Thursday, March 22, 2018

Meg's Picks: April 2018

Fiction comes in so many flavors, it's impossible to pick just one! Here are a few that are on the menu next month!

The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer. This much anticipated new novel from the best-selling author of titles like The Uncoupling and The Interestings (a personal favorite) is a story of power, ambition, friendship and the ideals we follow deep into adulthood. Greer is a shy college freshman when she meets charismatic Faith Frank, older, wiser, a pillar of the women's movement for decades. Greer, while madly in love with her boyfriend, is filled with an unfocused ambition that makes her restless, and it finds its purpose when she hears Faith speak for the first time. Faith invites Greer to make something of her purpose, leading her down a road much different than where Greer might have been headed otherwise. For readers who enjoy their fiction charming, witty and wise, Wolitzer is always a good choice.

Varina, by Charles Frazier. New historical fiction from the best-selling author of Cold Mountain. Returning to the time and place of Cold Mountain, Frazier follows the story of Varina Howell who, as a teenager with limited marriage prospects, agrees to marry the much older Jefferson Davis. While she enters the union expecting a comfortable life as the wife of a Mississippi landowner, instead Davis pursues a career in politics, ultimately appointed president of the Confederacy. Varina finds herself in the very center of one of the darkest times in American history, managing to escape Richmond with her children as the Confederacy falls, a bounty on their heads by association. If you like your fiction historical, epic, and riveting, add this to your reading list.

What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw, by Leah Stewart. Latest from the author of The Myth of You and Me and The History of Us, What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw is a thoughtful novel about the price of fame. Struggling with his newfound stardom, actor Charlie flees to a remote island in search of anonymity and a chance to reevaluate his collapsing relationship to actress Josie Lamar. Soon after his arrival, however, a solitary hike into the jungle takes him from anonymity to real danger. At the same time, Josie struggles with the fading of her own stardom. In the twenty years since her starring role in a cult TV show, Josie has never found another role to match the one that made her a household name. In anticipation of a full cast reunion at a huge convention, Josie thinks she will be fine if she can get a new part and a new boyfriend. What may make her famous, however, is everything she thinks she can replace, including Charlie. If you love fiction with untraditional love stories and a damsel who saves herself, and the day, this is one for you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Reading Ahead: April 2018, part 5

Easy reading comes in a variety of flavors. Interested in trying something new? Consider one of the following, due out next month.

A Nantucket Wedding, by Nancy Thayer. Thayer is a summer reads favorite and she's giving fans an early start on their beach reading this year. Alison lost her beloved husband several years ago. Now, she's doing something she'd never dreamed of: getting married again. As she and her fiance plan for their big day, they bring together their adult children and their families to get to know each other, hoping for one big happy blended family. What comes next is a summer of revelations, intrigue, resentments, and other surprises.

Twenty-One Days, by Anne Perry. This new mystery from long-time fan favorite Perry is the first in a new series featuring Charlotte and Thomas Pitt's son, Daniel, as its sleuth. It's 1910 and Daniel Pitt is a junior barrister in London, eager to prove himself. The new case before him may be his make-or-break moment. His client is found guilty of murdering his wife, and Daniel has exactly twenty-one days to find the woman's real killer, or his client will go to the gallows. When his investigation leads him far too close to his own family for comfort, Daniel finds himself torn between his need to uphold the law and his fierce protectiveness of his family.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Reading Ahead: April 2018, part 4

Small towns. Home to reunions, close-knit communities gone mad, and murder in this trio of new fiction coming out next month.

The Family Gathering, by Robyn Carr. Third in Carr's newest series, Sullivan's Crossing (following What We Find and Any Day Now), The Family Gathering finds Dakota Jones at a crossroads in his life after leaving the military. As his elder brother and youngest sister have both found happiness and settled down in Sullivan's Crossing, he joins them there to clear his head before deciding where to head next. What seems like a simple, uncomplicated town seems to get complicated for Dakota in a hurry. For one, he's on everyone's radar as a newcomer. And after years apart, getting to know his siblings as adults is an eye-opening experience. As the four siblings gather for a wedding, the first time they've all been together in years, they redefine their family ties...and what home means to each of them. Carr has a way of writing about communities that makes the reader long to join them.

Hold Back the Dark, by Kay Hooper. Latest in Hooper's ongoing Bishop/SCU series, Hold Back the Dark finds a Special Crimes Unit team called upon to aid a small mountain community where madness has taken hold, causing residents to turn on one another with murderous results. If you're a fan of supernatural thrillers and haven't read Hooper's work, what are you waiting for?

Shattered Mirror, by Iris Johansen. This is Johansen's 24th novel to feature forensic sculptor Eve Duncan, following 2017's Mind Game. A deadly game of intrigue is afoot when Eve receives an anonymous package containing a skull and a two-sided mirror. She's determined to reconstruct the face of the skull and uncover the person's identity, but as she works, the face of a beautiful woman emerges. Who was she? And how did she come to be delivered to Eve?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Reading Ahead: April 2018, part 3

New titles by old favorites? You bet!

I've Got My Eyes On You, by Mary Higgins Clark. After a party when her parents are away, eighteen-year-old Kerry Dowling is found fully dressed at the bottom of the family pool. The immediate suspect is her boyfriend, with whom she'd argued hotly at the party. There's also a young neighbor who'd been angry not to be invited. Is there someone else not on the investigation radar? Could it be someone who will kill again to keep from being revealed?

After Anna, by Lisa Scottoline. Dr. Noah Alderman, widower and single father, finds happiness with Maggie. When they marry, he hopes it's a new beginning for him and his young son, who adores Maggie. But Maggie has entanglements from her past, and when her daughter Anna, who Maggie hasn't seen in many years, comes into their lives, stress levels begin to rise. Anna is seventeen, unwilling to live by the house rules, and Maggie is blind to all but the joy of reconnecting. When Anna is murdered, Noah is the prime suspect, forcing Maggie to reevaluate all of her ties to the people she loves. Also available in Large Print.

Shoot First, by Stuart Woods. Woods's 45th Stone Barrington novel (following Unbound, 2018) finds Stone in Key West, trying to keep his latest paramour's technology from being stolen, and trying to keep them both alive after assassins are hired to take them out. Woods is moving further and further in James Bond territory, fans just can't get enough.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Reading Ahead: April 2018, part 2

If you're a sucker for series, read on--there are several new entries to some long-time reader favorites!

Twisted Prey, by John Sandford. Lucas Davenport has encountered rich psychopath Taryn Grant before, and he's still convinced she's responsible for at least three murders, even if he can't prove it...yet. Now she's a U.S. Senator and back on Davenport's radar, as he knew she would be. She's involved in some rather shady side deals, and he is one U.S. Marshall who is about to make sure she won't hurt anyone again, one way or another. Also available in Large Print.

The Sixth Day, by Catherine Coulter & J.T. Ellison. This new entry into the writing duo's Brit in the FBI series (following 2017's Devil's Triangle) finds Special Agents Drummond and Caine pitted against a ruthless mastermind. After several major political figures die under mysterious circumstances, officials ultimately rule the deaths to be of natural causes. Then a German Vice-Chancellor dies, and a drone is spotted hovering at the scene. These are not natural at all, but rather highly sophisticated assassinations, and the Covert Eyes team is called in to investigate. This is being billed as the best in the series so far, so if you're interested, I'd absolutely recommend you start at the beginning of the series, The Final Cut. Also available in Large Print

The 17th Suspect, by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro. A series of shootings in San Francisco are the dark deeds of a methodical, yet unpredictable, killer. A reluctant woman puts her trust in Sergeant Lindsay Boxer, coming in as a confidential informant with a tip about the shooter. The tip, however, leads to something bigger and more disturbing, a suspicion that something has gone deeply wrong inside the police department itself. Now Lindsay becomes a target herself, and everything that's dearest to her may be taken from her if she cannot stop the killer...before he stops her. Also available in Large Print

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Reading Ahead: April 2018, part 1

Spring is upon us, and that means the leading edge of "summer reads" are also here! Thrillers are a favorite regardless of the season, and we have some new titles by perennial favorites to offer!

The Fallen, by David Baldacci. This most recent entry in Baldacci's Amos Decker/Memory Man series (following 2017's The Fix) finds Decker, the man who cannot forget the smallest detail, in the small rust-belt town of Baronville, where a series of bizarre murders has police stumped. When yet another murder hits very close to home for Decker, he realizes that the scope of this spree may extend well beyond Baronville, and that he, with his unique talent, may be the only one who can put an end to them. Also available in Large Print

The Cutting Edge, by Jeffery Deaver. For Deaver fans who have been pining for a new Lincoln Rhyme novel, pine no longer! Lincoln and Amelia have returned to New York, quickly taking a case of a brutal triple murder in Manhattan's Diamond District. The murder scene is a jewelry store on 47th Street, but the killer left behind more than a half-million dollars worth of gems. As more crimes follow, it appears that the killer's target is not gems, but engaged couples themselves, determined to turn a moment of pure joy into one of horror. His one mistake, leaving a witness alive, may be what cracks the case, but it may spell disaster before he can be stopped. Also available in Large Print.

The First Family, by Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer. In a novel that returns to the setting of Palmer's The First Patient (2008), the president and his family are relentlessly scrutinized, by the public, the media, and security staff. When his sixteen-year-old chess champion son begins experiencing fatigue, moodiness and uncharacteristic outbursts, it is passed off as stress and teen angst. But a secret service agent, tasked with the family's well-being, calls in her ex-husband, a physician, for a second opinion. The boy's symptoms are baffling, his health deteriorating, and stranger still, he shares the same symptoms as another teen, this one a musical prodigy. Time is of the essence as they struggle to diagnose the mysterious illness, only to find betrayals that breach the highest levels of national security.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What I've Been Reading: February 2018

There are too many things I want to share in this post to spend much time on preamble. Read on!

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. I originally read back in January of 2015 (you can see my original review here), but definitely needed a refresher before discussing it at my February book club meeting. It is a twisty thriller with a back-and-forth timeline which made the first read a little more challenging. If anything, I liked it better the second time around. The story of a woman who admits from the beginning that she's anything but a reliable narrator, and what she really saw, if anything, during a drunken blackout the night a former neighbor disappeared is still as compelling, but easier to follow with the foundation I had. And it made for excellent discussion, something that thrillers are not necessarily known for.

The Dry, by Jane Harper. Twenty years ago, tragedy hit a small town when a young woman disappeared. Aaron and his best friend Luke were one another's alibis, but Aaron never knew who was lying to protect whom. Now, Luke and his family are dead, prompting Aaron's first return to his hometown in decades. More than one person knows that the boys lied about where they were so many years ago. Aaron, now a big-city investigator, is reluctantly drawn into the investigation, but finds that some things, including the past, just won't stay buried. Dark and deeply suspenseful. I'm looking forward to the second in the series, Force of Nature, which was released earlier this month.

The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin. I mentioned recently that this was at the top of my to-read list, and I wasn't kidding! I had a few days off this month and, in addition to watching a ton of Olympics coverage, I read this. In a day. Once I was into it I couldn't bear to put it down for any reason. In the summer of 1969, a fortune-teller of sorts has come to New York. She does not advertise, but word of her presence is passed from person to person until one of the Gold children hears of it and decides that the four Gold siblings will go together to see the woman and find out the ultimate future: the date of his or her death. What each of the four go on to do with their information varies widely. Does fate make for belief or does belief pave the way for fate? What responsibility comes with knowing how long, or short, your life will be? Fascinating and haunting, this is a story that will stick with me for years to come.

Year One, by Nora Roberts. This opener to Roberts's new metaphysical contemporary series starts off with a very plausible scenario: What would the world look like in the wake of a super-flu outbreak big enough to wipe out a third of the world's human population? What would happen to society? And then, for flare, adds a dash of metaphysicality--what if, in the wake of this Doom, magick returns to humans, for good or ill? How does one use a gift received in the face of tragedy? This is just what the different survivors in Year One have to figure out. It's a quirky bit of fantasy amid modern chaos, but very entertaining.

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath. Having read this last while in college, I did not appreciate at the time just how slyly funny Plath's lone novel was. Dark, yes, but also fascinating and witty. Esther Greenwood is brilliant, charming, talented and beautiful. She is also, slowly, starting to mentally break down, not for the first time, but perhaps for the last. When The Bell Jar came up in conversation not long ago, I realized I needed to reread it, and two decades has altered my perspective considerably, giving me a new appreciation for this modern American classic.

The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah. Hannah's The Nightingale was a departure from her former stories of domestic fiction. The Great Alone is different yet again. Leni doesn't really remember her dad before he went to Vietnam. What she does know is that he hasn't been the "same" since coming home after spending years in a POW camp. At thirteen, permanence would be welcome, but she and her parents move a lot, and she rarely gets to finish a school year in the same place she starts one. When her father is left a cabin and a piece of land in Alaska by an old army buddy who has died, this is, again, going to be a new beginning for the family, a fresh start. The winters are long and dark, though, and are not good for a man with PTSD. Leni and her parents are pushed to the breaking point in this unforgiving land, but who will break first? Among the most compelling reads I've experienced recently, I also read this in a single day--I just couldn't bear to look away before finding out what happened to Leni and her family. Excellent.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Meg's Picks: March 2018, part 2

I have a tendency to save the very best for last, and I think that's what happened this month. All three of these are on my to-read list (my list is very long, you may have noticed...). A twisted psychological suspense novel, a historical novel set in Tuscany and full of secrets, and finally a second historical novel, this time set amid the early days of World War II in France. Please do read on!

Sometimes I Lie, by Alice Feeney. This debut from BBC News veteran Feeney is a serpentine tale of madness, betrayal and murder. Amber Reynolds wakes up in a hospital, but she cannot move or speak. What she can do, however, is hear everything around her, even if no one realizes it. She doesn't remember what happened to put her in her coma, but she thinks her husband has something to do with it. The story alternates between her paralyzed present, the events a week before her accident, and her childhood diaries. The question that drives the story is: if you really believe something is true, is it still a lie? If you're looking for a new psychological suspense novel, this is one to try.

The Italian Party, by Christina Lynch. Part spy novel, part comedy of manners, part love letter to Italy, this debut novel set in sultry 1950s Siena finds an American couple in love with their new home, each of them buried in their own secrets. For CIA operative Michael, he's working a cover story that he's in Italy to sell Fords. In reality, his mission is to make sure the Communist mayor is defeated. It is the Cold War, after all. His wife, Scottie, doesn't have a clue about Michael's real job, she's just trying to be the best housewife she can be. Even if she is carrying a baby that isn't her husband's. When Scottie's teenage Italian tutor goes missing, chaos, as they say, ensues. A detailed, tongue-in-cheek look at what is often imagined to be an era of innocence.

The Room on Rue Amelie, by Kristin Harmel. When three very different people come together in the face of war, they must summon courage, not just to defy their enemies, but to trust each other in order to survive. Ruby came to France in 1939 as a newlywed with French husband Marcel. As the Nazi's invade, however, Ruby's marriage begins to disintegrate. Charlotte is only eleven when the Nazi's take Paris and cannot imagine things getting worse after the Jewish restrictions are enforced. Then the mass deportations begin. Thomas joins the British Royal Air Force to defend his country, but when he loses his mother during the Blitz, he wonders if he's making any difference at all. Fans of books like Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls will want to make sure to check out Harmel's latest.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Meg's Picks: March 2018, part 1

A trio of thrillers of note are arriving next month. What's so note-worthy? Read on to find out!

The Other Mother, by Carol Goodman. As I've just finished Goodman's last book (and absolutely loved it, by the way), I can't help but be excited about her next! Daphne and infant daughter Chloe are starting over the hard way. Daphne's on the run from an emotionally abusive husband, and she's hiding out in the Catskills, working under an assumed name. She's trying to do everything right, but struggling...until she meets Laurel, and they become fast friends. Laurel also has a daughter named Chloe, and the women's fast friendship leads to telling secrets that maybe should have been left hidden. What price would Daphne be willing to pay for her friendship with Laurel? Goodman is a magnificent storyteller, and this is at the very top of my to-read list this spring.

Let Me Lie, by Clare Mackintosh. From the best-selling author of I Let You Go and I See You. Anna has never been able to reconcile the suicides, seven months apart, of her parents. She then receives a card that simply reads "Suicide? Think again." This card (clue? cruel joke?) catches the interest of retired detective turned civilian desk clerk in the local police station. When the two begin an unofficial investigation, Anna begins to receive death threats, and she must decide whether the truth or her remaining family's safety is more important. Mackintosh is creating quite a fanbase with her gripping, satisfying thrillers.

Tangerine, by Christine Mangan. If there's a book to film adaptation that I think is going to be a splash in the near future, it's this debut from Mangan. (George Clooney's Smokehouse Pictures have already bought the film rights, and Scarlett Johansson is set to star.) Alice hasn't spoken to her former Bennington roommate Lucy since a terrible accident nearly a year ago, so she's almost relieved when Lucy turns up in sun-scorched 1950's Tangier, eager to make up and move on. But soon Alice is starting to feel stifled and controlled by Lucy...again. And then Alice's husband disappears... Advance praise makes favorable comparisons to Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley, Alfred Hitchcock, Gillian Flynn and Donna Tartt. Place your holds now--don't say I didn't warn you!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reading Ahead: March 2018, part 4

Long-time fan favorites have new offerings this spring. Which will you choose?

Alternate Side, by Anna Quindlen. Quindlen (Object Lessons, Blessings, etc.) will never be able to write fast enough to satisfy her fans. In her latest, Nora Nolan seems to lead a charmed life with her husband, Charlie. Living in New York was her dream, and their coveted dead-end block is a tight-knit community. When Nora returns from a run one morning, she finds her neighbors shaken by a terrible incident. What was once enviable has turned sour, emblematic of the issues Nora has chosen to ignore: in her neighborhood, her city, her job, her marriage. Quindlen's eye is keen, and her pen even keener.

As You Wish, by Jude Deveraux. Third in Deveraux's Summerhouse series (following The Summerhouse, 2001, and Return to Summerhouse, 2008), As You Wish finds three very different women together in Summer Hill, Virginia, where they learn that they're more alike than they ever would have dreamed. Sixty-year-old Olivia is a newlywed, finally married to the man she's always loved, after years spent in a loveless marriage. Kathy's in her mid-forties, married to a handsome, successful man...who happens to be in love with someone else. Elise, twenty-something, is unhappily married to a man her parents chose for her, a man ready to leave Elise behind now that his mistress is pregnant. Each of them has wound up at the Summerhouse for different reasons, but they slowly begin to share, only to have a chance at the magic of Summerhouse--the opportunity to go back and right the wrongs from their past. If you really want to escape, this is the way to do it.

Accidental Heroes, by Danielle Steel. A TSA agent finds an anonymous postcard of the Golden Gate Bridge with an ambiguous, potentially ominous, message. By the time a supervisor will take her concern seriously, the flights in the terminal have left, and the investigators on the ground must identify not only which plane is the potential target, but also who might have written the message. Is it to do with a famous film star? A distraught father traveling with his child, abducted from his mother? Or an off-duty pilot who has just lost his forty-year career? The possibilities seem endless even as the clock counts down. Steel appears to be reinventing herself after all these years--fans are eating it up.
Also available in Large Print.