Thursday, September 21, 2017

Meg's Picks: October 2017, part 1

I am always so excited to share my picks with you, readers! Here are some gems coming up next month, from some of my very favorite authors. If you're tired, bored with your usual authors, or feel as though it's been ages since you read something that really captured you, I urge you to try one of these.

Strange Weather, by Joe Hill. In this collection of four short novels, Hill (Horns, The Fireman, etc.) carries on his tradition of describing the darkness just beneath the surface of everyday life. Snapshot is the tale of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by a thug who owns a camera which can erase memories one snapshot at a time. In Aloft, a young man goes skydiving only to find himself a castaway on a cloud made of impossibly substantial vapor. Rain explores the apocalyptic event of a rain of bright nails from the sky, starting in Boulder, Colorado and spreading around the globe. Finally, Loaded is the story of a heroic mall security guard who stops a mass shooting, only to find his story, and sanity, unraveling under the bright lights of fame that follow. I'm a huge Joe Hill fan, and I'm very much looking forward to this collection.

Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan. Egan's latest (following Look at Me, A Visit from the Goon Squad, etc.) has already been long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction (A Visit from the Goon Squad has already won her a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction). One day Anna Kerrigan, aged twelve, accompanies her father to visit a man called Dexter Styles. What Anna will take away from this meeting is a strong memory for the ocean waves beyond the house, and the charged mystery between the two men. Years later, Anna's father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna is working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard; with so many men off to war, women are being hired to fill these jobs. When she meets Dexter Styles again, this time in a nightclub, she begins to understand the complexity of her father's life, and the reasons he may have disappeared. This is Egan's first historical novel and it has a distinct noir edge by the sound of things. I expect this to be on the bestsellers' list in short order. Also available in Large Print.

Paris in the Present Tense, by Mark Helprin. Following In Sunlight and In Shadow (2012), Helprin's new novel is set in present-day Paris, caught between violent unrest and its inescapable glories. Seventy-four-year-old Jules Lacour, a maitre at Paris-Sorbonne, cellist, widower, veteran of the war in Algeria, and child of the Holocaust, must find a balance between the obligations of his past and the light and beauty of his present. He in confronted all at once by a series of circumstances which challenge his principles, livelihood and home. And yet, he also finds love and defends his family. Helprin's work is full of truth and beauty, and readers are missing out if they pass this one up.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reading Ahead: October 2017, part 4

Tales of secrets unveiled, challenges won and obstacles overcome are on every reader's list next month!

Merry and Bright, by Debbie Macomber. In this holiday novel of first impressions and second chances, bestseller Macomber introduces readers to Merry Knight, who spends her days taking care of her family and trying to evade her stressed-out boss at the consulting firm where she's temping. Her social life is the last thing on her mind, but when her mother and brother sign her up for an online dating profile (minus photo) and matches begin to roll in, Merry reluctantly agrees to see what happens. She begins chatting with a charming stranger, their exchanges becoming the brightest part of her day. When it comes to meeting him face to face, will it be a total disaster? Also available in Large Print.

Fairytale, by Danielle Steel. In this modern retelling of the Cinderella story, Steel pits a happy family against tragedy, with Camille, heiress to a Napa Valley vineyard and estate, caught in the middle. Will she succeed against nefarious plots against her inheritance and her very life? Will her knight in shining armor ride to her rescue? Will her fairy godmother save her? Or is it up to Camille to save herself. Steel's legion of fans won't want to miss out. Also available in Large Print

Lilac Lane, by Sherryl Woods. Kiera Malone struggled alone for years to raise her three children, and when she finally opened herself to the possibility of a relationship again, tragedy strikes and leaves her overwhelmed by her loss. She is persuaded by her father and her daughter to visit them in Chesapeake Shores. With the promise of family ties and a job at her son-in-law's Irish pub, Keira agrees. What she definitely did not count on is finding herself working in the pub alongside the surliest chef she's ever known, and what's more, he's also her neighbor. The town's matchmakers claim where there's heat, there's fire, but can these two wounded souls get past their conflict?

The Stolen Marriage, by Diane Chamberlain. Tess Demello is riddled with guilt and cannot live the lie that is her life. It's 1944, she's pregnant and alone after ending the relationship with the love of her life and leaving her budding career as a nurse. Instead, she marries the baby's father, a secretive man who stays out all night, and Tess finds herself in a strange and loveless marriage. What's worse, they've moved to Henry's hometown, where he is much beloved by Tess is a stranger, treated as an outcast. Everyone seems to know something about her husband that Tess does not, and when a girl from town dies, suspicion falls on Tess. It is only when tragedy strikes their town that Tess finds her place in the community, but it may finally unveil Henry's secret life and shatter both their lives in the process. Readers looking for a captivating page-turner, look no further.
Also available in Large Print.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Reading Ahead: October 2017, part 3

I have a little bit of everything for you in today's post. A thriller guaranteed to get your pulse pounding. A prequel to a much-beloved best-seller, awaited for more than two decades. And a series finale that likely won't leave a reader dry-eyed.

Killing Season, by Faye Kellerman. Kellerman takes a break from her bestselling Decker & Lazarus series (Bone Box, etc.) to thrill readers with a story of truth sought...and found. At sixteen, Ben is consumed with the need to find the person who abducted and strangled his older sister four years earlier. With an unlikely ally at his side, Ben pores over the files at the local police precinct, finding clues and threads which others may have missed or overlooked. What Ben hasn't counted on is the interest the killer might take in him, and now the hunter may become the hunted. Thriller readers who love an unconventional hero should consider adding this to their reading lists.

The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman. Hoffman delights readers with a spellbinding prequel to her 1995 bestseller, Practical Magic. For the Owens family, love is a curse that goes back to 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, their story continues in New York City at the brink of the 1960s, with the whole world about to change. For Susanna Owens, however, all she knows is that her three children, Franny, Jet, and Vincent, are each dangerously unique. To try and keep them safe, she insists that rules be followed, rules like no books about magic, no black cats, and most importantly, no falling in love. When the trio visits their Aunt Isabelle in Massachusetts, however, they uncover family secrets that causes each to reconsider who they are and what their lives will be. Back in New York, each will begin a journey to break their family's curse. This is at the top of my to-read list next month!

Winter Solstice, by Elin Hilderbrand. Hilderbrand gives readers one last chance to visit with the Quinn family on Nantucket as she rounds out her Winter quartet (following Winter Street, Winter Stroll, and Winter Storms). For the first time in years, all of the Quinn clan are able to gather for the holidays. There is plenty to be joyous about: Bart is safely back from Afghanistan, Pat has paid his debt to society, Ava seems to have found love at last. But with the Quinn clan, no holiday is without a bump or two, to be weathered together with love and humor. Fans won't want to miss out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reading Ahead: October 2017, part 2

The past comes a-haunting next month!

Deep Freeze, by John Sandford. Sandford's latest features Virgil Flowers (last seen in Escape Clause, 2016) in tale of traumas, bad blood, and long-held grudges. He's called to Trippton, Minnesota to investigate a murder: a woman has been found frozen in a solid block of ice. Evidence suggests that the murder may be connected to a high school class whose twenty-year reunion is coming up. It's true what they say: high school is murder.

Act of Betrayal, by Matthew Dunn. Former intelligence operative Will Cochrane (The Spy House, etc.) comes out of hiding to expose a conspiracy involving a past assassination, a conspiracy that reaches into the upper echelons of the United States government. Cochrane has gone underground to evade both his enemies and the feds, but his loyalty to old colleagues pulls him into a search for truth after one of his old contacts goes missing, and then a second is murdered. Fans of spy thrillers really should be reading Dunn's series.

Mind Game, by Iris Johansen. A new stand-alone thriller from the bestselling author of the Eve Duncan series (Night and Day, etc.), Mind Game introduces readers to Jane MacGuire. Jane has spent years scouring the Scottish highlands for a treasure. But even as her search intensifies, so too do her haunting dreams of a young girl in danger. What does it all mean? A surprise appearance from another Johansen character may help Jane make sense of it all. Fans should make sure to pick this up.

Quick & Dirty, by Stuart Woods. Stone Barrington finds himself ensnared in the intricate art business in Woods' latest. Beneath the veneer of refinement in New York luxury penthouses and grand Hamptons estates lurks a game of grifters and con-men, all of them looking to get in on the action. Barrington will have to use all of his skills to keep from ruffling the wrong feathers, because when money and reputation are on the line, the stakes are worth killing for...

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reading Ahead: October 2017, part 1

I realize it may feel a bit early to start thinking about October, but not when you're looking forward to great new titles from your favorite authors!

Origin, by Dan Brown. Readers rejoin Brown's unlikely hero, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconography Robert Langdon, as he attends a meticulously choreographed evening at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao where a former student and current billionaire futurist Edmond Kirsch is presenting a breakthrough concerning human origin. The order descends into chaos, however, putting Kirsch's discovery and Langdon's very life at risk. Langdon and an associate flee to Barcelona, where they begin the momentous task of unraveling Kirsch's secret before Kirsch is silenced by his enemies. Also available in Large Print.

Two Kinds of Truth, by Michael Connelly. Connelly's Harry Bosch series continues to win more and more fans with each new entry. In his latest, Bosch is back as a volunteer working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department. When he's called out to the scene of a young pharmacist's murder, he and the department's 3-person detective squad sift through the evidence, quickly finding themselves in over their heads in the big business world of pill mills and prescription drug abuse. To make matters worse, a case from Bosch's troubled past with the LAPD comes back to haunt him, too. Also available in Large Print.

The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham. Three friends came to law school to make the world a better place. But now, in their third year, they realize that they've been duped. They all have significant student loans but they've learned that their school is on the mediocre side: the graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they discover that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator (who happens to own a bank that specializes in student loans), the three realize that they've been caught up in The Great Law School Scam. But is there a way out? Can they expose the scam and escape their crippling debt? This should be quite a page-turner.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What I've Been Reading: August 2017

My reading material this past month has been all over the map, as usual. Suspense novels and thrillers, a funny and touching memoir, a re-read for my bookclub, and some fiction that is both familiar and innovative. Curious? Read on.

Two Nights, by Kathy Reichs. Reichs is best known for her long-running Temperance Brennan series, the basis for the TV show Bones. What she's not known for is stand-alone novel, which is what her most recent work is, though it sets itself up nicely to kick off a possible sequel or series. Sunday Night is a woman with a dark past, full of secrets. Perhaps that's why she's so good at uncovering the secrets of others. In this case, it's a missing girl who is the sole presumed survivor of a terrorist attack which made her an orphan, a girl who vanished without a trace. Sunday, patient and ruthless, must backtrack the cold case only to find herself racing against the clock when the terrorist cell activates once more. This was a fast read but densely packed--skimming forward resulted in my paging back looking for clues I'd inadvertently skimmed over. I definitely hope for at least a sequel, though, as Sunday has more secrets of her own yet to be revealed.

Sworn to Silence & Pray for Silence, by Linda Castillo. These are the first and second entries in Castillo's Kate Burkholder series. Police chief Kate Burkholder works in Painter's Mill, Pennsylvania, a small community that relies heavily on tourist trade, owing mainly to its Amish community. And murder is bad for business. In the series opener, Chief Burkholder and her small but capable department find themselves racing against the clock when a single murder soon becomes part of a series, the murderer escalating quickly. In the follow-up, nearly a year later, the department works to solve a mass murder on an Amish farm. When a suspect's suicide yields a note confessing everything, the case should be closed, but the Chief is convinced the man wasn't working alone and must lay a trap to lure the accomplice out of hiding. These are excellent thrillers and I'm looking forward to picking up the next in the series.

Theft by Finding: diaries (1977-2002), by David Sedaris. Humorous essayist, playwright and memoirist Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day, etc.) has kept diaries for decades, meticulously recording the interesting bits of his life each day. Here is the first half of his culled entries, ranging from his early twenties when he was perpetually broke, picking fruit and doing odd jobs, to his early years of success as a writer and playwright. Searingly funny and thoughtful, I loved every bit. The audiobook, read by the author, is an absolute winner.

Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero. For those of us who grew up on Saturday morning cartoons with Scooby-Doo and the gang, this second English language novel from Barcelona native Cantero scratches a particular nostalgic itch. In 1977, the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon's Zoinx River Valley) unmasked a the villain in their final case: a low-life fortune-hunter who was pretending to haunt an abandoned mansion and mine in order to get his hands on the riches supposedly hidden in the depths of the mansion. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids. But did they catch the real culprit after all? Fast-forward thirteen years, however, and that final case is still haunting the remaining members of the Club, who have grown up and apart. At long last, the group decides that they need to return to the scene and put their ghosts to rest, once and for all. This was such a fun read! Funny, spooky, a little zany and totally endearing. I'd love to see a sequel.

The Good Daughter, by Karin Slaughter. This stand-alone thriller from best-selling Slaughter (Cop Town, etc.) During a home invasion, two sisters are forced out into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. The other is left behind. In the aftermath of tragedy, the Quinn family and their happy, small-town existence is broken beyond repair. Twenty-eight years later, younger sister Charlotte is a lawyer, having followed in the footsteps of her father. But the ideal life she should be living is crumbling, even before violence revisits their small town of Pikeville, causing severe flashbacks for Charlie and her family. Shocking twists and relentless pacing in this story left me absolutely breathless, as secrets find the light of day and what has been hidden so long is at last revealed. I've read all of Slaughter's work and I think this just might be her best to date. Highly recommended.

Crimson Shore, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. I'm nearly caught up with the Agent Pendergast series! This, the thirteenth in the series, finds Agent Pendergast and his ward, Constance Greene, on a case which takes them to the quaint seaside village of Exmouth, Massachusetts. Initially, they are there to investigate the theft of an artist's priceless wine collection. When the wine-cellar reveals a hidden chamber where the skeleton of a man was once housed, the case takes a decidedly darker turn. A Grey Reaper walks the salt marshes, bodies marked with occult symbols wash ashore, screams rend the silent nights. Is there validity to the old tale that when the trials began in Salem in 1692 that the real witches fled to hide in Exmouth? This was a somewhat slow start for the series, but when it picked up, it churned along at a breakneck pace. Thoroughly enjoyable.

A Sudden Light, by Garth Stein. This is a reread for me--my bookclub is reading it for our September meeting. You can read my original review here.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. Clay Jannon has gone from San Francisco web-designer to unemployed in the Great Recession, and within the first few days working at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Clay finds that the place is stranger than either its name or its rather gnome-like owner. In fact, none of the patrons ever seem to purchase anything. Rather, they "check out" large volumes from strange nooks and crannies in the store. Clay, with the help of a few friends, begins to catalog and analyze the customers behavior, but when the findings are brought to the owner, Clay discovers that the bookstore's secrets go far deeper than he could have ever imagined. Incredibly inventive, entertaining and captivating, I never wanted it to end!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Meg's Picks: September 2017, part 2

I've saved the best for last!

Caroline: Little House, Revisited, by Sarah Miller. In a new novel authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller brings to life one of the most beloved characters from Laura Ingalls Wilder's series, Caroline "Ma" Ingalls, as never seen before. In February 1870, the Ingalls family packs up, leaving Big Woods, Wisconsin behind for a new life in the Kansas Indian Territory. The pioneer life is a hard one without the benefit of friends or kin nearby, the work shouldered alone, illness managed without aid of doctors, babies birthed without mothers and sisters to assist. And yet their new life is also full of the tender joys of family and of turning their new cabin into a home. A cherished tale for decades now retold for an adult audience, I think this will be a new favorite for those looking to feel again the magic of the original tale.

Sourdough, by Robin Sloan. Sloan's debut novel, 2012's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, has been a favorite of bibliophiles everywhere. Here, she does for food what her debut did for the world of books. A software engineer in San Francisco is dedicated to her job at a cutting-edge robotics firm: she codes all day, only to come home and collapse each evening. Her most meaningful human contact is with the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall where she gets her dinner every night. Until disaster strikes, the brothers close up shop and make one last delivery to Lois: their sourdough starter, complete with care and feeding instructions. Soon she's feeding everyone she knows with her homemade bread, providing it to the cafeteria at work, and when she seeks to take her product to the local farmers market, she finally meets resistance. But why? And who is this secret, underground marketplace that would bring her in instead? Sloan's work is absolutely, delightfully unique and I can't wait to read this latest work.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Meg's Picks: September 2017, part 1

Today I bring you a highly anticipated debut, a new novel from a book club favorite, and a buzz-worthy thriller. Read on!

George & Lizzie, by Nancy Pearl. "America's Librarian" and NPR books commentator Pearl treats fans to a debut work of fiction. George and Lizzie approach their marriage very differently, owing to their different upbringings. George was raised in a warm, boisterous family; Lizzie was the only child of two famous psychologists, as much experiment as offspring. George remains happy in their marriage as time passes, while Lizzie remains...unfulfilled. Until a shameful secret from Lizzie's past emerges and the two must reevaluate the relationship they've built.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes, by Jamie Ford. Bestselling author Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, etc.) presents a powerful new novel, based on a true story. For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the 1909 World's Fair feels like a dream come true. Once he's there, however, the dream quickly sours: he finds that he's to be raffled off as a "healthy boy to a good home." The winner? The flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, notorious for educating her girls. Ernest becomes her houseboy and, against the odds, makes friends and feels at home. Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle's second World's Fair, Ernest and his wife seek to shelter their grown daughters from the secrets of their past.

The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld. Private investigator Naomi is especially good at locating missing children, because she was once lost herself. Now she's trying to track down Madison Culver, who vanished three years ago in Oregon's Skookum National Forest. Her search begins to bring up bits of memory that threaten to deliver something dark if they ever coalesce. There's a lot of buzz on this one--expect people to be talking about it in the months to come.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reading Ahead: September 2017, part 5

Just because September is on the horizon doesn't mean that publishers are slowing down anytime soon. If you love some light reading regardless of the season, read on!

The Summer That Made Us, by Robyn Carr. In this stand-alone novel from Carr (Any Day Now, etc.), a television talk-show host finds herself out of a job after losing ratings. In the aftermath, she retreats to her family's neglected summer home. As her female relatives gather in support, they also share the very different ways they each remember their last summer together at the house. Also available in Large Print.

Second Chance Girl, by Susan Mallery. Second in Mallery's new Happiness Inc. series (after You Say It First, 2017). Mathias Mitchell has been badly wounded in a past relationship, and has moved to Happiness, Inc. California, the wedding destination town. He figures the steady stream of bridesmaids will suit his new "no promises, no pain" lifestyle. And yet his neighbor, gamekeeper Carol Lund, holds a powerful attraction, perhaps because of her shyness. Can each put their past hurts aside long enough to try again? Also available in Large Print.

To Be Where You Are, by Jan Karon. Karon returns to Mitford in her new novel, the 14th in her bestselling series. Here readers find Episcopal priest Tim Kavanagh coming to terms with retirement, while just outside of town, newlyweds Dooley and Lace face a crisis that affects both their bank account and their family vet practice. In fiction, as in real life, there are no guarantees. And yet, Karon weaves together the comic and compelling lives of two Kavanagh families in familiar Mitford in such a way that is sure to delight fans.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reading Ahead: September 2017, part 4

While this post could have waited for my Meg's Picks segments, I felt that each of these three novels deserved a little extra attention for various reasons. Intrigued? Read on!

The Ninth Hour, by Alice McDermott. McDermott (Charming Billy, Someone) may not be prolific, but when she publishes, awards follow. She's won both the National Book Award and the American Book Award (both for Charming Billy) and she's been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction twice: At Weddings and Wakes in 1992 and After This in 2006. What I'm saying is, pay attention. In the aftermath of a tenement fire in Brooklyn in the early part of the twentieth century, a young widow and her unborn child are cared for by the nuns who serve the community. Described as a masterful, compassionate, suspenseful drama, I have no doubt this will be a reader favorite in the years to come.

Keep Her Safe, by Sophie Hannah. Hannah is making a name for herself with her own suspense novels as well as writing new Hercule Poirot novels for Agatha Christie's estate. In her latest contemporary suspense, Cara Burrows flees her home and family and holes up in a five-star resort, which she really can't afford. When a mistake at the front desk results in her walking in on two people already in her room, it's irritating, but it's no big deal. Except that one of the people is supposed to be dead, one of the most famous murder victims in history, whose parents are serving life sentences for the crime. But did Cara really see what she thinks she saw? Like your novels intense and tightly plotted, full of twists and turns? This is a sure bet.

Forest Dark, by Nicole Krauss. Krauss (The History of Love, etc.) crafts a novel about personal transformation in her latest, interweaving the stories of an older lawyer and a young novelist whose transcendent searches lead them both to the same Israeli desert. Jules Epstein is, at 68, a man undergoing metamorphosis. His parents have passed, his thirty-year marriage is over, and he's retired from his New York law firm. He feels compelled to give away his possessions with a nebulous plan to do something to honor the memory of his parents. Meanwhile, the well-known young novelist, suffering from writer's block and a failing marriage, arrives in Tel Aviv hoping to jump-start her creativity in life and in work. If there's a sleeper hit waiting to happen, this one has my bet.
Also available in Large Print.