Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Meg's Picks: July 2018, part 1

Anyone can read what's on the bestseller's list. But what about those breakout novels that no one saw coming? What about about the sleeper hits, or the genre novels, or the in-house favorites that your local librarian is raving about? These? These are some of those. Curious why they're on my radar and should be on yours? Read on!

All Your Perfects, by Colleen Hoover. Hoover is the bestselling author of It Ends With Us, and her new novel is the story of a troubled marriage...and the one long-forgotten promise that might be able to save it. Quinn and Graham are perfectly in love, but that is threatened by their most imperfect marriage. The memories and mistakes and secrets that have accumulated over the years are slowly tearing them apart. Is it possible to repair that which seems irreparable between two flawed people? If you like losing yourself in a character-driven story, this really should be on your list this summer. It is already on mine!

The Disappearing, by Lori Roy. Roy, who won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 2012 for Bent Road (the library's copy is being replaced!) returns to readers here with the tale of a small Southern town where the girls disappear and the boys run away. Lane Fielding fled her tiny Florida hometown after high school, setting out for NYC and vowing never to return home. Twenty years later, she's newly divorced with two teenage daughters and she's living with her parents, tending bar in the local dive. Home is just as unwelcoming as when she left, however, and when her older daughter suddenly vanishes, Lane's uneasy truce with the town is shattered. Has a long-dormant serial killer resurfaced to terrorize the town once more? Lane must dig deep within the past--her own as well as those of the town and her family--to find the answer and to save her daughter. If your ideal summer read is a page-turner guaranteed to send chills down your spine, you'd be wise to place your hold now.

All These Beautiful Strangers, by Elizabeth Klehfoth. Lies, deception and a secret society drive this addictive new psychological thriller. One summer day, Grace Fairchild, young wife of a local real estate mogul, vanishes from the family's vacation house, leaving behind her seven year old daughter Charlie...and a slew of unanswered questions. Ten years later, Charlie is still struggling in the shadow of her mother's disappearance and is trying to leave her past behind. She throws herself into her schoolwork, but finds herself tapped by the "As", the school's secret society. As a result, she's embroiled in a semester-long high-stakes scavenger hunt to prove she's worthy of membership, but a dark past and a dark present converge in such a way that Charlie may not survive to graduate. Juicy and clever, this may be one of the summer's biggest reads.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Reading Ahead: July 2018, part 4

Want a summer read guaranteed to hit you right in the feels? Here are several that fit the bill.

When We Found Home, by Susan Mallery. Callie Smith doesn't love being alone, but at least it's safe. That why, after years of having no family, she finds out she has two siblings: privileged Malcolm and street-wise Keira. Wary but daring to hope anyway, Callie moves into the grand family estate with her siblings and their grandfather. Maybe this will be the beginning of a new, better chapter? But starting over can be complicated, even as the different personalities learn how to be a family, instead of alone.

Every Time You Go Away, by Beth Harbison. After the sudden death of her husband, Ben, Willa never really recovered, sinking into her grief and being an absent mother, at best, to her son Jamie. Years later, she decides it's time to return to the house where Ben died, to part with the house and its past and sell it. The house turns out to be a bigger, and more emotional, project than Willa could have imagined, and family and friends come together to help one another through it. Billed as Harbison's most emotional novel yet.

Cottage by the Sea, by Debbie Macomber. Following personal tragedy, Annie heads back to the one place that made her happy in the past: Oceanside in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to the people she meets there, Annie begins to heal, to connect with her neighbors and her community, to begin to move forward. Then her tenuous happiness threatens to disappear, and Annie must choose whether or not to risk it all. Also available in Large Print

The Good Fight, by Danielle Steel. Growing up the daughter and granddaughter of prominent Manhattan lawyers, Meredith McKenzie is headed for greatness. But she rebels against the traditional trappings her parents want for her. It's the 1960s and they expect her to be a debutante, be a conventional young lady, but instead Meredith becomes deeply involved in the civil rights movement and works to end the war in Vietnam. Set vividly against the events of the time, Meredith becomes part of the vanguard of a new generation of women, determined to break down boundaries. Also available in Large Print.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Reading Ahead: July 2018, part 3

One of the best parts of summer, for me, is the opportunity to take one of those long, lazy afternoons and lose myself in a book. If you're looking for a story to lose yourself in this summer, try one of the following, due out next month.

Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler. In a novel of defining moments and transformation, Tyler (Ladder of Years, etc.) introduces readers to Willa Drake, whose life is captured in snapshots of pivotal moments: the disappearance of her mother, a newlywed, a young widow. What happens next is completely out of character, a leap of faith that takes her across the country to care for a family she's never met, surrounded by neighbors that look out for one another, impulse leading to solace. Tyler is a favorite for a reason. Also available in Large Print

The Summer Wives, by Beatriz Williams. In 1951, Miranda is still a schoolgirl still mourning the loss of her father in WWII. When her mother marries Hugh Fisher, Miranda is suddenly thrust into a life of the moneyed elite, arriving unprepared at the Fisher summer home on Winthrop Island. World-weary new stepsister Isobel is eager to introduce Miranda into the arcane customs of the summer families on Winthrop, but Miranda is uneasy, preferring the company of Joseph Vargas, whose father is the island's lighthouse keeper. As the summer winds to a close, though, Miranda is caught up in a catastrophe that changes the island's cherished tranquility forever. When she returns to the island eighteen years later, everything is the same on the surface. What lurks beneath, though, are secrets that Miranda means to reveal, no matter the cost.

A Question of Trust, by Penny Vincenzi. 1950s London. Tom is a man on the rise, charismatic, bent on political reform. His wife, a former nurse, shares his vision. Then a woman from his past resurfaces--Diana seems to be everything he means to change in the world, but there's still a certain allure. The affair between them could destroy them both, and when Tom's child becomes ill, he will have to make choices that put his marriage and his political career in serious jeopardy. Classic Vincenzi.

The Quiet Side of Passion, by Alexander McCall-Smith. The day-care gate is often a good place for parents to meet one another. So it is that Isabel, mother of two, meets Patricia, a single mother and musician. Patricia takes to Isabelle, but Isabel is wary, trying to be civil and supportive while keeping Patricia at arm's length. When she sees Patricia with a man, she is convinced that it is the biological father of Patricia's son, and her determination to get to the bottom of things turns everything on its head. What happens when you find you've misjudged all of the people in your life? Isabel is about to find out.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Reading Ahead: July 2018, part 2

Give Me Your Hand, by Megan Abbott. Abbott, an Edgar award winner and bestselling author of novels like Dare Me (2012), treats readers to a buzz-worthy thriller that may turn out to be the must-read novel of the summer. Kit Owens met brilliant and mysterious Diane Fleming in high school science class. Kit has never had a reason to work harder than is comfortable until Diane's perfectionist streak rubs off and the two strike up an unlikely friendship, pushing one another to do better. Until, that is, Diane shares a secret that destroys the friendship. Ten years later, Kit is succeeding and has her heart set on a new position, only to find that Diane is her prime competition for the job. The past comes roaring back as the two compete in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that may undo them both. If you miss this one, you may be sorry!

A Measure of Darkness, by Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman. When a West Oakland party gets violent, Alameda County's coroner deputy Clay Edison gets a call. The bad news is that several of the guests are dead. The worse news is that one victim was strangled instead of shot, and no one can identify her. This is the sequel to the father-son writing team's first Clay Edison novel, 2017's Crime Scene.

A Noise Downstairs, by Linwood Barclay. Deeply disturbed after he surprises a murderer dumping bodies on a lonely road late at night and nearly loses his own life, college professor Paul Davis is gifted with an old-fashioned typewriter by his wife, who hopes the gift might compel him to write as a method of therapy. The typewriter itself is a problem, though, because Paul believes it's typing by itself at night, but he's the only one who hears it. At one point is a person sure they've lost their mind? Barclay is known for tightly plotted thrillers, and I expect this to be no different.

Double Blind, by Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen. A Connecticut paralegal is fatally shot and then run down in the street, and she's found clutching an envelope with Kendra Michaels's name on it. Kendra didn't know the woman, and doesn't know what interest she might have in the envelope's contents, a USB stick with a video of a wedding reception. Then the bride from the video is abducted from her suburban home, and the killer's plan slowly begins to emerge. If you're new to the series, consider starting with the first book, Close Your Eyes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Reading Ahead: July 2018, part 1

As usual, July is absolutely chock-full of excellent options for every flavor of summer read you can imagine. Here are a few to get the ball rolling...

The Other Woman, by Daniel Silva. Silva's protagonist, fan-favorite art restorer and occasional Israeli secret agent Gabriel Allon is back to unravel a new conspiracy. Lured into the hunt for a traitor after his contact deep within the Russian intelligence network is brutally assassinated while trying to defect, Gabriel will work his way to the truth, back through time, to the greatest act of treason in the twentieth century. Silva's work is hugely popular, and if you're a reader in search of lightning-fast reads full of intrigue, this is for you.

A Gathering of Secrets, by Linda Castillo. Tenth in Castillo's popular Kate Burkholder suspense series (following 2017's Down a Dark Road) follows Chief of Police Burkholder and her small force as they work a case of deadly arson--an Amish barn was burned to the ground...with Daniel Gingerich inside. It wasn't an accident, and Daniel wasn't the sweet guy he appeared to be, either. When his death is ruled a murder, the list of possible suspects begins to grow exponentially.

Rescued, by David Rosenfelt. Sardonic defense lawyer Andy Carpenter and dog-rescuer would rather spend time working for the Tara Foundation, his dog rescue, and helping a truck-load of dogs find their forever homes instead of stepping back into the courtroom again. He's more reluctant still when the man accused of murdering the truck's driver needs Andy to defend him--the man is Andy's wife's ex-fiance. Twisted from the word go, this case may be Andy's hardest yet.

Paradox, by Catherine Coulter. Coulter's 22nd FBI thriller (after 2017's Enigma) finds Chief Ty Christie of Willicott, Maryland out on her porch one morning, overlooking the lake, only to find herself witness to a murder. When the lake is dragged, not only is the victim's body found, but also dozens of skeletons. Working with FBI couple Savich and Sherlock, Christie discovers a chilling connection between the bones and an escaped psychopath. If your ideal summer read is one to send shivers down your spine, add this to your list. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

What I've Been Reading: May 2018

I'm sort of shocked, looking back at this past month, at just how many books I managed to read! It's a mix, historical fiction, memoir, suspense, contemporary fiction. I typically read whatever strikes my fancy at any given moment, so it can vary wildly! There are so many this month, I'm shortening my reviews just a bit. Without any further ado...

Mrs., by Caitlyn Macy. Three women who don't quite fit the mold are thrown together by social happenstance--all three have children who attend the same elite NYC grammar school. Philippa is a woman with a shadowy past, Gwen is often mistaken for the family nanny, and Minnie is a newcomer, determined to find a way into the elite social circles. But when scandal strikes, nothing will ever be the same...for any of them. If you love a good, gossipy summer read, add this to your list.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. While I'd read Jane Eyre in college, I decided to reread it for my May book club meeting. I'd forgotten how sad Jane's story was, orphaned young and ill-treated by her distant relatives before being sent away to a school where she'd make the best friends of her life. And later, the mysterious Mr. Rochester enters the scene, both enthralling and ominous. We got some excellent discussion from this classic!

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. A 2017 National Award Finalist, Pachinko follows the story of one Korean family from the early 1900s, from the poor daughter of a lame fisherman who falls for a wealthy stranger, and after finding that she is pregnant and he is already married, marries a sickly but kind pastor and emigrates with him to Japan. Their family struggles on, through war and lean times, into the 1980s, and new opportunities. Excellent, moving and very entertaining.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris. I love David Sedaris; his essays and stories make me laugh like no other. Tales here include his move to Paris and his valiant efforts to learn French, his experiences as a performance artist, and his disastrous year as a writing professor. I laughed til I cried.

Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen before setting foot in a classroom. She'd never been to see a doctor or a nurse; her father was deeply mistrustful of the medical establishment. It was years before she had an actual birth certificate, and no one in her family is sure, still, what her exact birthday is--the government was not to be trusted. And yet, after one of her older brothers goes off to college, Tara decides to try a different kind of life, one that ultimately leads to Harvard and Oxford. Completely fascinating--I could not put this down.

Never Too Late, by Robyn Carr. I borrowed this from Overdrive, as the library's print copy is being replaced. Clare Wilson is starting over. She's ending her marriage to a serial cheater, finding work that she enjoys, reconnecting with her family. But it takes a brush with death to make her take stock of what's most important. Carr is reliable for fast, easy, character-driven stories.

End of Watch, by Stephen King. Retired police detective Bill Hodges is in failing health, something his friends and his PI partner Holly have been suspecting for months. The thing that keeps him going, though, is a new series of supposed suicides that are just too strange and coincidental to sit right with him. It was the original MO of the murderous Mr. Mercedes, Brady Hartfield, who now sits in what appears to be a vegetative state in the brain injury ward of the local hospital. But, Bill wonders, what if Brady is much more alert and aware than he lets on? With the time on his clock running down, Bill sets out to prove his theory right, and stop Brady once and for all. I needed to read this before I went on to King's new book, The Outsider, and I'm really glad I did.

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate. In the theme of Christina Baker Kline's The Orphan Train, Wingate's bestseller flips back and forth between past and present. In the past, it is 1939 and Rill Foss's parents have gone into town to the hospital for her mother to have a baby. And then she and her siblings find themselves wards in an orphan's home, slowly being sold off to wealthy families. In the present, Avery Stafford comes from a wealthy, influential family, though she's worried for her grandmother's failing memory. When she stumbles across a long-kept family secret, past meets present in a hurry. Slightly uneven, as the past story was more compelling, but still very readable and made even more enthralling as the events were based on a real "baby broker".

The Alienist, by Caleb Carr. While this has been on my reading bucket list for some time, it took the recent miniseries to get me to finally dig in. In 1896 New York City, criminal profiling is in its infancy. A reporter and a psychologist (an "alienist") team up for an unprecedented endeavor--creating a psychological profile of a serial killer in order to predict his next moves...and stop him. With a fast-paced plot and exquisite historical detail, this is a suspense novel like no other.

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. Three families. One, a childless couple waiting impatiently to adopt. Another, large and wealthy, well-established. And a third, a mother and daughter who move often and are only in town perhaps for a year while the mother, an artist, works on a new series of photographs. What none of them expect this year is that all three families will become hopelessly entwined and forever changed, that some will come out stronger, more sure, and others will find their trajectories altered irrevocably. I read this in a sitting, I just couldn't put it down.

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, by Sue Halpern. I am so in love with this book, I cannot begin to tell you. Kit has run from her past, and hides in plain sight as a librarian in the failing mill town of Riverton, New Hampshire. She lives a small, solitary life and prefers it that way. The last thing she wants is to spend a summer shadowed by fifteen-year-old Sunny, who has been sentenced to a summer of community service at the library for trying to steal, of all things, a dictionary from a book store. Sunny, however, becomes the crack in the foundation of Kit's carefully constructed walls, and the summer is one of growth and change and challenges for both of them, each extricating herself from a past beyond her control. I never expected to love this book the way I do.

The Whispering Room, by Dean Koontz. Second in Koontz's new series featuring rogue FBI agent Jane Hawk follows Jane as she pursues the shadowy cabal of powerful, influential players who are at the helm of a mind-control conspiracy of terrifying proportions. They never banked on a woman driven by love and fear, a woman willing to go rogue to take them down.

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett. One chance encounter, one uninvited guest at a family gathering, and the fates of two families are changed for generations. The Keating and the Cousins families would never have known one another until there are two divorces, a marriage, and suddenly all of the kids are spending summers in West Virginia together, and half of them are in California the rest of the year. Their bonds, lasting into adulthood, stem from a shared disillusionment of their parents and a strange sort of kinship in the wake of one tragic summer. While initially I had a little trouble with the timeline, once I figured it out, I was hooked. I adore Patchett's writing.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Meg's Picks: June 2018, part 2

Are you a fan of those great beach reads, you know the ones? The ones full of secrets and lies, truths hidden so long that they couldn't possibly be exposed...until they are and everything comes crashing down in spectacular fashion? The dishy ones you can't possibly put down? Yeah, those ones. If you are, here are a few you won't want to miss, coming to the library next month!

Jar of Hearts, by Jennifer Hillier. Georgina "Geo" Shaw is a high-powered executive with a wealthy CEO fiance, but all of that comes crashing down when it's uncovered that 14 years ago, her then-boyfriend killed her best friend Angela...and that she helped him dispose of Angela's body. Her role, and her silence, get her up to five years of jail time. Told alternating between past and present, the story begins at the start of Geo's jail term, and with one mystery solved, it's only a matter of time before more truth is uncovered. If you're looking for a slick, sharp thriller with plenty of twists, this is for you.

You Were Made for This, by Michelle Sacks. If you liked A.J. Finn's The Woman in the Window, you'd do well to check out Sacks's buzzworthy debut. Merry and Sam seem like the perfect married couple, complete with adorable baby boy. Merry appears to be a devoted wife and mother, and Sam's pleased to see Merry as such a domestic goddess. Sam seems to be the quintessential breadwinner, but has encountered scandal at work. She doesn't seem to notice his erratic behavior, and he misses her discontent in the role he's made for her. No one notices, in fact, until Merry's childhood friend comes for a visit and immediately sees through Merry's facade. But each woman holds a piece to the other's secrets...who will be left standing when truths are revealed?

Social Creature, by Tara Isabella Burton. Small town girl Louise is managing to scrape by in New York City. Then she meets wealthy, off-kilter Lavinia, who introduces the country mouse to champagne, private box seats at the theater, and underground cabaret. The two become inseparable besties, until Lavinia's darker nature starts to show itself, and then it may be too late for Louise. There is a lot of good word-of-mouth going about this debut, sort of a modern day The Talented Mr. Ripley. Expect your friends to be talking this up before the summer's over.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Meg's Picks: June 2018, part 1

Summer always feels like Christmas for readers, there's such an embarrassment of riches! I hope you've saved a little room on your reading list, because the party is only just beginning!

Us Against You, by Frederik Backman. From the bestselling author of reader favorites like A Man Called Ove and Beartown, this follow-up to Beartown is about hockey...and everything else. Here, the residents of Backman's secluded Swedish village resume their lives where the previous novel left off, amidst the turmoil of the news that their much beloved local hockey league is meant to be disbanded. In the ensuing season, tensions run high, both among Beartown's residents and also between Beartown and their hockey arch-rivals in the neighboring town of Hed. Backman's story-telling is magic, and Beartown peopled with characters that leap off the page. If you're looking to sink into a great story, you can't do better.

Three Days Missing, by Kimberly Belle. Belle, author of The Last Breath (2014) and The Marriage Lie (2016), grips readers with a new tale of suspense. Kat Jenkins's son Ethan is kidnapped from an overnight school trip. But it's the mayor's wife, and mother to Ethan's almost look-alike classmate Sammy, who receives a call with a ransom demand. But Sammy is safe, but does he hold clues to Ethan's whereabouts? As the search for Ethan intensifies, the two families are drawn far closer than either is comfortable with, and secrets will out, as they always do. Suspense readers, add this one to your list.

The Secrets Between Us, by Thrity Umrigar. Umrigar revisits the beloved protagonist, Bhima, from her best-selling 2007 novel The Space Between Us. Bhima has long served the upper-middle-class Dubashes, but after she speaks up about a crime committed against her own family, she is promptly fired. Soon, though, she begins selling fruits and vegetables with an older woman named Parvati, and she discovers a deep and abiding friendship with her new companion, as well as the secrets of the Mumbai slums that link them irrevocably. Fans of the first novel will not want to miss out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reading Ahead: June 2018, part 5

From the heartwarming to the dishy, June's beach reads are sure to please even the pickiest reader!

The Perfect Couple, by Elin Hilderbrand. It wouldn't be summer without an entertaining new beach read from the Queen of Summer herself. Summer, aka Nantucket wedding season, has arrived and the Otis-Winbury wedding will be an affair to remember. The groom's family owns a posh oceanfront estate, after all, and are sparing no expense. But the big day may be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is found in the harbor just hours before the ceremony is scheduled to begin. Everyone, including the wedding party, is considered a suspect. As the police interview the families and friends, what becomes apparent is that nobody is what they seem...and no couple is perfect. Also available in Large Print

Dreams of Falling, by Karen White. Lark fled her home of Georgetown, South Carolina nine years ago, humiliated and vowing never to return. When she discovers her mother has disappeared, however, she realizes she has no choice but to go back to the place she both loves and dreads, the place where her friends and family have never stopped missing her. When Lark's mother is found, she's injured and unconscious, found in the crumbling ruin of her ancestral plantation house. Lark digs for answers, but what she finds is startling--secrets buried more than fifty years, love, sacrifice, and betrayal. Also available in Large Print.

Between You and Me, by Susan Wiggs. When Philadelphia surgeon Reese Powell is called upon to treat an Amish boy severely injured in a farming accident, she never expects it to be more than a routine case. The attraction she feels for the boy's guardian, Caleb, is a surprise to both parties. Is there any hope of a future together when their worlds are so very different? Also available in Large Print.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Reading Ahead: June 2018, part 4

Beach reads are upon us, whatever the weather!

All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin. A single photograph, snapped in the midst of drunken moments at a party, change everything for three people, uniting them in scandal and forcing them each to choose between their families and their deeply-held values. Nina is living a life beyond her wildest dreams, married to a rich man, mother to an Ivy League student. But has she strayed so far from her modest upbringing? Single dad Tom is working multiple jobs, trying to be a provider and good parent for his headstrong daughter, Lyla. So when she wins a scholarship to a prestigious private school, is it finally safe to ease up on the reins a little? And Lyla, with a strict father and a humble home life, is out of place amidst so much excess in her new environment. Thoughtful beach reading for Giffin fans here. Also available in Large Print.

How Hard Can It Be?, by Allison Pearson. Pearson picks up with Kate Reddy of I Don't Know How She Does It (2002) seven years after the first book closes. Kate is at a crossroads. She's facing her 50th birthday, her children have become impossible teenagers, her mother and her in-laws are in failing health. She's been years out of the workplace, but her husband's midlife crisis has her pining for her career. Several years out of practice, will she still be able to keep all of these balls in the air? Pearson is a gem.

When Life Gives You Lululemons, by Lauren Weisberger. Set in Greenwich, CT, Weisberger's latest finds Emily Charlton (fans may remember her as Miranda Priestly's assistant in The Devil Wears Prada) working as an image consultant...and desperate for a new client. Through a mutual friend, she lands Karolina: former supermodel, wife to a presidential hopeful...and just arrested for a DUI. From the ladies who lunch to the glorified sales-pitches called parties, no one one escapes unscathed in this beauty of a beach read.