Thursday, March 21, 2019

Meg's Picks: April 2019, part 2

What is on my list of things to read this spring? All three of these have made my list already! Why? Read on!

The Book of Dreams, by Nina George. In this follow up to best-sellers The Little Paris Bookshop and The Little French Bistro, former war reporter Henri Skinner lies in a coma after pulling a young girl from the Thames River. Henri's ex-girlfriend, Eddie, learns that she's been listed as next-of-kin in his will. His teenage son, Sam, forms a relationship with Eddie and waits for Henri to wake up so that they can meet for the first time. This tender, thoughtful look at unfinished relationships should make for excellent book club discussion.

Cape May, by Chip Cheek. In this buzz-worthy debut, it's 1957 and young newlyweds Henry and Effie travel from their home in Georgia to honeymoon in their relative's vacant Cape May, NJ cottage. It's September and the celebrated beach town is almost completely deserted, but then they couple bump into a glamorous trio who invite them to stay and join their ongoing party. Fueled by copious amounts of gin, the group descends en masse into a series of taboo indulgences. But can Henry and Effie really shed the mores of their upbringing without consequences? If you're looking for something steamy that still has the Gatsby-esque feel of a classic, this should absolutely be on your list. It is already on mine!

A Good Enough Mother, by Bev Thomas. As the director of a renowned trauma therapy unit, London psychotherapist Ruth Hartland absolutely knows better. But when she first sees new patient Dan Griffin, she momentarily mistakes him for her own troubled teenage son, Tom, who disappeared a year and a half ago. That instant emotional connection continues, threatening her ability to maintain professional boundaries with Dan. Thomas herself is former clinical psychologist with Britain's National Health Service, lending additional credibility to her debut. Fans of psychological fiction would do well to pick this one up.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Meg's Picks: April 2019, part 1

Welcome to your source of all things new fiction! Wondering what to read next month? Short on time and need help finding a book you think you'll enjoy? We're here for that! Here are a few fiction titles I'm excited about, all coming out in April.

Lost Roses, by Martha Hall Kelly. Kelly is the author of the astoundingly well-received debut novel, Lilac Girls (2016). Her sophomore novel features Eliza Ferriday, mother of her debut's Caroline Ferriday. In 1914, Eliza travels to St. Petersburg, Russia with a Romanov cousin, Sonya. But while she's there, World War I erupts. The Romanov dynasty begins to crumble. Eliza is lucky enough to escape, but remains determined to help Sonya's family and others like them. Historical fiction readers who love their novels well-researched should absolutely check this out.

Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim. Somewhere in Virginia, there's an experimental medical device called the Miracle Submarine, a pressurized oxygen chamber in which individuals take therapeutic "dives" in hopes of curing anything from autism to infertility. Then the device explodes, killing two people, and owners Young and Pak Yoo are on trial for murder. Debut novelist Kim is not only a lawyer, but her son has been treated in such a chamber, lending additional depth to the story. There's a lot of buzz about this novel, and I'm recommending it to fans of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty.

Feast Your Eyes, by Myla Goldberg. If Myla Goldberg's name looks familiar to you, it should--she's the author of the 2000 bestseller Bee Season, among other novels. So this reader is particularly excited for her latest work. In 1955, photographer Lillian Preston exhibits partially nude photos of herself and her daughter Samantha, sparking outrage and praise among critics and the public in general. The photos become the center of a well-publicized obscenity case and the repercussions have a lasting impact on the relationship between mother and daughter. Told mostly by Samantha in relation to a catalog of Lillian's work, but also in comments from friends, critics, and Lillian herself, this unique novel is sure to be a mainstay for book club readers.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Reading Ahead: April 2019, part 2

Machines, marriage and mysteries, oh my!

Machines Like Me, by Ian McEwan. McEwan (Atonement, etc.) pushes boundaries in his latest novel, set in an alternate version of 1980s London. Here, the British are losing the Falklands War and Alan Turing is not only alive, but his work has given rise to a line of androids almost indistinguishable from humans. When aimless 32-year-old Charlie Friend comes into money, he buys an "Adam", and he and his upstairs neighbor Miranda each input half of the personality parameters required to push Adam past his factory presets. It's not long, however, before a love triangle develops and the three confront a profound moral dilemma. I'm recommending this for fans of subversive fiction, like that of Margaret Atwood.

The View from Alameda Island, by Robyn Carr. Carr, one of my favorite authors for easy reading, delivers a stand alone novel about the unhappiness that can lurk behind even the most "perfect" of facades. Lauren Delaney has an enviable life: a successful career, a husband who is a prominent surgeon, two lovely daughters who are attending good colleges. Lauren, though, is deeply unhappy and refuses to pretend any longer, filing for divorce and starting over on her own, where she meets a kindred spirit also struggling to extricate himself from an unhappy marriage. Lauren's husband, infuriated by the upheaval in his deliberate, ordered life, will take extreme action, and Lauren's entire future may be at risk. This should make for some excellent vacation reading this spring.

Triple Jeopardy, by Anne Perry. First seen in Twenty One Days (2018), young lawyer Daniel Pitt, son of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, is delighted that his sister is back for a visit from the States. But the family reunion is cut short when Daniel is called upon to represent a British diplomat who has fled from Washington, D.C. to London, claiming diplomatic immunity. The diplomat, Philip Sidney, is accused of theft and embezzlement. It's not long before the case against his client proves to be a smoke screen for something far more dangerous, and Daniel is determined to figure out just what that is. Perry fans will be delighted with their new young sleuth.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Reading Ahead: April 2019, part 1

Thrillers are thick on the ground, so if you're looking for fast reads with twisted plots, read on!

Redemption, by David Baldacci. Baldacci's latest in his Memory Man series featuring Amos Decker (The Fallen, 2018, etc.) hearkens back to Decker's early days as a detective. After a dozen years, the man who approaches Decker during a visit to his hometown of Burlington, Ohio is totally unrecognizable. His name, however, is one that Decker cannot every forget: Meryl Hawkins was the first man Decker ever arrested for murder. Hawkins continues to maintain he never committed the murders, and doubt begins to nag at Decker enough to review the old case, only to find a connection to a new crime in progress, one that he may be able to prevent if he can move quickly enough...

Saving Meghan, by D.J. Palmer. D.J. (Daniel) Palmer's newest novel finds devoted mother Becky Gerard working diligently to help her fifteen-year-old daughter Meghan, who has been in and out of hospitals and doctors' offices with a series of unexplained illnesses. Meghan's father, Carl, begins to worry that Becky is obsessed. The medical team begins to question whether Becky is demonstrating signs of Munchausen by proxy, with Meghan as her victim. Is Meghan really sick? Is something more sinister at work here? As suspicions grow and pit one character against another, one will have to risk everything to expose the truth.

Willing to Die, by Lisa Jackson. Eighth in Jackson's To Die series, following 2017's Expecting to Die, follows detectives Alvarez and Pescoli as they investigate the murders of Dr. Paul Letham and his wife, Brindel, who are found dead in separate beds in their beautiful San Francisco home. 

Someone Knows, by Lisa Scottoline. Not guilty doesn't always mean innocent in Scottoline's latest. When Allie Garvey heads home after twenty years away, it's for the funeral of a childhood friend. And in addition to the expected sadness, Allie's also overwhelmed with dread--going home means seeing two people she'd hoped never to see again. The three of them have kept a terrible secret ever since a night of partying in the woods one night resulted in a prank gone tragically wrong. Teenage Allie thought getting caught would have been the worst thing, but adult Allie knows better--living decades with her guilt has been devastating. Back at the proverbial scene of the crime, Allie must dig back into her past to uncover the truth once and for all, if only to unburden herself. But the truth may just be more shocking than she could have ever imagined... Early reviews are saying that Scottoline has outdone herself this time, so this may just be the one to pick up this spring.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Meg's Picks: March 2019, part 3

It's debut day here on Meg's Picks! Love trying new things? Want to branch out from your same old rotation of authors? Want to know what your friends are going to be talking about reading? Try one (or all!) of these!

The Woman in the Dark, by Vanessa Savage. In this creepy psychological debut, Patrick and Sarah move their family from Cardiff back to Patrick's childhood home in South Wales. They're disturbed to discover that the once magnificent Victorian house has been vacant the last 15 years, after the last family who lived there was murdered, leaving only one survivor. And the man responsible for the heinous crime is fresh out of prison. Unease will grow, both for the family and the reader, from the moment they walk in the door. I'm recommending this for fans of Shari LaPena's The Couple Next Door

If, Then, by Kate Hope Day. In the quiet town of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors begin to see themselves in parallel realities. For dedicated surgeon Ginny, seeing a beautiful coworker in bed with her husband makes her begin to doubt the stability of her marriage. Her scientist husband Mark grows increasingly paranoid due to visions of pending devastation. Brilliant scholar and new mother Cass is just getting back to working on a project that could make her career, only to see herself newly pregnant again. And Samara, mourning the passing of her mother and marveling at her father's ability to cope effortlessly, wonders about the secrets her parents have kept from her when her visions show her mother alive and well. For readers who enjoy imaginative, speculative fiction like Chloe Benjamin's The Immortalists and family-driven suspense like Celeste Ng's Little Fire's Everywhere.

House on Fire, by Bonnie Kistler. A drunk driving accident leaves one member of a blended family dead and another charged with manslaughter in this tightly plotted debut. While this series of events alone would be enough to cripple any family, it is followed by a series of half-truths and altered versions of events that causes a divide that may never be mended. Fans of Jodi Picoult would do well to pick this up.

Save Me from Dangerous Men, by S.A. Lelchuk. Nikki Griffin isn't your typical PI. Her office is above her bookstore, and in her downtime, she tracks dangerous men, the kind who hurt the women they claim to love. Nikki's regular PI work, this time following disgruntled tech employee Karen, suspected of selling secrets, begins to fall into the category of "in danger" and Nikki is forced to blow her cover to save Karen. In the process, though, Nikki will find herself on the run, as well. For readers who can't get enough Lisbeth Salander or Jack Reacher.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Meg's Picks: March 2019, part 2

Want to know what's on my list next month? Here we go!

My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing. The couple in Downing's taut debut thriller have found a way to keep their marriage interesting after 15 years together: getting away with murder. As their hobby gains traction, however, they find themselves keeping secrets from one another, secrets that might just get one or both of them caught. If you're looking for a new thriller to keep you on the edge of your seat, this should absolutely be on your list.

White Elephant, by Julie Langsdorf. The titular 'white elephant' is an architectural monstrosity in Willard Park, D.C., a suburban neighborhood that prides itself on its trees and its friendly community. The house in question is loathed by most of the neighbors, but all out war is declared among residents when the owner cuts down a neighbor's maple tree to make his house more enticing to prospective buyers. Dysfunction abounds as residents out each other on tattle-tale local bulletin boards and start airing dirty laundry. If you're a fan of Meg Wolitzer (The Female Persuasion, etc.) or Ann Patchett (Commonwealth, etc.), you can't miss Langsdorf's darkly humorous debut.

Me for You, by Lolly Winston. Winston returns after more than a decade away (Good Grief, etc.), bringing readers the story of Rudy, a 54 year old widower who has been recently downsized out his job in finance. Returning to his first love, the piano, Rudy finds himself a temporary gig playing at Nordstrom's, though he stays on beyond the initial temp position. There he meets Sasha, a woman contending with losses of her own. As their friendship develops, Rudy is slightly alarmed to find himself falling for Sasha, uncertain whether he is willing or ready for another relationship. Just as Rudy may be finding a way back from grief, however, he's dealt another blow he never saw coming. Winston's style is gently poignant, and I adore her work.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Meg's Picks: March 2019, part 1

Need something new, maybe something a little different than your same old, same old? Here are a few titles coming out next month that just might help jolt you out of that rut!

In Another Time, by Jillian Cantor. Cantor (The Lost Letter, Margot, etc.) follows multiple timelines as she tells the story of German bookstore owner Max Beissinger and earnest Jewish violin student Hanna Ginsberg. It's 1931 when the two meet and their chemistry is instant. Their love is soon tested by a dramatically shifting political climate, and by a secret that Max is keeping, one that he hopes may save Hanna as Germany becomes too dangerous for her to stay... I'm recommending this one for fans of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.

The Wolf and the Watchman, by Niklas Natt Och Dag. After night watchman Mickel Cardell pulls a body from a lake, a series of time-sensitive events unfold  as he and police investigator Cecil Winge race to find a killer. This suspenseful tale takes the pair all over 18th-century Stockholm, exploring redemption and justice even in the bleakest places as they question mercenaries, beggars and madams. Rich and poor, pious and fallen, living and dead--all will be connected to the body pulled from the lake. I'm recommending this debut from Och Dag to fans of Caleb Carr's The Alienist.

Beautiful Bad, by Annie Ward. When Ian and Maddie meet, Ian is serving in the British army and Maddie is a travel writer visiting a friend overseas. Now, almost twenty years later, the two are married and have a young son--from all outward appearances, their marriage in Middle America is perfect. In the aftermath of a camping accident, however, Maddie is left physically and emotionally scarred. Therapy for her anxiety includes writing exercises to work out Maddie's long list of fears and anxieties, her tumultuous past with Ian, and what finally brings police to the scene of a shocking crime. Recommending this for fans of Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10, etc.), Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train, etc.), and Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies, etc.).

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Reading Ahead: March 2019, part 3

Gothics, suspense, historical fiction are all on the menu next month. Ready for a new favorite?

The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See. Mi-ja and Young-sook are best friends living on the Korean island of Jeju, though they come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working with their village's all-female diving collective. As time goes on, however, (the story begins in the 1930s during a period of Japanese colonialism and runs to present day) their country is caught between warring empires, pitting family against family, the force of dark secrets tearing at their friendship. Fans of See's earlier work (The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, etc.) won't want to miss this.

The Night Visitors, by Carol Goodman. When Alice flees a relationship gone dangerous with her ten-year-old son Oren in tow, she meets up with social worker Mattie. Mattie doesn't take the pair to a shelter, however, but home to her ramshackle house in the woods. While Mattie's heart is in the right place, and she has plenty of room, Oren also reminds her very much of her younger brother, who died thirty years ago. And Mattie isn't the only one harboring some unsettling secrets. Goodman is a personal favorite, and this latest gothic thriller is already on my to-read list this spring.

All the Wrong Places, by Joy Fielding. After being let go from her advertising job due to a merger, and breaking up with her cheating boyfriend, Paige Hamilton is in serious need of some personal validation. On impulse, she signs up for a dating app, the same one her friend Chloe uses, it turns out. When both women, as well as another person close to Paige, start dating Mr. Right Now, no one could predict that something so innocuous could have such dangerous consequences...

The Mark (The Big Kahuna) , by Janet Evanovich and Peter Evanovich. FBI Agent Kate O'Hare and charming con-man Nicolas Fox team up again on another case that the FBI would ordinarily shrug off: finding a missing Silicon Valley billionaire, nicknamed The Big Kahuna. Beyond the man's greedy trophy wife and shady business partner, neither of whom seem terribly interested in the man's whereabouts, the investigation's only real lead seems to be the beach bum son, living the dream in Hawaii. What can Kate and Nick do but go undercover, posing as a married couple in the laid-back surfer community. Expect lots of Evanovich's signature humor here.

Silent Night, by Danielle Steel. The daughter of Hollywood royalty, Paige Watts has channeled her own acting aspirations into her daughter's career--by age nine, Emma has the lead role on a hit TV show. But after the unthinkable happens, Emma goes to live with her aunt Whitney, who chose a very different path from sister Paige. This isn't a bad thing, because Emma needs all the help she can get in the wake of tragedy, and her road to healing will change her, and everyone around her.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Reading Ahead: March 2019, part 2

Lots of suspense series and sequels to be had next month. Are your favorites on the list? Or will you discover a new favorite? Read on!

Black and Blue, by David Rosenfelt. This is the third entry in Rosenfelt's thriller series featuring New Jersey state police office Doug Brock, following Blackout and Fade to Black. Brock has been working hard to recover after being shot in the line of duty, but between lingering amnesia and solving two murder cases, his recovery hasn't been particularly restful. Now a new murder fits the MO of one of Brock's old, cold cases and he must retrace steps he doesn't remember taking to solve the case before the killer can strike again. Rosenfelt is steadily building on to his fan base, so if you're a thriller reader in search of a newer series to jump in on, here's your chance!

Wolf Pack, by C.J. Box. Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett returns in this nineteenth series outing. The good news is that Pickett has his job back after the adventures of The Disappeared (2018). The bad news is that he's discovered that someone is using a drone to kill wildlife, and that someone turns out to be the wealthy, mysterious man dating Joe's own daughter, Lucy. When Joe tries to get the drone's owner to abide by some rules, he's met with resistance, not just from the owner, but also from the FBI and the Department of Justice. On full alert now, Joe also has a vicious group of cartel assassins, known as the Wolf Pack, in the area who are bent on taking down Lucy's new beau, and anyone he's associated with...

The Malta Exchange, by Steve Berry. Former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone returns in Berry's latest novel, on the trail of some potentially history-shaking letters between Winston Churchill and Benito Mussolini that vanished in 1945. This leads him to the Knights of Malta, now controlled by the Secreti as the election of a new pope looms. Fans of Dan Brown, if you're not reading Steve Berry, you should be!

The Last Act, by Brad Parks. Based on the real life case of Wachovia Bank, this latest by Parks finds an out-of-work stage actor Tommy Jump about to pose as a felon to go into a low-security prison and cozy up to Mitchell Dupree, a banker arrested for laundering money for a particularly vicious Mexican cartel. This may just be the hardest role of Tommy's life, if he survives. For thriller readers who like a twisty plot and lots of surprises, this should absolutely be on your reading list this spring.

Crown Jewel, by Christopher Reich. Bestseller Reich brings readers a new new Simon Riske novel (following his debut in 2018's The Take). Here, the restorer of high-end automobiles who moonlights as a problem solver to the wealthy is working for Toby Stonewood, managing partner of the Casino de Monte-Carlo. The casino is losing millions and Toby is sure he's being cheated, but cannot figure out the culprit, turning to Simon to unravel the mystery. What follows is a 007-worthy tale of fast cars, rich women, Bosnian bad guys, and the beauty of Monaco. Perfect.

Dark Tribute, by Iris Johansen. Number 25 in Johansen's long-running Eve Duncan series. Despite a tragic childhood, violin prodigy Cara Delaney has finally found her stride in her career as a professional musician and in her relationship with her guardians, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan and ex-Navy SEAL Joe Quinn. Cara's sense of peace is upended when she's kidnapped by a man who has a score to settle with her family. With everyone she loves in immediate danger, Cara will have to use every skill she has to stay alive and protect those closest to her at all costs.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Reading Ahead: March 2019, part 1

I know, I can't believe we're talking about March already, but it'll be here before you know it. And it is bringing so many great new fiction titles with it, I hope I can manage to pack them all in here!* Let's get started!

Run Away, by Harlan Coben. What will one family do to save their daughter from self-destruction? That's just what Coben's latest novel explores, in terrifying detail. Simon Greene watches a struggling street performer in Central Park, a young woman who won't accept the help she so obviously needs. This young woman is his daughter, Paige, and she disappears again, after Simon has an altercation with her abusive boyfriend, Aaron. Then Aaron turns up dead, and Simon has to descend into a world of drugs, violence, secrets and the missing in order to try and save Paige, once and for all. Early reviews have called this a thriller that begs to be read in one sitting, so clear your calendar!

The Perfect Alibi, by Philip Margolin. Convicted of rape owing to solid DNA evidence, a college athlete is granted a new trial when a second rape is committed while he is behind bars, yet the DNA matches that of the first case. Then his lawyer vanishes and the lawyer's partner is murdered. Defense attorney Robin Lockwood reluctantly steps up to the plate even as circumstances get even more dire. Margolin is great with a plot that twists and turns, and fans should be in for a real treat with new lead Lockwood.

The Last Second, by Catherine Coulter & J.T. Ellison. This writing duo's latest entry in the Brit in the FBI series, following 2018's The Sixth Day, pits special agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine against the eccentric treasure-hunting head of France's version of SpaceX, Galactus, and his power-mad second in command, who has placed a nuclear device on a recently launched satellite. Coulter and Ellison have drifted pretty seamlessly into SF territory, potentially winning themselves a more diverse readership in the process.

Blood Oath, by Linda Fairstein. Book number 20 in Fairstein's long-running Alexandra Cooper series! If you're new to the series and want to start at the beginning, Cooper debuted in 1996 with Final Jeopardy. Cooper, now the ADA of the Manhattan Sex Crimes unit, is finally back to work after a leave of absence and is quickly brought in on the case of Lucy, who testified years ago at a landmark federal trial, and now reveals that she was assaulted by a prominent official during that time. Fairstein herself was a pioneer in sex crimes investigation, bringing additional depth and plausibility to the novel.

*In the interest of space and time here on the old blog, I'm going to stop including reviews for James Patterson titles, though the library will obviously continue to order them. With several Patterson titles being issued within the same month more and more often lately, I've decided use this space to do a bit more highlighting of authors who don't have quite the same status...yet!