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Reading Ahead: February 2018, part 2

Suspense novels, legal thrillers, psychological puzzlers... Intrigued? Read on!

Fifty Fifty, by James Patterson & Candice Fox. Fifty fifty? Are the chances that Sam Blue is innocent of the serial murders of at least three women. Detective Harriett Blue is convinced of her brother's innocence and is determined to prove it. What are the chances of a young woman being held hostage who could crack Harriett's case wide open? You guessed it! Also available in Large Print.

Poison, by John Lescroart. After being wounded, Dismas Hardy (last seen in 2014's The Keeper) is recovering, and finally looking to ease into retirement. He's pulled back into the courtroom, however, when a wealthy business owner is murdered. The prime suspect is the bookkeeper--she's been receiving payments under the table from the company, which doesn't make her look so innocent, despite her claims. But as Dismas begins to investigate the family behind the business, what he finds is a dark and twisted web of secrets, jealous siblings, gold-diggers, betrayal and blackmail. The deeper he digs, however, the bigger the target on his own back...

Night Moves, by Jonathan Kellerman. Kellerman's newest Alex Delaware novel (following 2017's Heartbreak Hotel) finds LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis in need of psychologist Delaware's help as he's confronted with a crime as baffling as it is brutal. There's no blood, no evidence of a struggle, but the victim's missing hands and face make identification difficult. And the corpse was not a resident in the upscale L.A. family home where it was found. It's only after Sturgis and Delaware try to pierce the facade of the wealthy neighborhood that the real secrets start to leak out. Also available in Large Print.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Reading Ahead: February 2018, part 1

Happy New Year! Here's to lots of great reads, trying new things, and whatever your chosen reading challenges may be this year! To get us started, here are a few books that are coming in February that readers are already clamoring for!

The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah. This was one of my sneak previews for 2018, because Hannah made such a huge impression with her 2015 blockbuster novel The Nightingale. Her new novel follows a family in the Alaskan wilderness in 1974. Leni's dad is a Vietnam vet and has moved the family off the grid. As summer's glory fades into the long winter's chill, life becomes more difficult in a multitude of ways.  You can read my original preview here.

Look For Me, by Lisa Gardner. A new title in Gardner's bestselling Detective D.D. Warren series, following 2016's Find Her. The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four dead, and the fifth, a sixteen-year-old girl, missing. Did she escape or was she kidnapped? Detective Warren is on the case, but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane, each of them seeking a different kind of justice. Also available in Large Print.

A Death in Live Oak, by James Grippando. This latest in Grippando's long-running Jack Swyteck series, following 2017's Most Dangerous Place,  finds attorney Swyteck defending a client amid a maelstrom of political unrest, racial tension, and sensational media: the stakes could not be higher. Is his client guilty? Or is the crime actually a sinister plan that goes much deeper? It's up to Jack to find out, before the clock runs out.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

What I've Been Reading: December 2017

Well, it looks like I'm going to come up just shy of my 2017 goal to read 90 books, but I'm going to come mighty close! Here's what's been keeping me occupied these last few weeks.

Artemis, by Andy Weir. Okay, this was a book that I was really looking forward to this year. Andy Weir, if you'll remember, was the bestselling author of the debut smash The Martian, which was then made into a very popular movie starring Matt Damon. This, his follow-up, did not disappoint in the slightest. Jazz lives in Artemis, the only city on the moon, working as a porter and making ends meet by doing a little (a lot of) smuggling for the city's elite. Strapped for cash and always on the lookout for opportunities, Jazz pauses only briefly before accepting a top-secret job for one of her clients: put one of her client's competitors out of business. The job is highly dangerous to begin with but becomes deadly in short order, leaving Jazz to alternate between hiding to stay alive and working out a plan to keep her that way. This is definitely not The Martian, part 2, but it keeps with Weir's style of MacGyver in space, plenty of suspense and thrills, fast-paced plotting, vivid characters. Expect in theaters probably in 2020. The audiobook, read by actress Rosario Dawson, is exceptional and I very highly recommend it.

Grave Suspicion, by Aaron Mahnke. Aaron Mahnke is the creator of one of my very favorite podcasts, Lore, and I wanted to check out one of his novels. I got to do so via a free trial at Audible.com. Unfortunately, I think Lore might have spoiled me, as it's very well researched and brilliantly executed. Grave Suspicion is the tale of an extraordinary man, Sam Hawthorne, trying to keep a low profile and pass as ordinary as he leads a nomadic existence traveling from town to town in the midwest in an attempt to keep ahead of someone, or something, who seems to be hunting him. The unfortunate part, for me, is that the novel reads a bit like an early, unfinished draft, lacking the polish and tight storytelling of Lore to which I've become accustomed. Ah well, can't win them all.

The Obsidian Chamber, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. In preparation for the next installment in the writing team's FBI Special Agent Pendergast series, City of Endless Night, due out next month, I finally caught up with the published titles. Following the deadly confrontation at the end of The Crimson Shore, Pendergast has gone missing and is presumed dead. His ward, Constance Greene, intends to retreat into mourning, but is kidnapped before this can happen. Pendergast's longtime bodyguard, Proctor, is in hot pursuit to rescue Constance, only to be led on a wild goose chase of global proportions. Our heroes are scattered to the four winds, each in his or her own special brand of danger, their outcomes uncertain. Can each find their way home again safely? A slight change of pace for the series, but the story was no less thrilling for it. An excellent addition, and I look forward to the next installment.

The Silent Corner, by Dean Koontz. This is the first novel in Koontz's new series featuring suspended FBI Agent Jane Hawk (the second in the series, The Whispering Room, came out earlier in December and the third, The Crooked Staircase, is slated for release in May 2018). Jane's husband, Nick, had everything to live for, but took his own life, leaving behind only a chilling, brief note reading: "I very much need to be dead." Jane begins to dig for the truth, certain that Nick would never have committed suicide, and what she finds puts her life, and that of her son, in peril. People with no history of depression or suicidal thoughts are taking their lives in record numbers, and Jane's queries instantly make her a target. Driven by righteous rage, Jane pursues the truth, no matter the cost. Classic Koontz, full of paranoia and suspenseful vigilance.

Northern Lights, by Nora Roberts. Published more than a dozen years ago, Northern Lights is a re-read for me, but I'm counting the re-read. This is a favorite of mine, the story of a grieving man running from his past only to stumble headlong into an...unusual situation that, against all odds, becomes home for him. Nate Burke was a Baltimore cop who needed a change of scene after losing his partner. Haunted by guilt, he took a job as far away as he could, in Lunacy, Alaska. But the city cop is just what the Lunatics need, and Nate finds purpose in his work and his life...and love. Character is king in this book, and I loved it all over again.

This makes 86 books for me in 2017, and while I might squeeze in one or two more between now and January 1, I'm not banking on it. In the meantime, wishing all of my fellow readers a Happy and healthy New Year, and I'll see you again in January!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Meg's Picks: January 2018, part 2

Looking for note-worthy reads to get your pulse racing? Look no further than this assortment of new psychological thrillers, slated for release in the next few weeks.

The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. This is another one of those titles that I can't help sharing twice--if you miss out, you can't say I didn't warn you! My original preview is here.

Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland. In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, CIA analyst Vivian Miller uncovers a secret that will endanger her job, her family, and her very life. After accessing a potential Russian operative's files, Vivian finds a secret dossier of deep-cover agents living in the US and is immediately in over her head. She's sworn to protect her country against threats both foreign and domestic, but now she finds herself torn between loyalty and betrayal, faced with a paralyzing decision: who can she trust? Movie rights have been sold to Universal, Charlize Theron is attached to the project, and the early reviews are full of praise. Miss out at your own peril!

Two Girls Down, by Louisa Luna. Luna's debut is already generating all sorts of buzz. When two young sisters disappear outside a strip mall in their small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother engages Alice Vega, bountyhunter, to help. Vega is immediately shut out by the local police, already stretched thin by budget cuts and a growing OxyContin and meth epidemic in their small town. She does, however, find an unlikely ally in disgraced former cop, Max Caplan, eager to put his scandal behind him. With little to go on and their window of opportunity closing rapidly, it's up to this unlikely duo to untangle a web of lies and secrets to save the girls before time runs out.

A happy holiday to all! I'll be back next week to wrap up what I've been reading in 2017. Be well, and happy reading.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Meg's Picks: January 2018, part 1

Thrillers, mysteries, family sagas or mind-bending fiction, there's a little of everything coming next month. Here are a few I've hand-picked for you--don't miss out!

The Wife, by Alafair Burke. Need a new psychological thriller to look forward to? Advance reviews are raving about Burke's (The Ex, 2016, etc.) latest. When Angela met Jason while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, her assumption was that their romance would be short-lived. To her surprise, the relationship with the NYU professor blossomed and they got married the following summer. For Angela, this is a chance to reboot her life, a chance to leave her tragic past behind her and create a new future for her and her son. Six years later, Jason's new book is a bestseller and Angela is much too close to the spotlight for her comfort. Then a woman comes forward with an accusation against her husband, followed by a second, and suddenly Angela's perfect new life is crumbling around her. If forced to choose between defending her husband and saving her own life, which way will Angela go? Also available in Large Print.

Eternal Life, by Dara Horn. Horn's work (A Guide for the Perplexed, The World to Come, etc.) is very popular around here, and we expect the same from her latest. Rachel made a bargain to save the life of her first son. Her recent troubles? Widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son? Those are dim in comparison to the fact that she cannot die. And she should know--she's been trying to free herself from her bargain for 2,000 years. That's dozens of marriages, hundreds of children, countless countries. The only person who can understand, unfortunately, is a man she once loved and who now stalks her through the centuries, convinced they belong together. A novel of the power of faith, the purpose of death, and our reasons for being alive.

The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin. I am expecting this to be one of 2018's sleeper hits, so don't say I didn't warn you. In fact, I'm warning you twice, as this was one of my sneak-previews of 2018, just a few weeks ago. You can read my preview here.

The Mitford Murders, by Jessica Fellowes. From the author of the Downton Abbey companion books comes a crime novel with a new heroine set amid historical giants, perfect for fans of classic murder mysteries. It's 1920 and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London. Her salvation is a position at the Asthall Manor, working for the Mitfords, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nursemaid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy. But then a nurse, Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter to her namesake, is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the case with a murderer hot on their heels. Based on an unsolved crime.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Reading Ahead: January 2018, Part 4

There is so much great fiction just on the horizon. Want to know what readers are eyeing? Take a look!

Still Me, by JoJo Moyes. This third entry in Moyes's Louisa Clark series (following Me Before You and After You) finds Louisa newly arrived in New York City, ready for a new adventure and determined to make her long-distance relationship work. Working for the super-rich Gopniks puts Louisa in  a very different social circle--running alongside high society has its perks, such as putting her into contact with a whisper of her past. But it also comes with drawbacks, and Louisa soon finds herself carrying a number of secrets, not all of them her own, which could change her circumstances in a heartbeat. If forced to choose, which life will Louisa lead? Also available in Large Print.

The Girls in the Picture, by Melanie Benjamin. Benjamin (The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Aviator's Wife, etc.) here showcases the friendship between two of Hollywood's earliest female legends: screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford. It's 1914 and Frances Marion is twenty-five, having just left her North California home (and her second husband) behind for the allure of Los Angeles. She's determined to live independently as an artist, but the only word on everyone's lips is "flickers", the silent moving pictures enthralling theater-goers. It's in this fledgling industry that Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this marvelous new art form. She also meets the talented and popular actress Mary Pickford, the two finding instant kinship as two driven, creative women in a burgeoning industry. And together, they fight against the male-dominated business and against the limitations placed on them because of their gender. The result is a tale of friendship and forgiveness, populated with cameos by historical figures like Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish and Rudolph Valentino. Hollywood buffs and historical fiction fans alike should add this to their reading lists.

Sisters Like Us, by Susan Mallery. Fourth in Mallery's Mischief Bay series (following A Million Little Things, 2017), Sisters Like Us finds Harper Szymanski in trouble--newly divorced with a house she can't afford and a teenage daughter who's pulling away. Her fledgling virtual-assistant business is time consuming, but it's helping to pay the bills. Her sister, Dr. Stacey Bloom, is in a different predicament--she's realized that spending half her life in school has helped her to build a great career, but has left her quite unprepared for motherhood. Worse, they live in dread of their mother's harsh judgement of their life choices. Separately, their lives may verge on disaster, but together? There's nothing these sisters cannot handle.

Fall From Grace, by Danielle Steel. Sydney Wells's perfect life is shattered by the sudden death of her husband. Now widowed at 49, she discovers that he failed to include her in his will and his vicious daughters are not sharing. Without a home and desperately short of funds, Sydney finds a job in fashion, only to find herself hopelessly out of her depth and a scapegoat in her new boss's schemes. When you've sunk as low as you can go, how do you rebuild? Is it possible to rebuild your life after disgrace and come out on top? Sydney is about to find out. Also available in Large Print

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Reading Ahead: January 2018, Part 3

Feeling the need for something suspenseful and thrilling to keep you warm on a winter's night? Consider one of the following, due out in just a few weeks!

Act of Revenge, by Dale Brown & Jim DeFelice. Part of the writing duo's ongoing Dreamland series (following Puppet Master, 2016), Act of Revenge finds Louis Massina racing against time to save the city of Boston when terrorists attack on Easter Sunday. The robotics master, aka the Puppet Master, takes the attack personally--this is his city, and one of his employees is among the hostages taken. Step One: stop the attacks. Step Two? Track down the terror mastermind and make him pay.

Dark In Death, by J.D. Robb. An unbelievable 46th* entry into Robb's (aka Nora Roberts) long-running and best-selling series. In a case of death imitating art, NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called on-scene when a woman is murdered during a screening of Psycho. The clues are few and Dallas is puzzled, only to get a tip from an unexpected source: an author of police thrillers who recognizes the details...from her own book. Dallas is certain this isn't just coincidence; upon further investigation, another recent crime is also straight from the author's work. If the theory holds, the NYPSD may be in for a long-running series, unless Dallas and her team can catch a killer and fast.

Promise Not to Tell, by Jayne Ann Krentz. Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy is a woman with a dark past, including a childhood as part of a cult and the tragic death of her mother. Now, one of her artists has taken her own life, but not before sending Virginia a message, one that makes Virginia not only question the supposed suicide, but her own past, as well. A private investigator who is also a survivor of the same cult, Cabot Sutter may be the only one who can help her now. As they struggle to unravel the clues sent to Virginia, it becomes clear that someone thinks she knows more than she does, and is willing to kill to keep those secrets from coming out.

*Technically, including novellas, short stories and anthologies, this is the 58th entry in the series, but the 46th stand-alone novel.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Reading Ahead: January 2018, Part 2

Ready or not, more suspense and thrillers are on the horizon!

The Take, by Christopher Reich. Reich's (Invasion of Privacy, etc.) latest follows a hero, Simon Riske, who is part James Bond and part Jack Reacher. The London-based freelance industrial spy lives a mostly quiet life despite his job title. In fact, he does his best to avoid messy, complicated jobs, preferring to do odd jobs for banks and insurance companies. Until now. A former brother-in-arms, gangster Tino Coluzzi, has orchestrated the greatest street heist in Paris history. Their shared history ended with Riske in prison, so when the CIA asks Riske to intervene, he's only too ready to make this fight thief vs thief. If you're looking for something to take the edge off while you're waiting for the next Reacher, I highly recommend Reich.

Unbound, by Stuart Woods. There's no shortage of Stone Barrington novels these days! In the wake of personal tragedy, former CIA operative Teddy Fay takes a personal leave to travel and process his grief, only to land in Santa Fe with pal Stone Barrington. There, fate hands Teddy the means to work through his loss: a chance to exact revenge. But it will take all Stone's skill to help Teddy while keeping innocents out of the crossfire once the battle heats up.

Hellbent, by Gregg Hurwitz. Fans are loving Hurwitz's Orphan X series (which starts with 2016's Orphan X, in case you missed it), and this third installment is sure to win more readers over. And you might want to join them, especially since Hurwitz is hard at work on a script to bring an Orphan X adaptation to the big screen. Orphan X himself is Evan Smoak, taken from his home at age twelve and trained as an off-the-books government assassin. He eventually broke with the Orphan program and reinvented himself as the Nowhere Man, dedicated to helping the truly desperate. Now, Evan's past is reaching out: Jack Johns, the only father Evan has ever known, is in the crosshairs as the government works to eradicate the last traces of the Orphan program. Jack's task for Evan: find and protect Jack's last protege from the new head of Orphan.