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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reading Ahead: September 2017, part 3

Secret societies, undercover missions, and hauntings of various kinds abound in next month's roundup of suspense and thrillers.

The Romanov Ransom, by Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell. Husband and wife team Sam and Remi Fargo (last seen in 2016's Pirate) investigate a kidnapping which may be connected to the Nazi-stolen Romanov ransom, a case complicated by the heinous acts of a guerilla faction that would establish the Fourth Reich.

Vince Flynn's Enemy of the State, by Kyle Mills. Latest in Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series, now written by Mills, begins in the aftermath of a secret non-aggression pact that America will cover up evidence of Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks in exchange for oil, evidence of hostile Saudi activity forces Mitch Rapp to resign from the CIA and assume the guise of a traitor as part of a covert mission to keep the peace.

A Legacy of Spies, by John Le Carre. A long-awaited Smiley novel (the last one was 1990's The Secret Pilgrim) finds George Smiley and several other former members of the British Secret Service facing charges for decades-old, once-toasted intelligence operations by a generation that is unfamiliar with the dynamics of the Cold War. Should make for some very interesting reading.
Also available in Large Print.

Haunted, by James Patterson & James O. Born. Patterson returns with a 10th Michael Bennett novel, following 2016's Bullseye. After a series of crises, Detective Michael Bennett is in need of a serious vacation. He escapes to the picturesque woods of Maine, only to find himself drawn into a case that has shocked the tight-knit community: kids are disappearing at an alarming rate, and now bodies are beginning to surface... You can take Bennett out of New York City, but you can't take the cop out of the man.
Also available in Large Print.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Reading Ahead: September 2017, part 2

From cops taking down bad guys to monsters of the future and monsters of the past, next month's thrillers are sure to entertain.

Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen King & Owen King. What if women disappeared from the world of men? In this novel of an alternate near-future, this is what happens--when women fall asleep, they fall dormant, travel to another world. If disturbed or woken, they become spectacularly violent. And so men are left alone, becoming increasingly primal. The exception to the women's affliction is Evie, but why is she exempt? Is she blessed or cursed? Should she be studied or slain? There's some setup involved but from early reviews, the payoff is spectacular and worth it in spades.

Secrets in Death, by J.D. Robb. Book 45 in Robb's (aka Nora Roberts) long-running series featuring NYPSD cop Eve Dallas. A professional gossip reporter is murdered, and it appears it's not about what she had said, but rather, it may have been about what she kept secret, and who she was blackmailing... It's up to Eve Dallas to dig into the reporter's dirty bag of secrets, and it soon becomes clear that she'll uncover some dirt about people very close to her. A more personal turn for a Dallas case. Also available in Large Print.

Enigma, by Catherine Coulter. FBI Agents Savich and Sherlock (last seen in 2016's Insidious) have not one case to solve, but two, in this latest from Coulter. A pregnant woman is attacked and later, her baby is stolen from the hospital, the case worked by Sherlock and her team. Meanwhile, Savich heads a team tracking a convicted bank robber who escaped while in transit to a federal prison. New to the series? You're in luck--this works as well as a stand-alone as it does in the series as a whole, and may be a good entry-point for you.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, by David Lagercrantz. Lagercrantz became the new writer for Steig Larsson's Lisbeth Salander series with The Girl in the Spider's Web (2015). Lisbeth Salander, the brilliant hacker with the dragon tattoo, has long been unable to uncover the full extent of her childhood trauma, something she believes might finally help her understand herself. Of course she's enlisted journalist Mikael Blomkvist to help her with her digging. Tenacious as ever, Lisbeth won't let anything stand in her way, not an extremist group, not the deadly reach of her long-lost twin Camilla, and certainly not those responsible for her trauma.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Reading Ahead: September 2017, part 1

I know, this is the part of the blog that is tough. But we're already talking about September books. However! Thanks should be given to the fact that I am not talking about holiday books.


The Saboteur, by Andrew Gross. One last August release that somehow slipped past me until the eleventh hour. In his new historical thriller, following his very popular The One Man (2016), Gross follows the actions of a hero who must weigh duty against his heart in order to single-handedly end the one threat that could alter the course of WWII. Fans will want to make sure to snap this one up. 

A Column of Fire, by Ken Follett. In the vein of his previous historical epics, The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, Follett's latest begins in 1558, when the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down upon a town torn apart: Catholics vs. Prostestants, royalty vs. commoners. In the turbulent years to come, readers follow two star-crossed lovers who find themselves on opposing sides, their love surely doomed by circumstance. Or is it?

The Cuban Affair, by Nelson Demille. Demille (Radiant Angel, 2015, etc.) introduces a new character (possibly the first in a new series?) in his latest outing. US army combat veteran turned boat captain, Daniel "Mac" MacCormick, seems to be living the good life in Key West, chartering his fishing boat. But his finances are more than a little shaky, and he reluctantly agrees to take a job after initially refusing: the price is right, but it feels off. He'll either walk away rich...or not at all...

Don't Let Go, by Harlan Coben. It's not just the big secrets that can fracture a relationship, a family, or a town--it's the little lies, too. For fifteen years, New Jersey detective Napoleon "Nap" Dumas has been working to find the truth, not just on the job, but the truth behind his own personal tragedies: the suspicious death of his twin brother, Leo, and the disappearance of his girlfriend, Maura. When Maura's fingerprints turn up in the car of a suspected murderer, Nap latches onto this clue, digging ever deeper. And what he finds may be darker than what he'd ever imagined. Coben is known for his twisted psychological thrillers; expect this one to be on par.
Also available in Large Print.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What I've Been Reading: July 2017

There is a quote from Sir Francis Bacon: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."

This quote has resonated with me this last month, as I've hit upon several books in a row which require more diligence and attention than much of my normal fare. So while the list this month seems a bit slim in comparison to some others, I have only felt a lack in speed, not in depth.

Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane. Lehane (Shutter Island, Mystic River, etc.) has a real gift for psychological thrillers. After television journalist Rachel Childs has a crippling panic attack while on the air, her career is in shambles and she becomes a virtual shut-in. That aside, she seems to live an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until small clues start to hint that the reality she's constructed for herself isn't at all what she thought, and that she may be living with a stranger. Gripping, tightly plotted and constantly surprising, this was an incredible novel and I recommend it very highly, especially in audiobook format.

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is a reread for me after many years--I know that the adaptation on Hulu is very popular, though I haven't had time to check that out yet. However, the audiobook is read by Claire Danes, and how could I pass that up? Offred (literally Of Fred) is a Handmaid of the Republic of Gilead, and while she can remember personal freedom in the time before, her days now are strictly regulated to daily walks and steps to ensure her health, because her worth now is in the child she is meant to produce. With Atwood's delicate touch, the tale is at once horrifying and unexpectedly funny, altogether convincing.

Sycamore, by Bryn Chancellor. Out for a hike in scorching Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town happens upon what appear to be human remains. As news travels within the small community, residents fear that these may be the remains of Jess Winters, a teenager who disappeared one night eighteen years earlier. This dredges up old memories, stories and rumors about what happened surrounding Jess's disappearance, an event which, as the story unfolds, appears to have shaken the community to its very core, the aftershocks still felt after nearly two decades. Chancellor's prose is beautiful, and her images beg readers to stop and savor them. This is one that will haunt me for some time.

The Leavers, by Lisa Ko. Ko's debut follows mother Polly and son Deming/Daniel through the events surrounding and following one fateful day, when Polly, an undocumented Chinese woman, leaves their apartment for her shift at a NYC nail salon, and disappears without a trace. Deming enters the foster system, is adopted by his white foster family, his name becoming Daniel. Daniel is a keeper of secrets and self-destructive behaviors, constantly haunted by his mother's disappearance throughout his adolescence and early adulthood. Polly's story in China later fills in some of the gaps that plague Daniel.

Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan. Sullivan (Maine, The Engagements, etc.) excels at telling a story from multiple points of view and across decades. Here, she tells a new story in her signature style. Sisters Theresa and Nora leave rural Ireland in the early 1960s and travel to Boston, where Nora's fiance and his family await. The girls find work and struggle to adapt to America, only to have a single chance encounter change everything for both of them. In the decades that follow, the sisters live apart, but constantly bound by the events that redirected their courses, until they finally meet once more. Sullivan's characters are captivating, I couldn't stand to put this down for a moment.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Meg's Picks: August 2017, part 2

I can't believe it's going to be August next week! Where is this summer going? Good thing there's plenty of summer reading yet to be had, so readers can soak up as much summer fiction as possible. Here's what's made my list for August!

The Misfortune of Marion Palm, by Emily Culliton. This debut has been getting lots of great reviews already. Marion has always lived on the cusp of poverty, and along the way, she's developed a talent for sticky fingers and doctoring numbers in order to make ends meet. When she meets and marries a rich, successful poet, she thinks those hard days are behind her, only to find he's not as wealthy as she thought and that her talents will be called for once again. Readers meet her on the day she leaves her family with $40,000 in a backpack that she's embezzled from her daughter's private school. Wickedly clever, this is a debut I expect will be in high demand.

How To Find Love in a Bookshop, by Veronica Henry. Emilia's final promise to her father upon his deathbed is that she'll take over his small-town bookstore, and after his death, she seeks to fill his role at Nightingale Books. What she hasn't realized is that her father was a beloved fixture of their small English town, and she has very large shoes to fill. This is sure to charm Anglophiles and bibliophiles alike--I'm recommending this for fans of Jenny Colgan and Nina George in particular.

Afterlife, by Marcus Sakey.  Already slated to be turned into a movie produced by Ron Howard, this otherworldly thriller follows two FBI agents as they explore the "echo", a postmortem plane, in a manhunt that defies death, even as a subterranean battle between gods and monsters rages. Part fable, part gruesome thriller, I'd recommend this to fans of The Walking Dead as well as Sakey's earlier work. 

Girl in Snow, by Danya Kukafka. For fans of tautly-plotted thrillers comes a new voice. The life and death of 15-year-old Lucinda Hayes is examined by three residents of Broomsville, CO. Suspicion immediately falls on Cameron, disturbed son of a disgraced cop who abandoned his family, who loved Lucinda from afar. Then there's Jade, who took Lucinda's babysitting job and her best friend. And Russ, Cameron's dad's former partner, who promised that he'd look out for Cameron, but what if Cameron's guilty? If your beach read of choice is page-turning suspense, add this to your beach bag.

Are You Sleeping, by Kathleen Barber. Billed as Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood meets Serial. When mega-hit true-crime podcast hosted by a journalist drags an old murder case back into the light, it is with the claim that the man convicted for the crime is actually innocent. But one of the victim's surviving family members, daughter Josie, has worked hard to escape from the fallout that followed  her father's murder and has established a quiet life for herself. This is completely upended as more new episodes of the podcast are released, each creating bigger waves for Josie and her estranged family members. An intense plot and character study should make for a gripping read.

A Stranger in the House, by Shari Lapena. Lapena won a following with her first thriller, 2016's The Couple Next Door, and her second outing will win her more. A woman awakes after an accident where a dead body was found, but has no memory of the incident, nor what caused her to be there at the time. The police and her own husband are suspicious. Now she must piece together the events of that night, her best friend the only one who seems to believe her, and discover what happened, and what it may mean for her future.
Also available in Large Print.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Meg's Picks: August 2017, part 1

I warned you that I have a LOT of picks for next month. Here's the low-down on what made my list and why.

The Burning Girl, by Claire Messud. Messud (The Woman Upstairs, The Emperor's Children, etc.) follows friends since childhood Julia and Cassie as they grow up and apart. The burning girl in the title? She ultimately puts not only their friendship but their very lives in danger.

Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker. Two sisters disappeared three years ago. Now, one has returned with a fantastical tale about a mysterious island where they were held. When her story is dissected by a forensic psychiatrist, the truth turns out to be one of betrayal and violated boundaries, much stranger than the concocted fiction. If twisted psychological thrillers are your thing, add this to your list. Also available in Large Print

The Driver, by Hart Hanson. From the creator of the TV show Bones, a debut thriller about a former US Army Special Forces sergeant who now runs a limo company. On a job carting around skateboarding mogul Bismark Avila, he saves his client from two gunmen, and winds up a person of interest in the murder of one of Avila's personal bodyguards. Expect a sequel. Fans of Lee Child's Reacher series might consider testing the waters here.

Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin. Zevin is the international bestselling author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (2014). Finding herself pariah after an affair with her very married, much-admired Congressman  boss, Aviva Grossman moves away and tries to start over. But is that possible when the Internet never forgets? Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent. Fourteen-year-old Turtle wanders the Northern California coast, inevitably circling back to her troubled father, since her mother's death. But when she meets Jacob, who finally causes her to question the future of her existence with her father. For fans of Emma Donoghue's Room.

The Ice Cream Makers, by Ernest Van Der Kwast. A tale of passions left unfulfilled, when a poet returns home to Northern Italy to help run his family's ice cream business. Recommending this for fans of Adriana Trigiani (The Shoemaker's Wife) and Nina George (The Little Paris Bookshop).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Reading Ahead: August 2017, part 4

From history to mysteries, the library has something for everyone this summer. Don't believe me? Read on!

The Last Tudor, by Philippa Gregory. Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl, The White Princess, etc.) continues with her tales of the Plantagenets and Tudors in her latest novel. Lady Jane Grey was crowned queen instead of Mary Tudor, but reigned a mere nine days before the forces backing Mary Tudor's rightful place on the throne overthrew Grey and her family, locking Lady Jane in the Tower. Refusing to convert to Catholicism to appease Queen Mary, Lady Jane went the executioner's block as a martyr. Yet Jane left behind two sisters, Katherine and Mary, each of whom would go on to defy their queen in their own turns--this is their story. Also available in Large Print

The Right Time, by Danielle Steel. Orphaned as a teenager, Alexandra Winslow finds solace in writing, filling her spare time with characters and plots. While she finds luck in the publishing world at a young age, she also chooses to use a male pseudonym when publishing her crime novels, creating a double life that becomes increasingly difficult to manage. Also available in Large Print

Glass Houses, by Louise Penny. Thirteenth in Penny's immensely popular Inspector Gamache mystery series (following 2016's A Great Reckoning), Glass Houses finds Gamache's own conscience standing trial. A mysterious figure appears on a rainy November day, a figure that remains unmoving in the cold sleet. But what can Gamache do about this? The next day the figure is gone...but a body has been found. And in the months that follow, it will be an unraveling of what happened, and what he might have done differently, that pulls readers through to the very end.

Y is for Yesterday, by Sue Grafton. The darkest Kinsey Milhone novel to date, Y begins in 1979, when four young men attack a classmate and film the attack. When the tape goes missing, the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. One boy turns state's evidence, two are sentenced, and the ringleader disappears without a trace. Ten years later, one of the perpetrators is released from prison, only to have the missing tape delivered with a ransom demand. His parents contact Kinsey Milhone for help, and while she is drawn into the investigation, she keeps a close eye on the young ex-con. Because someone with a grudge is coming... Also available in Large Print.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reading Ahead: August 2017, part 3

We have three of a kind in today's post! If you're a sucker for an easy read in the summer, here are three to choose from next month.

Any Dream Will Do, by Debbie Macomber. Two people, each at a crossroads, strike up a friendship that each desperately needs. For Shay, a family situation has left her looking for a place to stay and an opportunity to start over. For Pastor Drew, the loss of his wife has eclipsed all but his love for his children, leaving his flock mostly untended. Shay finds a champion and Drew rediscovers his purpose, but when Shay's past rears its ugly head, everything each is building may be destroyed. Also available in Large Print.

You Say It First, by Susan Mallery. Pallas Saunders is trying to turn her business, Weddings In A Box, into something solvent. She hires sculptor turned carpenter Nick to help at the venue. But when a bride begs for something different, Nick and Pallas decide to revamp the business. In the process, love seems inevitable for the duo. Need a sweet love story? This is a sure thing. Also available in Large Print.

Map of the Heart, by Susan Wiggs. In a tale that moves between present-day Delaware and the battlefields of WWII France, Wiggs's latest uncovers one family's secret past and what that means for the next generations. For Camille Palmer, personal tragedy has led her to hide away with her teenage daughter in a sleepy coastal town. When a package mysteriously appears at their door, Camille, as well as her daughter and father, embark upon a trip to her father's hometown in France, uncovering family roots Camille didn't know about, as well as a way forward toward peace. Also available in Large Print.