Thursday, September 3, 2015

Reading Ahead: October 2015, part 2

Looking ahead for another thriller? Look no further! October has new titles from some of the best-selling authors in the genre.

Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham. Sebastian Rudd is not your typical street lawyer. He works out of a customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, fine leather chairs, a hidden gun compartment, and a heavily armed driver. He has no firm, no partners, no associates, and only one employee, his driver, who’s also his bodyguard, law clerk, confidant, and golf caddy. Sebastian defends people other lawyers won’t go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult, who is accused of molesting and murdering two little girls; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house.  Why these clients? Because he believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial, even if he, Sebastian, has to cheat to secure one. Grisham does legal thrillers like no one else, and Rudd may be his most colorful character yet.

Corrupted, by Lisa Scottoline. Bennie Rosato the founder of the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm hides her big heart beneath her tough-as-nails exterior and she doesn't like to fail. Now, a case from her past shows her how differently things might have turned out. Thirteen years ago, Bennie Rosato took on Jason Leftavick, a twelve-year-old boy who was sent to a juvenile detention center after fighting a class bully. Bennie couldn't free Jason, and to this day it's the case that haunts her. Jason has grown up in and out of juvenile prison, and his adulthood hasn't been any easier. Bennie no longer represents those accused of murder, but when Jason is indicted for killing the same bully he fought with as a kid, she sees no choice but to represent him. She doesn't know whether or not to believe his claims of innocence, but she knows she owes him for past failures-of the law, of the juvenile justice system, and of herself. Forced to relive the darkest period of her life, Bennie will do everything in her power to get the truth, and justice.

Playing With Fire, by Tess Gerritsen. Fans of Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles series will want to be sure and check out this stand-alone thriller, due out just before Halloween. In a shadowy antiques shop in Rome, violinist Julia Ansdell happens upon a curious piece of music—the Incendio waltz—and is immediately entranced by its unusual composition. Julia is determined to master the complex work and make its melody heard. Back home in Boston, from the moment Julia’s bow moves across the strings, drawing the waltz’s fiery notes into the air, something strange is stirred—and Julia’s world comes under threat. The music has a terrifying and inexplicable effect on her young daughter, who seems violently transformed. Convinced that the hypnotic strains of Incendio are weaving a malevolent spell, Julia sets out to discover the man and the meaning behind the score. Her quest beckons Julia to the ancient city of Venice, where she uncovers a dark, decades-old secret involving a dangerously powerful family that will stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Reading Ahead: October 2015, part 1

Happy September 1! You wouldn't know that autumn is around the corner, judging by the hot and sticky days we're having this week. But it's never too soon to start making a list of new books by favorite authors to look forward to. And here are a few to get you started.

Host, by Robin Cook. Cook has dominated the medical thriller field for decades, and his latest promises to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Here, medical student Lynne Pierce is on the fast-track to the life she's dreamed of, until her otherwise healthy boyfriend goes in for routine surgery and comes out brain dead. Lynne is sure there's more to the story than the authorities are willing to admit, and she uses every resource at her disposal to dig deeper, convinced she'll find evidence of malpractice or medical error. What she finds, however, may have dire consequences for her. If you're not familiar with Cook's work, check out some of his best-known titles, like Coma and Shock, while you wait for Host's street date of October 20. 

Foreign Affairs, by Stuart Woods. When he’s apprised at the last minute of a mandatory meeting abroad, Stone Barrington rushes off to Europe for a whirlwind tour of business and, of course, pleasure. But from the start the trip seems to be cursed, plagued by suspicious “accidents” and unfortunate events, and some of Stone’s plans go up in flames—literally. 

Depraved Heart, by Patricia Cornwell. Medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone. A video link lands in her text messages and seems to be from her computer genius niece Lucy. But how can it be? It’s clearly a surveillance film of Lucy taken almost twenty years ago. As Scarpetta watches she begins to learn frightening secrets about her niece, whom she has loved and raised like a daughter. That film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her confused, worried, and not knowing where to turn. She doesn’t know whom she can tell—not her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What I've Been Reading: August 2015

I'm blaming the fact that there are 5 more days in the month for the fact that I've only (I know, only) read 5 books this month. But they have, in several cases, been huge! What do I mean? Read on.

Dune, by Frank Herbert. I'm not normally a science fiction reader. Except that in the last year or so, I've read quite a bit of science fiction (The Martian, Ready Player One, Armada)--and really enjoyed it! So maybe I'm a sci-fi reader after all? In any case, somehow I never got around to reading Herbert's classic Dune until this past month. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad'Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family--and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream. Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction. The audiobook also won an Audie for its full cast recording. I would absolutely recommend this to readers who are intimidated by the idea of science fiction--I really found this quite accessible. (Even if it is over 500 pages!)

The Best of Enemies, by Jen Lancaster. What can I say? I read a wide variety of genres. Jack and Kitty have been at war since a college misunderstanding-gone-nuclear left them with a single thing in common--a mutual best friend, Sarahbeth Chandler. Jack is a journalist, spending months at a time in war-torn countries, writing about falling nations and rising despots, with no place to call home. Kitty is a SAHM and lifestyle blogger whose biggest battles seem to be fought at PTA meetings. The two haven't spoken in years, until crisis befalls Sarahbeth and within hours, Jack and Kitty are on a roadtrip to solve a mystery and save their friend, with typical Lancaster-ian hilarity. Light, breezy and fun, but with a good heart--if you need one last easy read this summer, make it this one.

Broken Promise, by Linwood Barclay. If you haven't read Linwood Barclay (a Connecticut native), you should start. But if you start, I might not start with this one, only because you'll miss out on some great backstory. Promise Falls, NY is a small town in a slump. The local paper has closed, as has the local amusement park. Times are hard. And dark things are happening. David Harwood (seen previously in Never Look Away), recently returned to his hometown of Promise Falls after nearly a decade away, is almost immediately caught up in a family crisis that is tied to several powerful figures in the community. The ending leaves several threads hanging, meaning a direct sequel should be on the horizon for readers.

Armada, by Ernest Cline. As you know, I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline last month. Just in time to turn around and read his new book, Armada, this month! (FYI, both will be turned into films in the next two years or so, and Steven Spielberg has signed on to direct Ready Player One, so these could be amazing. Cline also has screenwriting chops, have written 2009's Fanboys, starring Seth Rogan, Kristin Bell and Jay Baruchel, among others.) In any case, Armada is the story of one high school senior, Zack Lightman, whose father died in a freak accident when he was a baby. Raised by his mother, Zack is still fascinated by the boxes of video games, movies, mixtapes and notebooks left behind by his father, forming his loves of old science fiction movies and classic rock. He's also an elite player of a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada, which turns out to have been a training course for when the aliens attack. And that day happens to be today. While not as strong as Ready Player One, in my opinion, Armada is still full of ordinary-guy-turned-hero moments and lots of 80s culture references. It just felt like parts of it were missing. It's not a bad way to pass some time, but it doesn't have either the compulsive readability nor the re-read potential of Cline's debut.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: four women undercover in the Civil War, by Karen Abbott. Okay, I admit, my reading list looks a little...scattered this month. But I've been meaning to get around to this title for months.
Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.
After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives. Abbott's work has an entertaining narrative, making it an easy, enjoyable read--I'd recommend it not just to history buffs but also fans of historical fiction.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Meg's Picks: September 2015, part 2

I try to keep an eye out for books that I think everyone will be talking about in the near future. Here are the rest of my predictions from September's book releases.

Purity, by Jonathan Franzen. Franzen made lots of waves back in 2001 with his novel, The Corrections--Oprah chose it as one of her book club selections, and Franzen declined to appear on her show. What cheek! Of course, then everyone had to read his novel, so he made out okay after all, and continued to do so with 2010's Freedom. So I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this latest book, in which Purity (Pip) Tyler struggles with identity issues and student debt. As the daughter of a mother who hides her mysterious past, Pip seeks to solve her problems and create her own identity by taking an internship with an illicit activist group, only to fall in love with the group's charismatic fugitive leader. A bit different than Franzen's previous work, but still steeped in family dynamics.

Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff. Groff is the bestselling author of two previous novels, The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia. In her new novel, readers meet Lotto and Mathilde at 22, deliriously in love, creative partners, life partners. Ten years later, still together and still in love, they have distinctly different perspectives of their relationship, which only continues to flourish because each keeps secrets from the other. This is getting a huge amount of buzz among early reviews, and I would expect this to be a sleeper hit this fall. Mark my words.

The Killing Lessons, by Saul Black. Black, aka Glen Duncan (The Last Werewolf, etc.), brings readers a taut psychological thriller that is sure to win fans. When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper's isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it's the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it's just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done. For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of victims--women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them--has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she's losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens. But the murders at the Cooper farmhouse didn't quite go according to plan. Rowena's ten-year-old daughter, Nell, survived, and she now holds the key to the killings. Thriller fans looking for a new author need look no further.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Three on Thursday: One Last Round of Beach Reads

I know, I know. And I'm sorry. But the reality is that summer is winding down, the kids head back to school soon, and we have a rainy weekend ahead of us. However! There is time to get just a little more reading-for-fun packed in before school-year routines start up again. Here are my top picks from this summer.

If you need something that moves super-quickly, try:  Elin Hilderbrand. Seriously. The entire shelf of Hilderbrand books (including last year's Christmas book, Winter Street, by the way) has been empty all summer because she's just so popular. She's nothing if not prolific, so check out her latest, The Rumor, and get in early for her next Christmas title (I'm sorry, I'm sorry!) Winter Stroll, which is due out in a couple of months.

If you prefer historical fiction, try:  At The Water's Edge by Sara Gruen. She also wrote the best-seller Water For Elephants. When her brother and his friend try to find the Loch Ness monster in order to get back into her father's good graces, Maddie finds herself left alone in Word War II-era Scotland, with unexpected results. Or try one of my favorites, which is also scheduled to be Trumbull's One Book, One Town selection for 2016, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. You can read my original review here.

Nonfiction reader? Try one of these: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough or Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. Both have been on the New York Times Bestseller List this summer, and both are hugely popular among our patrons!

Want a personal recommendation? Stop by, call me at the library, or drop me an email!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meg's Picks: September 2015, part 1

Some months, my list of fiction picks is super long. September is not one of those months. However, those titles that have made the list are there for some especially amazing reasons. Read on...

The Girl in the Spider’s Web, by David  Lagercrantz. Does that title seem familiar? It should. It has been five long years since Steig Larsson's third book in the Lisbeth Salander/Millennium series, The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest, was published in the US (the most sold book in the US in 2010, if you're interested). Larsson's trilogy was published posthumously, after the author died in 2004 at age 50, and fans have spent the last five years bemoaning the fact that there would never be another. I was one of those fans. So I am filled with hope and just a little excitement (okay, fine, a lot of excitement) with the news that Steig Larsson's estate contracted Swedish bestselling author and journalist David Lagercrantz to write a stand-alone sequel to the trilogy (no one has said whether there might be additional titles in the future). 

So now Lisbeth Salander, the genius hacker with the dragon tattoo, and Daniel Blomkvist, crusading journalist who champions the truth even to his own personal detriment, are together again. Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it... I have goosebumps.

The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood. This is Atwood's first stand-alone novel since 2000's The Blind Assassin (which won the Man Booker Prize, FYI). Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their "civilian" homes. What starts out as no great sacrifice slowly becomes more chilling, and dangerous. I've been an Atwood fan for years, and this is classic.