Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Meg's Picks: February 2017, part 3

As with most things, I have saved the best for last this month, including two buzzworthy debut novels and a sequel that I foresee being very popular this spring. Read on!

The Possessions, by Sara Flannery Murphy. In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as "bodies", wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients. Until she channels Sylvia for husband Patrick and is quickly, dangerously, obsessed with the couple. I'm recommending this otherworldly debut for fans of authors like Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, by Jennifer Ryan. As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past. I'm recommending this to readers who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.
Also available in Large Print

The Burning World, by Isaac Marion. Marion's novel, Warm Bodies, was an international bestseller that inspired a cult fandom and a popular film adaptation. This sequel follows reluctant zombie R as he recovers from death, finding being alive hard and being human even harder. He’s learning how to read, how to speak, maybe even how to love, and the city’s undead population is showing signs of life. R can almost imagine a future with Julie, this girl who restarted his heart—building a new world from the ashes of the old one. But then helicopters appear on the horizon--someone is coming back to restore order, to return things to the way they were, the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak. The plague is ancient and ambitious, and the Dead were never its only weapon. How do you fight an enemy that’s in everyone? Can the world ever really change? Fans of the first novel have been eagerly anticipating this second for more than five years!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Meg's Picks: February 2017, part 2

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably picked up on the fact that I read a lot. (I consider it an occupational hazard.) I also read a number of different genres. Which means, of course, that I am keeping my eye out for great new titles, especially fiction, in a wide variety of styles so that I can not just read them, but share them with you! Today, you have your pick among historical fiction, a contemporary novel about the power of love and family, and a psychological thriller. Read on!

The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff. Jenoff has a great flair for historical fiction with strong female protagonists, as is evidenced in her recent work (The Winter Guest, The Ambassador's Daughter, etc.) Her new novel, set in Nazi Germany, features Noa, cast out in disgrace by her family and living above a rail station which she cleans to earn her keep. When she discovers a boxcar with dozens of Jewish infants, in a pivotal moment, she snatches one of the babies and runs off into the night. She finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, earning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

The Mother’s Promise, by Sally Hepworth. All their lives, Alice Stanhope and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two, living quietly in northern California. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works until it doesn t. Until Alice gets sick and needs to fight for her life. Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, a nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Hepworth's work is marked by her ability to blend hope and humor into dark moments, as in The Things We Keep (2016) and The Secrets of Midwives (2015).

Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leache. Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. In Paris, Ava renounces her terribly practical undergraduate degree, acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past. Two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.
Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls’ increasingly unstable mother, Zelda was allegedly burned alive when she passed out in the barn with a lit cigarette. But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message—from her sister.
Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues about her disappearance. With the police stuck on a red herring, Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers. Along the way, Zelda forces her twin to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke Ava’s heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving, or to teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?
If you're a fan of twisted thrillers that keep you guessing to the very end, I have a feeling this would be a great addition to your reading list next month.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Meg's Picks: February 2017, part 1

There are so many different books that find themselves in my Picks posts for so many different reasons, like sequels to stellar debuts (see today's first two titles) and debuts that catch my eye for any number of reasons (see today's third title). Read on to see some of what's made the list for February!

Under the Knife, by Kelly Parsons. Parsons debut, 2014's Doing Harm, was particularly  popular with our readers, so I would be remiss if I didn't make you aware of this new novel. Biotechnology tycoon Morgan Finney is highly intelligent but shy and emotionally fragile. When his beloved wife Jenny dies of complications during a surgery led by Dr. Rita Wu, Finney’s grief turns to rage. He vows to kill Rita just as he believes she killed his wife. But first he will systematically destroy her life. He will take what is precious to her just as she did to him. Aided by a mysterious man, Finney uses advanced medical technology to ruin Rita’s reputation and bring her to the brink of madness. Alone, fighting for her sanity and life, Rita reaches out to her to former lover, Dr. Spencer Cameron, for help. Together they must fight to uncover Finney’s horrific intentions and race to stop him before it’s too late. I'm recommending this for fans of thrillers by Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen.

I See You, by Claire Mackintosh. Mackintosh made a major impact on US readers with last year's I Let You Go. Zoe Walker is a creature of habit. She takes the same route to the train station, stands in the same place on the platform, sits in the same seat...day after day after day. But the sheer mundanity of her routines may be the very thing that traps her instead of keeping her safe. One day, flipping through the local paper, she finds a small grainy photo of her own face, plus a phone number and a web address. Other women's photos begin to appear in the same ad each day, and Zoe realizes they've all been targets of violent crimes. Anxiety turns to full blown panic as Zoe, with the help of a determined cop, unearths the ad's purpose. Ordinary Zoe is now a walking target. Great for those looking for a tense, psychological thriller. Fans of S.J. Watson should give Mackintosh a try.

The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak. Rekulak's debut caught my eye primarily for its billing as a love story to the 1980's. But look a little deeper, and this novel is so much more. In 1987, cheerful nerd Billy Marvin's first love was a computer, but then he met Mary Zelinsky. Billy's plans to steal a copy of Playboy (featuring scandalous photos of Vanna White, no less) with two of his friends fail spectacularly time after time. Until, that is, they hatch a new plan, one that involves Billy seducing the store owner's daughter, Mary, and swiping the security code to get into the store after hours. Mary is no ordinary girl, though--she's an expert computer programmer, leaps and bounds ahead of Billy and his friends. It cannot be anything other than instant attraction, but it leaves Billy with a terrible quandary: does Billy dupe his first love, or break a promise to his best pals? My bet is this should be a must-read for nerds and 80s-lovers everywhere. (I'll let you know how it is!)