Thursday, December 13, 2018

Reading Ahead: January 2019, part 3

Winter is often the season when many readers turn to easy reading to while away a bitterly cold night. If that sounds like you, read on!

Turning Point, by Danielle Steel. Four busy and dedicated California doctors are chosen for an honor and a unique project: to work with their counterparts in Paris in a mass-casualty training program. As professionals, they will gain invaluable experience. As men and women, they will find that their time in the City of Lights offers them a variety of personal opportunities. But when an unspeakable act of mass violence calls them all into action, this will be their turning point, when each must make choices that will change each of them forever. Also available in Large Print

Untouchable, by Jayne Ann Krentz. This is the wrap-up of Krentz's Cutler, Sutter & Salinas trilogy, following 2016's When All The Girls Have Gone and 2017's Promise Not To Tell. FBI consultant Jack Lancaster has always been drawn to the coldest of cold cases. A survivor of a fire himself, he finds himself with a unique perspective on arson cases in particular. But the more cases he solves, the closer he slips toward darkness. His salvation is meditation therapist Winter Meadows, who can manage to lead him back toward the light when his thoughts are at their darkest. As long as Quinton Zane is alive, though, Jack will never have peace, and so the battle begins. Also available in Large Print.

The Best of Us, by Robyn Carr. Latest in Carr's Sullivan's Crossing series, after 2018's The Family Gathering, finds Dr. Leigh Culver enjoying the slower pace of practicing medicine in Timberlake, Colorado after her years in Chicago. The only drawback is that she misses her aunt Helen, who raised Leigh, but perhaps the gorgeous mountain views will entice Helen to visit often? Neither of them expected to miss one another so much, though, and Helen never thought she'd fall for a place like Sullivan's Crossing, but that's just the beginning of what happens upon her first fateful visit. Also available in Large Print.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Reading Ahead: January 2019, part 2

Need a new thriller to get your blood running on a cold winter's night? Consider one of these up and coming titles!

The Suspect, by Fiona Barton. The bestselling author of The Widow (2016) returns with a twisted psychological thriller about every parent's worst nightmare. When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on a trip to Thailand, their frantic, worried families are thrust into the spotlight overnight. What were the girls doing before they disappeared? Journalist Kate Waters wants the exclusive, to be the first to the find the truth, but in the process she's forced to deal with her own issues, including her son who left for his own international travels two years ago...and hasn't been heard from since.

What Doesn't Kill Her, by Christina Dodd. Following 2018's Dead Girl Running, we again meet up with Kellen Adams, who has a year-long gap in her memory. A gunshot to the head will do that, it seems. But she's slowly piecing things back together and what she learns changes everything. Like that she bends, but doesn't break. And that even on the run in the wilderness, carrying a priceless burden, she has her sights set on her pursuers, vowing to end this chase as the hunter, not the hunted...

Judgement, by Joseph Finder. Massachusetts Superior Court judge Juliana Brody is rumored to be in consideration for the federal circuit, and she doesn't want anything to jeopardize that. But while at a conference in Chicago, she indulges in a one-night-stand with a man who seems gentle and vulnerable. Their mutual understanding is that this will never happen again. Upon returning home, however, Juliana soon realizes that this was no chance encounter, and that the man in Chicago has an integral role in the sexual discrimination case she's presiding over. Her indiscretion has been recorded, but it soon becomes clear that personal humiliation or even the end of her career may be the least of her concerns. It could spell mortal peril for her and for those she holds most dear.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Reading Ahead: January 2019, part 1

It's time to start thinking about keeping warm with red-hot thrillers this winter! Here are a few to consider adding to your list as the mercury starts to dip.

The Rule of Law, by John Lescroart. Last seen in 2018's Poison, Dismas Hardy is concerned: something is troubling his long-time and most-trusted assistant, Phyllis. And then? She disappears without a word. Then Hardy finds out that her brother, who has been in prison for armed robbery and attempted murder, has just been released. When Phyllis is found and arrested for the murder of a human trafficker, there's simply too much coincidence for Hardy to leave it alone. He has to put the pieces together, fast, if there's any hope of saving his trusted colleague.

Daughter of War, by Brad Taylor. Pike Logan and fellow Taskforce operator Jennifer Cahill are back after 2018's Operator Down and they're hot on the trail of a North Korean looking to sell sensitive information the Syrian regime. Then they stumble on something even more grave: the sale of a lethal substance known as Red Mercury, a weapon of mass destruction against American and Kurdish forces. Can the Taskforce unravel the plot and neutralize the threat before the conspiracy comes to a deadly end?

Liar, Liar, by James Patterson & Candice Fox. Harriet Blue is a great cop who has gone very, very bad. In the space of a week, she's committed theft and fraud, resisted arrest, assaulted an officer, and is now considered a dangerous fugitive. All of this because of one man who killed the person she held most dear...and intends to kill her next.

The New Iberia Blues, by James Lee Burke. This twenty-second entry in Burke's long-running Detective David Robicheaux series finds Robicheaux meeting up with a figure from his past, a once undersized twelve-year-old boy on the streets of New Orleans who, twenty-five years later, has fulfilled his dreams of Hollywood splendor. But when Robicheaux comes to Cormier's estate, it isn't to offer congratulations--he's looking for answers related to a nearby homicide. Cormier isn't saying much, but Robicheaux knows better. It's only as he wades deeper into the investigation, however, that he discovers just how dark and convoluted this case is.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

What I've Been Reading: November 2018

I've been reading non-fiction and book club books, which seem to be slowing me down a little lately. That and the early evenings that make me want to retire earlier and earlier! But I've gotten a few things finished...

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, by Maxwell King. I am absolutely a child of the PBS era and have a soft, nostalgic place in my heart for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. So this, the first full-length biography of an American icon, is right up my alley. Following Fred's story from a shy, kindhearted boy through his education where he excelled at music, and told with the help of numerous interviews and archival documents, King's biography is simply perfect, thoughtful and insightful and wonderfully detailed.

How to Knit A Heart Back Home, by Rachael Herron. Herron, writer and fellow knitter, has a great knack for writing perfectly flawed characters who find each other in the most entertaining ways. Here, bookshop owner and long-time knitter Lucy has made peace with being single, choosing to live vicariously through the exploits of her socially avid best friend, Molly. Then Owen comes back to town to deal with some family issues, and Lucy goes to pieces. In high school, Lucy had been Owen's math tutor, her the nerd and him the bad boy with a tough home life. They shared one intensely memorable kiss...just before he left town. Now after close to two decades, he's back and maybe, just maybe, they might find their next steps together...

The Visitors, by Catherine Burns. Burns' debut, which was published last September, has been on my list for some time, and now I know why. This is not a comfortable read, both claustrophobic and grimly tense. Marion Zetland lives in her crumbling childhood home with her older brother John--she a timid spinster who spends her days napping with teddy bears and avoiding conflict of any kind, he a surly recluse who spends the bulk of his time in their basement, which is off limits to everyone else. Marion has spent years turning a blind eye to John's ominous deeds until one day, these heinous responsibilities fall to her and she must unravel many truths, including her own. A slow and uncomfortable start picks up a full head of steam about halfway through, and the finish is absolutely worth it. If you're looking for a novel full of dark suspense, add this to your list.

The Law of Similars, by Chris Bohjalian. Bohjalian (Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, etc.) is a favorite of mine and I parcel his books out as stories to savor. Here, Vermont widower and attorney Leland is consumed by his job, the raising of his young daughter...and a collection of anxieties manifesting as illness. Over the counter remedies and antibiotics have failed him. It's only when he turns to homeopathy that he begins to see improvement, not least because he is instantly smitten with his homeopath, Carissa Lake. But after one of Carissa's patients falls into an allergy-induced coma, possibly because of her prescribed remedy, Leland's office begins to investigate the case. Leland is faced with a monumental ethical dilemma as love and legal obligations clash head-on. Fascinating on multiple levels, this was definitely a novel to linger over.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See. My book club's November selection, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is the story of Li-yan and her family, living in a remote village in a southern province of China where life revolves around the seasons and the farming and harvesting of tea. It is only after a stranger visits their village that Li-yan begins to venture forth, receiving an education and beginning to reject traditional beliefs. It is the birth of her daughter, born out of wedlock with a man her family considers a poor choice, that finally causes Li-yan to break away. She gives her daughter up at an orphanage in hopes of giving the girl a better life, then makes her own way in the world, choosing city over village. This is also the story of Haley, Li-yan's daughter, who is being raised by an American couple in California, and her own unique struggles with identity.

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adapted from Adichie's much-admired TEDx talk of the same name, this long essay is both personal and eloquently argued, offering a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing on her own experiences and her understanding of the often-masked realities of sexual politics, this is both Adichie's own exploration of what it means to be a woman now, and also a rallying cry to the world. I loved it so much, I read it twice.

The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel. This is a reread for me, the selection for my book club's December meeting. You can read my original review here.

I have nine books left to read in 2018 in order to hit 100 books in a calendar year. Think I can do it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Meg's Picks: December 2018, part 1

Looking for something unexpected? I've got two suggestions for you today--one, a debut with an unusual protagonist and the second, a series starter from a reader favorite.

Hunting Annabelle, by Wendy Heard. This unique debut thriller already has a lot of readers buzzing. Sean Suh has served three years in a psychiatric prison for murder, so now that he's out, he copes by avoiding interaction with other people and wandering a local amusement park as he suppresses his darker impulses. He's instantly smitten when he meets Annabelle, who is beautiful and kind. But when she is abducted while they're on their first date, he finds himself the prime--and only--suspect. Frustrated by the police's unwillingness to search for Annabelle and her abductor, Sean begins his own investigation and digs into Annabelle's past--which turns out to be far murkier than readers might have expected. Billed as delightfully dark and twisted, this is a sure bet for readers of Caroline Kepnes (You, etc.).

Murder at the Mill, by M.B. Shaw. This first mystery from bestseller Tilly Bagshawe writing under a pseudonym finds artist Iris Grey hiding away in a Hampshire cottage, taking a break from her strained marriage. While there, she accepts a commission to paint the portrait of crime writer Dominic Wetherby, who lives next door. It's only when a local's father is discovered dead that Iris discovers she's got a talent for investigating murder...and suspects abound. Fans of Bagshawe's and readers of amateur sleuths should all be lining up.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Reading Ahead: December 2019, part 4

Up for some spy games?

The Enemy of My Enemy, by WEB Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV. Latest in the Clandestine Operations series, following 2017's Death at Nuremberg, finds special agent James Cronley Jr. fighting both ex-Nazis and Soviet NKGB can lead to some strange alliances. A month ago, Cronley captured two Nazi war criminals, but not without some fallout. With the Austrian police on high alert, Cronley decides to lay low, but that only lasts until someone breaks the two criminals out of jail, putting Cronley back out on the hunt--and in the open--once more. Also available in Large Print

A Delicate Touch, by Stuart Woods. When an old acquaintance reaches out to Stone Barrington, asking for help, he couldn't possibly say no. After all, the job seems easy enough--she just needs help solving a puzzle. Until the solution reveals a much bigger, darker scandal--one that goes back decades, and a number of New York's most elite citizens are implicated. Once again, Barrington is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reading Ahead: December 2018, part 3

What single suspense novel am I looking forward to most next month? Well I think I'd have to say it's Watching You, by Lisa Jewell. I've been a fan of Jewell's since reading The Making of Us several years ago, I really enjoy her plot twists and multi-faceted characters. If you're looking for a new twisted suspense novel this winter, Watching You should be on your list (and if you need something to tide you over, I'd also recommend The Third Wife, 2015). Melville Heights is one of the best neighborhoods in Bristol, England--the sort of area that doctors and lawyers call home. It's a place where every house holds at least one secret, but certainly not where you'd expect a brutal murder to occur. Who winds up dead, and why, and whodunnit? Jewell leads readers along through the fascinating cast and keeps you guessing right to the end.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Reading Ahead: December 2018, part 2

Thrillers are the name of the game next month, with some long-awaited new titles from some of our readers' favorites!

The Boy, by Tami Hoag. New in Hoag's Doucet series (following 1997's A Thin Dark Line), The Boy finds Detective Nick Fourcade in the most brutal and confusing crime scene he's encountered to date. Genevieve Gauthier's home doesn't show signs of forced entry and she is physically unharmed, inexplicably left alive as a witness, telling a story of an unknown intruder who has murdered her 7-year-old son KJ. Who would kill a child and leave the only witness behind? When KJ's babysitter, Nora, is reported missing the following day, the sleepy Louisiana community is in an uproar. Nick and his wife, fellow detective Annie Broussard, must sift through Genevieve's past and Nora's disappearance to uncover the truth.

Pandemic, by Robin Cook. Taking on a cutting-edge tale of gene modification, Cook's latest begins when a young woman collapses on the New York subway and dies upon her arrival at the hospital. With eerie echoes of the 1918 flu pandemic near the hundredth anniversary, the incident begins to show anomalies when veteran medical examiner Jack Stapleton autopsies the woman. First, she had a heart transplant. Second, impossibly, her transplanted heart matches her DNA. His investigation leads him to a gene-editing biotechnology that has captured the imagination of the medical community...and the attention of its most unethical members. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Reading Ahead: December 2018, part 1

As usual, there's not a very long list of new books due out in December (January will be a different story!), but the ones coming are big names for the most part, and ones you won't want to miss!

Of Blood and Bone, by Nora Roberts. Second in fan-favorite Roberts's new post-apocalyptic series, The Chronicles of the One, (following 2017's Year One), Of Blood and Bone begins a dozen years after the close of Year One. Fallon Swift, now thirteen, is gifted and therefore hunted. But her training under the guidance of Mallick, whose own skills have been honed over centuries, must begin. Fallon's identity, that of The One, cannot be hidden much longer, and she must be ready for the challenges ahead. Also available in Large Print

Verses for the Dead, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Following City of Endless Night (2018), the New York City field office of the FBI undergoes a leadership overhaul, and one of the changes made is unthinkable: the notorious rogue agent Pendergast must work with a partner. Together with junior agent Coldmoon, Pendergast travels to Miami where a series of murders has a gruesome, puzzling M.O.: all of the victims have their hearts cut out and are left, along with notes from the killer, on gravestones of women who committed suicide. As the new duo work together, trying desperately to make a connection beyond that of the graves, they realize that this particular mystery may stretch back decades, making these new crimes almost pale by comparison. Pendergast is among my very favorite characters, and this new installment will be at the top of my reading list this winter.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What I've Been Reading: October 2018

Well, it was bound to happen. I have hit a bit of a reading lull, or at least it feels that way, somehow. There have been a few titles that I've finished within a day or two this past month, but everything else has been mostly read simultaneously, a few pages at a time--to me, that just feels less fulfilling. Anyone else?

In any case, here we go!

A Man Called Ove, by Frederik Backman. I've held off on this one, which I know so many people have read and loved, because I knew my bookclub would read it and I wanted to wait. So now we've met, and I've read it! Ove is the neighborhood curmudgeon, keeping the world at arm's length and subscribing to a merciless sense of fair play. We meet him on one of his darkest days, which is turned around by a chance annoyance--a new family moving in, and making a hash of things in the process. Ove, who has not let anyone into his life in such a long time, soon finds himself surrounded by people who need him, and it is only most reluctantly that he acknowledges his need for them, too. A fast read, and an inspiring one. I very much enjoyed it, and it made for excellent discussion with the book club members.

A Breath After Drowning, by Alice Blanchard. Child psychiatrist Kate Wolf is devastated when one of her young patients commits suicide. Still reeling, she takes on a new patient, a girl abandoned at the hospital by her mother. Her confidence shaken, Kate doubts her ability to help her new patient, only to find the girl and her family have ties to Kate's own past, forcing her to acknowledge her own personal tragedy. While the plot here is fascinating, I found the style abrupt, almost as though too much of the story had been edited out--it felt like there were holes and that I was having to infer an awful lot. Sadly, not my favorite.

Leave No Trace, by Mindy Mejia. Ten years ago, a man and his son disappeared into the acres of forest in Minnesota near the Boundary Waters, and the townsfolk have presumed them dead for years. Now, the son has reappeared, found ransacking an outdoor equipment store. Violent and uncommunicative, he's sent to the local psychiatric facility where he chooses only to communicate with speech therapist Maya. He's still unwilling to share all of his secrets: where they've been, why they disappeared, why he came back. And Maya certainly has secrets of her own, including the reason she wants to help him return to the wild and his father. Beautifully written in taut, spare prose, this is a suspense novel to be savored--I didn't want to miss the smallest detail.

Lost Girls: an unsolved American mystery, by Robert Kolker. In 2010, the remains of five young women were found on the same Long Island Beach, all of them sex workers who had once used Craigslist to post their ads. Kolker investigates their individual pasts, their disappearances, the police investigation, and the nearby gated community which appears to be peopled with very private citizens, all with something to hide. The five women are all believed to have been killed by the same person, called the Long Island Serial Killer or LISK (sometimes also called the Gilgo Beach Killer or the Craigslist Ripper). I'm on a true-crime jag, and this was compellingly written. The case is currently still unsolved.

Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman. I read this on a recommendation from a coworker, who said she couldn't put it down. I can concur, it was absolutely gripping. In a novel where you start at the end and work backward, we meet Erin while she's digging a grave for her husband. It is only as we track back her relationship with her husband, their recent wedding and their honeymoon in Bora Bora that we slowly get the picture of how she has come to this desperate situation, a young documentary film-maker, now a widow, hiding a body in the English countryside. Steadman's debut is excellent, and I look forward to her next outing.

Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch. Julia Pastrana was a wonder of her time, a queen of the freakshow, touring New Orleans, New York, London, Vienna, and Moscow. Today, she would be diagnosed with hypertrichosis terminalis, but in the mid 1800s, physicians declared she was half brute, half human--as an act, she was often called the Bear Woman. Fluent in English, Spanish and French, Julia was also an accomplished musician and dancer with an excellent singing voice. Leaving the small Mexican village where she grew up in hopes of a better life with the sideshow troupe in New Orleans, Julia seeks happiness and perhaps love, which she finds with Theodore Lent. Based on a true story and framed in Birch's flavorful prose, this was a delectable read.

The Home for Unwanted Girls, by Joanna Goodman. Maggie is a young woman in Quebec in the 1950s, her mother French and her father English. Caught between two worlds, she is pushed to reject her French background, only to fall for a French boy who lives on a neighboring farm. Maggie becomes pregnant and is sent away, forced to have her baby in secrecy and give her up immediately. Elodie grows up in Quebec's impoverished orphanage system, only to have all orphanages turned into mental institutions by governmental decree--as a result, Elodie and thousands of orphans like her are declared mentally ill. Told in two parts that intertwine but never touch, the stories of Maggie and her daughter are hauntingly poignant. I'd recommend this to readers who liked Lisa Wingates's Before We Were Yours.