Thursday, August 25, 2016

Meg's Picks: September 2016

From titles bound to be book club favorites to historical fiction guaranteed to be spellbinding, I have saved the best of September's bounty for last. I cannot loiter here with more preamble, so please, read on.

Leave Me, by Gayle Forman. Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack. Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves. I'm expecting this to be a major favorite among book clubs and regular readers alike.

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Advance reviews have been stellar, so I have a feeling Towles is only just beginning to make a name for himself.

The Orphan Mother, by Robert Hicks. Robert Hicks is a favorite of mine--his two previous novels, The Widow of the South and A Separate Country are two of the best books set during the Civil War Era that I've read to date. In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically-minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah--no stranger to loss--finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead? Mariah's journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people--including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own--and forces her to confront the truths of her own past. Hicks is a master, combining detailed historical research with epic storytelling. This is at the top of my reading list this fall.

Karolina’s Twins, by Ronald Balson. If you want to know what everyone is going to be reading this fall, I can go ahead and tell you--this is going to be it. From the author of Once We Were Brothers, and being likened to bestsellers like Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly's The Lilac Girls, Karolina's Twins is the story of one woman's attempt to put the past behind her, until the past comes knocking.
Lena Woodward has lived a comfortable life among Chicago Society since she immigrated to the US and began a new life at the end of World War II. But now something has resurfaced that Lena cannot ignore: an unfulfilled promise she made long ago that can no longer stay buried. Driven to renew the quest that still keeps her awake at night, Lena enlists the help of lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart. Behind Lena’s stoic facade are memories that will no longer be contained. She begins to recount a tale, harkening back to her harrowing past in Nazi-occupied Poland, of the bond she shared with her childhood friend Karolina. Karolina was vivacious and beautiful, athletic and charismatic, and Lena has cherished the memory of their friendship her whole life. But there is something about the story that is unfinished, questions that must be answered about what is true and what is not, and what Lena is willing to risk to uncover the past.I have no doubt that readers will be clamoring for copies very shortly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reading Ahead: September 2016, part 6

Yes, part 6. I don't think I've ever reached a part 6 before! There are just so many delectable titles being published next month, I couldn't weed it down any further than I have!

Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen. As with all things Hiaasen, everything ordinary is anything but in this wildly hilarious and entertaining novel. When Lane Coolman's car is bashed by the eponymous Razor Girl, Merry Mansfield, nothing is as it seems. The crash scam sets in motion one of the funniest, craziest Hiaasen tales yet--one that will thrill fans even as it defies description, foiling every reviewer I've consulted!

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett. I adore Patchett's work, like State of Wonder and Bel Canto, so every new title she puts out is cause for celebration, as far as I'm concerned!One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer has made a huge impact with readers in past works like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated. I'm expecting his new work to have a similar effect. Unfolding over four tumultuous weeks in present-day Washington, D.C., Here I Am is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. As Jacob and Julia Bloch and their three sons are forced to confront the distances between the lives they think they want and the lives they are living, a catastrophic earthquake sets in motion a quickly escalating conflict in the Middle East. At stake is the meaning of home―and the fundamental question of how much aliveness one can bear.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reading Ahead: September 2016, part 5

The (eventual) return of cooler temperatures always means a resurgence of new mysteries to curl up with each fall, and this year is no different. If a cup of tea and some armchair sleuthing sounds like a cozy autumn evening to you, perhaps these titles will get you halfway there.

Downfall, by J.A. Jance.With a baby on the way, sudden deaths in the family from which to recover, a re-election campaign looming, and a daughter heading off for college, Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady has her hands full when a puzzling new case hits her department, demanding every resource she has at her disposal.Two women have fallen to their deaths from a small nearby peak, referred to by Bisbee locals as Geronimo. What’s the connection between these two women? Is this a case of murder/suicide or is it a double homicide? And if someone else is responsible, is it possible that the perpetrator may, even now, be on the hunt for another victim? Also available in Large Print.

Blind Sight, by Carol O’Connell. I'm a huge fan of O'Connell's Mallory mysteries (you can start with Mallory's Oracle, if you're new to these excellent crime novels), so you can bet this will make my reading list in the near future. A blind child and a Catholic nun disappear from a city sidewalk in plain sight of onlookers. There, then gone—vanished in seconds. Those who witnessed the event still cannot believe it happened. Detective Kathy Mallory and the NYPD’s Special Crimes Unit enter the investigation when the nun’s body is found with three other corpses in varying stages of decomposition left on the lawn of Gracie Mansion, home to the mayor of New York City. Sister Michael was the last to die. The child, Jonah Quill, is still missing. Like Jonah, the police are blind. Unknown to them, he is with a stone killer, and though he has unexpected resources of his own, his would-be saviors have no suspect, no useful evidence, and no clue — except for Detective Mallory’s suspicions of things not said and her penchant for getting to the truth beneath lies.

Revenge in a Cold River, by Anne Perry. Perry returns fans to Victorian London and Commander William Monk of the Thames River Police in this chilling new mystery. When Monk is called to investigate the drowning of an escaped prisoner, he’s forced to contend with customs officer McNab, who clearly bears a bitter grudge against him. But the reason is a mystery in itself. Monk’s memory loss—a secret he guards closely—leaves him vulnerable to repercussions from his missing past, especially his exploits overseas in the tumultuous Gold Rush days of San Francisco. What is patently clear is that McNab seems hellbent on using whatever information he has to ruin Monk's future as an officer of the law, unless Monk can beat him at his own game.

Pushing Up Daisies, by M.C. Beaton.When Agatha Raisin left behind her PR business in London, she fulfilled her dream of settling in the cozy British Cotswolds where she began a successful private detective agency. Unfortunately, the village she lives in is about to get a little less cozy. Lord Bellington, a wealthy land developer, wants to turn the community garden into a housing estate. When Agatha and her friend Sir Charles Fraith attempt to convince Lord Bellington to abandon his plans he scoffs: “Do you think I give a damn about those pesky villagers?” So when Agatha finds his obituary in the newspaper two weeks later, it’s no surprise that some in town are feeling celebratory. The villagers are relieved to learn that Bellington’s son and heir, Damian, has no interest in continuing his father’s development plans. But the police are definitely interested in him―as suspect number one.