Thursday, December 8, 2016

Reading Ahead: January 2017, part 3

If you're in the mood for something a little dark and brooding, a tale of obsession and intrigue, January has several offerings!

Sleepwalker, by Christopher Bohjalian. Bohjalian never writes the same book twice, always keeping his readers guessing. Here, when Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Also available in Large Print

The Mistress, by Danielle Steel. Natasha has lived the last seven years under the protection of a Russian billionaire--her job is to keep Vladamir happy, ask no questions, and be discreet. With hardship in her past, she knows how lucky she is to be in the lap of luxury now, and since she believes he will always keep her safe, she follows the rules and devotes herself to him. However, when Vladamir and Natasha encounter Theo Luca, the heir to a brilliant artist's fortune in artwork, two obsessions are born--Theo for Natasha, and Vladamir for Theo's collection of paintings. Both are determined to have their heart's desire, regardless of the cost. Also available in Large Print.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Reading Ahead: January 2017, part 2

January is brimming with great thrillers sure to get your blood pumping!

Below the Belt, by Stuart Woods. Fans of Woods's long-running Stone Barrington series will be delighted with a new installment so close on the heels of 2016's Sex, Lies, and Serious Money. Newly ensconced in his Santa Fe abode with a lovely female companion, Stone Barrington receives a call from an old friend requesting a delicate favor. A situation has arisen that could escalate into an explosive quagmire, and only someone with Stone’s stealth and subtlety can contain the damage. At the center of these events is an impressive gentleman whose star is on the rise, and who’d like to get Stone in his corner. He’s charming and ambitious and has friends in high places; the kind of man who seems to be a sure bet. But in the fickle circles of power, fortunes rise and fall on the turn of a dime, and it may turn out that Stone holds the key not just to one man’s fate, but to the fate of the nation.

Ring of Fire, by Brad Taylor. In this, book eleven in Taylor's popular Pike Logan series (following 2016's Ghosts of War), readers are plunged into the desperate tale of a defense contractor, who panics when the
 the Panama Papers burst onto the public scene. Providing insight into the illicit deeds of offshore financing, they could prove his undoing. To prevent the exposure of his illegal activities, he sets in motion a plan to interdict the next leak, but he is not the only one worried about spilled secrets. The data theft has left the Taskforce potentially vulnerable, leaving a trail that could compromise the unit. Back in the good graces of the new president, Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill are ordered to interdict the next leak as well, in order to control the damage. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Reading Ahead: January 2017, part 1

I realize it feels rather early to start thinking about next year, though I've been ordering January release titles for six months already... In any case, if your New Year's resolutions include reading more, this is a great place to start making your list!

Fatal, by John T. Lescroart. Lescroart's latest is a standalone novel that examines what happens to a seemingly happy married couple after one of them indulges in a one-night stand. Hint: the consequences are a lot bigger and further-reaching than what you'd imagine. Advance reviews describe this as an absorbing page turner that will keep you guessing right up to the last page.

Never Never, by James Patterson & Candice Fox. Harry Blue is the top Sex Crimes investigator in her department. She's a seasoned pro who's seen it all. But even she didn't see this coming: her own brother arrested for the grisly murders of three beautiful young women. Looking into a seemingly simple missing persons case, Harry's been assigned to a new "partner." But is he actually meant to be a watchdog? Still reeling from the accusations against her brother, Harry can't even trust her own instincts, which she's never doubted...until now. Also available in Large Print.

The Prisoner, by Alex Berenson. This new entry in Berenson's popular John Wells series (following 2016's The Wolves) finds Wells on the most dangerous mission of his career. Evidence is mounting that someone high up in the CIA is doing the unthinkable—passing messages to ISIS, alerting them to planned operations. Finding out the mole’s identity without alerting him, however, will be very hard, and to accomplish it, Wells will have to do something he thought he’d left behind forever. He will have to reassume his former identity as an al Qaeda jihadi, get captured, and go undercover to befriend an ISIS prisoner in a secret Bulgarian prison.

The Nowhere Man, by Gregg Hurwitz. In this sequel to 2016's Orphan X, Evan Smoak is the Nowhere Man. Taken from a group home at twelve, Evan was raised and trained as part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books operation designed to create deniable intelligence assets―i.e. assassins. Evan was Orphan X. He broke with the Program, using everything he learned to disappear and reinvent himself as the Nowhere Man.

But his new life is interrupted when a surprise attack comes from an unlikely angle and Evan is caught unaware. Captured, drugged, and spirited off to a remote location, he finds himself heavily guarded and cut off from everything he knows. His captors think they have him trapped and helpless in a virtual cage but they don’t know who they’re dealing with―or that they’ve trapped themselves inside that cage with one of the deadliest and most resourceful men on earth.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What I've Been Reading: November 2016

I've been reading a bit of everything this month, from the very light and fluffy to the deep and introspective, from psychological thrillers to historical fiction and just about everything in between.

The Island House, by Nancy Thayer. I had never read a book by Nancy Thayer before, but the summer crowds seem to love her, so I gave her a shot. Maybe it was the audiobook presentation, or maybe it was that I was listening to it in November, but I have a confession to make: I couldn't wait for it to be over. From reviews I've read (note to self: read a few of those reviews before selecting a title at random from a new-to-me author), this is not a fan favorite, either. The Vickery family and their children's friends gather in the family's Nantucket house every summer for more than a decade. This particular summer all of the children and the "summer children" are all over 21 and the winds of change are blowing for each of them. Some find love, some find peace, others find purpose and a need to move on. This could have used some heavy editing to pare down on repetition and some superfluous characters and subplots that went nowhere. I think I'll read a few more reviews before I try another of her books, but I'd have to recommend skipping this one.

Mischling, by Affinity Konar. A set of identical twin girls arrives in Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather in 1944 and are immediately whisked away to become part of the experimental population known as Mengele's Zoo. Here, they rely on their identical natures and they split responsibilities. Pearl is responsible for the sad, the good, and the past, while Stasha keeps the funny, the future, and the bad. That winter, Pearl disappears, and Stasha keeps hope that she will find Pearl alive--it becomes her sole mission after liberation. Bittersweet, touching, and deeply affecting, I'd recommend this for fans of books like All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Lilac Girls.

A Good Yarn, by Debbie Macomber. Second in Macomber's popular Blossom Street series, following The Shop on Blossom Street, A Good Yarn picks up with Lydia Hoffman in her yarn shop a year after the first book began. Lydia loves her shop, her boyfriend, and her life--as is the case in life, when everything seems to be perfect, something is bound to unravel. Her boyfriend's ex-wife (and mother of his son) pushes to be more of a fixture in the life he has been making with Lydia, and Lydia has to walk away to save herself. But she finds solace in teaching her newest group of knitting students, and their stories unfold to mesh with Lydia's over the course of the novel. Similar to the first book, but in a comforting way.

The Next, by Stephanie Gangi. Joanna lives and loves with everything she's got. But when her health takes a turn and the love of her life abandons her in her final decline only to take up immediately with another woman, she is determined to get even. Death? Death is not going to stop her. If anything, it's the perfect medium for her vengeful masterpiece--making Ned pay so that she can move on. A novel of life, death, revenge and peace that is so sharp and thought-provoking, it really gives a reader pause. Unlike anything else I've read, but I would definitely recommend it to readers who liked Caroline Kepnes's You.

The Muse, by Jessie Burton. I adored Burton's debut novel, The Miniaturist (you can read my full review here), so I was eager to see what her follow-up would be like. What I found was a book that had all of the poignant detail and elegant style of the first novel, with a story that was unique and captivating. Alternating between the story of Caribbean immigrant Odelle Bastien in 1967 East London and that of English heiress Olive Schloss in 1930's Spain, Burton weaves an intricate web of connection between the two women in a tale of deception, art, and ambition that I found completely spellbinding. I highly recommend both of Burton's novels.

The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood. I've been in love with Margaret Atwood's work since reading Alias Grace back in the 1990's. Here, in the wake of a national economic bust, young marrieds Stan and Charmaine find themselves unemployed and homeless, living in a third-hand Honda and subsisting on whatever odd jobs they can find. Desperate, they cannot believe their luck when they are offered a place in the Consilience gated community, where they will be offered jobs and a comfortable home...six months out of the year. On the alternating months, however, they'll be inmates in a prison complex. But how bad could that be, if they're guaranteed a home and a living wage the rest of the time? The truth is even more grim than what you're thinking. Atwood has a deft hand with dialog and keeps the shifting narration between Stan and Charmaine clear and perfectly paced. She is a master of her craft.

Strawberry Shortcake Murder, by Joanne Fluke. And who doesn't like some light and fluffy murder, complete with recipes? Second in Fluke's long-running Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series (following Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder), this installment finds Hannah on call when a friend discovers her husband murdered in her garage. Danielle has motive, but maintains her innocence, which leaves cookie baker and amateur sleuth Hannah on the case to clear Danielle's name. As sweet and easy as you can make a mystery, this was just what I wanted to read after the holiday.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Three on Thursday: Cookbooks!

With the holidays looming, some folks feel that they need something fresh and new to offer alongside the tried-and-true recipes they traditionally serve. If you're looking for a little inspiration this holiday season, take a look at some of our new cookbooks!

Too many apples piling up after a trip to the local orchard? Check out The Fly Creek Cider Mill Cookbook by Brenda and Bill Michaels, offering over 100 recipes, all featuring apples. Part ode to the generations of Michaels who have owned and operated the cider mill and orchard, part homage to the versatile seasonal fruit, this should provide inspiration and some cozy reading to cooks and bakers. In a similar vein, you might also want to check out The New England Orchard Cookbook by Linda Beaulieu, which features recipes from iconic orchards all over New England. Moving beyond just apples, this also covers peaches, pears, berries and more, along with providing gorgeous photographs both of the orchards and the recipes. (Also, if you're looking for a hidden gem of an orchard and cider mill around here, I highly recommend Beardsley's Cider Mill and Orchard in Shelton!)

Envious of all the relaxed entertaining you see on television and social media? Embrace it for yourself with established cookbook author Nancy Silverton's Mozza At Home, which is chock full of easy recipes to help you spend more time out mingling with guests instead of cloistered in the kitchen. And if you're looking to up your game in the entertaining department, consider the new cookbook/lifestyle guide from the author of the bestselling Dinner: A Love Story, Jenny Rosenstrach's How To Celebrate Everything. Over a hundred recipes are paired with inspiring ideas on how to turn special occasions into cherished traditions.

Finally, if you're wondering what the most popular cookbook is right now? Ina Garten's Cooking for Jeffrey is what fans, foodies and cooks are talking about right now. Filled with recipes requested most frequently by the Barefoot Contessa's spouse and his friends, this is part cookbook and part love story in food. 

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving. I'll rejoin you with what I've been reading after the holiday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Meg's Pick: December 2016

Fun, light, easy reading can be just the ticket when you need to unwind. If you're finding your holidays a little (or a lot) on the stressful side, this is my pick for a little down-time next month.

Small Admissions, by Amy Poeppel. For fans of The Nanny Diaries or Sophie Kinsella, Poeppel's debut has gotten great reviews--critics have been calling it a smart, laugh-out-loud page-turner. Despite her innate ambition and Summa Cum Laude smarts, Kate Pearson has turned into a major slacker. After being unceremoniously dumped by her handsome French boyfriend, Kate ditches her grad-school plans in favor of binge-watching Sex and the City on her couch, only leaving her apartment for her dog-walking gigs.When she miraculously manages to land a job in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School, Kate finds herself in the thick of admissions season, which her new co-workers refer to as "the dark time." As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer...