Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Meg's Picks for March 2017, part 3

February feels just too short to fill my fellow readers in on all of the great books coming out next month! Here's the last of my roundup of the new and noteworthy.

The Forgotten Girls, by Owen Laukkanen. Laukkanen has been steadily writing a series (Stevens and Windermere) he never intended to write since The Professionals was published in 2012, and this may be the one that makes him a household name. She was a forgotten girl, a runaway found murdered on the High Line train through the northern Rocky Mountains and, with little local interest, put into a dead file. But she was not alone. When Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a horror far greater than anyone expected—a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice. That has been the case until now. Through the bleak midwinter and a frontier land of forbidding geography, Stevens and Windermere follow a frustratingly light trail of clues—and where it ends, even they will be shocked. If you're not up for tackling the whole series (this is book six), I understand that this works nicely as a stand-alone title. I'm recommending Laukkanen for fans of C.J. Box and Michael Connelly.

Lola, by Melissa Love. For fans of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander novels, this debut thriller may be just what you're looking for. The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia . . . but what no one has figured out is that the gang's real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia's girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man's world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter--and in many ways tougher and more ruthless--than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival. Uniquely gritty and intense, this novel shows off Love's chops as a crime TV writer (CSI: Miami, Person of Interest, etc.) to perfection.

The Wanderers, by Meg Howrey. Likened to some of my favorite novels in recent years (Station Eleven, The Martian), Howrey's debut about three astronauts training for the first ever manned mission to Mars has already earned a top spot on my reading list. In four years, aerospace giant Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the historic voyage by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created. Constantly observed by Prime Space’s team of "Obbers," Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei must appear ever in control. But as their surreal pantomime progresses, each soon realizes that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The borders between what is real and unreal begin to blur, and each astronaut is forced to confront demons past and present, even as they struggle to navigate their increasingly claustrophobic quarters—and each other. Advance reviews are using words like tender, wise and imaginative, and I really can't wait to get my copy.

Close Enough to Touch, by Colleen Oakley. Right up there on the imaginative scale is Oakley's second novel, about a young woman with a rare condition: an allergy to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in the confines of her home for nine years. But after her mother dies, Jubilee is forced to face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from. Jubilee finds safe haven at her local library where she gets a job. It’s there she meets Eric Keegan, a divorced man who recently moved to town with his brilliant, troubled, adopted son. Eric is struggling to figure out how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Jubilee is unlike anyone he has ever met, yet he can't understand why she keeps him at arm's length. So Eric sets out to convince Jubilee to open herself and her heart to everything life can offer, setting into motion the most unlikely love story of the year. I'm recommending this for fans of authors like Jodi Picoult and JoJo Moyes

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Meg's Picks for March 2017, part 2

Need a thriller a little off the beaten path to keep you company on a rainy spring weekend? Or some cutting-edge suspense? Never you fear, I have just what you need. Read on!

A Twist of the Knife, by Becky Masterman. I'm a big fan of Masterman's Brigid Quinn series, which started with 2013's Rage Against the Dying, so this is at the top of my To-Read list this spring. Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn, now happily settled in Tucson, doesn’t visit her family in Florida much. But her former partner on the force, Laura Coleman―a woman whose life she has saved and who has saved her life in turn―is living there now. So when Laura calls about a case that is not going well, Brigid doesn’t hesitate to get on a plane.

On leave from the Bureau, Laura has been volunteering for a legal group trying to prove the innocence of a man who is on death row for killing his family. Laura is firmly convinced that he didn’t do it, while Brigid isn’t so sure―but the date for his execution is coming up so quickly that they’ll have to act fast to find any evidence that may absolve him before it’s too late…

A Simple Favor, by Darcey Bell. Bell's debut is a domestic thriller being likened to hugely popular titles in the genre like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I'm expecting this to be one of the big reads of 2017, so get your requests in now!It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over. Or is it?
If you're a fan of thrillers that twist at every turn, this should make your list for sure.

Celine, by Peter Heller. Heller is the bestselling author of novels like The Dog Stars and The Painter, and his latest is a deeply personal novel based on the adventures of his own remarkable mother. Celine follows an aristocratic, elegant private eye who specializes in reuniting families, in an attempt to make amends for a loss in her own past. Celine, in fact, has a better record in her field than the FBI. But when a young woman, Gabriela, asks for her help, a world of mystery and sorrow opens up. Gabriela's father was a photographer who went missing on the border of Montana and Wyoming. He was assumed to have died from a grizzly mauling, but his body was never found. Now, as Celine and her partner head to Yellowstone National Park, investigating a trail gone cold, it becomes clear that they are being followed--that this is a case someone desperately wants to keep closed. If you're looking for something engrossing but different than your usual fare, this is the one to pick up.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Meg's Picks for March 2017, part 1

Want to see some of the gems that have caught my eye for next month? Read on!

All Grown Up, by Jami Attenberg. Attenberg's 2012 novel, The Middlesteins, was a New York Times bestseller, so when I heard her latest was generating some buzz in early reviews, I knew I had to share. Andrea Bern is two different people. She's who she says she is: a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. And then there are the things she never admits to anyone, like that she's a lonely former artist who drinks too much. Everyone seems to have different definitions of what it means to be an adult: getting married, having kids, concentrating on a career. But when tragedy strikes the tumultuous Bern family, it may ultimately be the final thing that drives them apart, or brings them together.

In the Name of the Family, by Sarah Dunant. I'm a big fan of Dunant's historical fiction (her debut, 2004's The Birth of Venus, was particularly good), so this latest novel set in Renaissance Italy is a no-brainer for me. Here, she explores the final days of the house of Borgia, in the company of young diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli. It is 1502 and Rodrigo Borgia, a self-confessed womanizer and master of political corruption, is now on the papal throne as Alexander VI. His daughter Lucrezia, aged twenty-two—already three times married and a pawn in her father’s plans—is discovering her own power. And then there is his son Cesare Borgia, brilliant, ruthless, and increasingly unstable; it is his relationship with Machiavelli that gives the Florentine diplomat a master class in the dark arts of power and politics. What Machiavelli learns will go on to inform his great work of modern politics, The Prince. This is a must for fans of historical fiction.

The Devil & Webster, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Korelitz is the author of bestsellers like You Should Have Known and Admission, both of which have addressed hot-button issues, so I would be remiss if I didn't share her latest outing, which does the same. Naomi Roth is the first female president of Webster College, a once conservative school now known for producing fired-up, progressive graduates. So Naomi isn't surprised or unduly alarmed when Webster students begin the fall semester with an outdoor encampment around "The Stump"-a traditional campus gathering place for generations of student activists-to protest a popular professor's denial of tenure. A former student radical herself, Naomi admires the protestors' passion, especially when her own daughter, Hannah, joins their ranks. Then Omar Khayal, a charismatic Palestinian student with a devastating personal history, emerges as the group's leader, and the demonstration begins to consume Naomi's life, destabilizing Webster College from the inside out. As the crisis slips beyond her control, Naomi must take increasingly desperate measures to protect her friends, colleagues, and family from an unknowable adversary.