Thursday, May 25, 2017

What I've Been Reading: May 2017

It has been an interesting month for me, book-wise. Several fast-paced thrillers, some dense historical fiction, a dystopian classic, and something a little light and fun to break things up a little.

The Killing Floor & Die Trying, by Lee Child. These are the first two books in Child's long-running and best-selling Jack Reacher series. Hard to believe I'd never read any of them before! But if I'm going to read a series, I've got to start at the beginning, and so I have. In the first title, we meet Jack Reacher who has recently become a civilian after a lifetime in the military, first as an army brat, later as military police. Living off of his savings and traveling the US, he decides to run down an old story about a Georgia musician, only to find himself caught up in a case of mistaken identity that has deadly consequences. In the second, Reacher has ambled along to Chicago and in a moment of good samaritanism, gets himself caught up in the kidnapping of an FBI agent, only to find himself a thousand miles away and at the mercy of a cult leader. These novels are full of plot twists and fraught with tension--great reading.

Villa America, by Liza Klaussman. This was my book club's pick for our May meeting. Klaussmann (who happens to be Herman Melville's great-great-great-granddaughter) won critical acclaim for her 2012 debut, Tigers in Red Weather, a family saga set in the early part of the last century about a moment of possibility buried in lies. Her ambitious second novel, Villa America (2016), follows the story of Sara and Gerald Murphy, American expatriots living on the Riviera with famous figures like F. Scott Fitzgerald and wife Zelda, Ernest Hemingway and others. What seems like an opportunity to build their own utopia in the aftermath of World War I slowly dissolves amid scandal, debauchery and personal tragedy. It made for excellent discussion!

The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue. By the bestselling author of Room. Donoghue never writes the same thing twice. What she does, however, is write stories and characters that haunt her readers for years after finishing the last page. I found that to be true of Room, of Frog Music, and of Slammerkin, which I read over fifteen years ago--I can guarantee that The Wonder will be the same for me. Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl. The resulting tale is one of psychology, theology and love. I couldn't help but keep reading to find out what happened!

Deep Storm, by Lincoln Child. Having read most of Lincoln Child's books co-written with Douglas Preston, I decided it was high time I tried some of his solo work. This is the first of his Jeremy Logan series. When an oil rig operator, working on a drilling platform over the Atlantic, makes an unusual observation during routine maintenance, everything changes in an instant. The military descends, scientists set up camp, and the secrets deepen. It is rumored to be the lost city of Atlantis. But could it be something more sinister...and dangerous? This was a great thriller, I'm looking forward to picking up the next in the series.

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is a novel I've meant to re-read for quite some time, having read it in college...a number of years ago. Given the popularity of the series on Hulu (though I haven't seen it yet), it seemed like a good time to reread it. (I should also note that I'm a huge Atwood fan in general--Alias Grace is one of my all-time favorite novels.) What was once the United States  is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population. The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. By turns wry, tender, and despairing, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade. Chilling.

Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead. And now for something completely different. The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to the impeccably appropriate Greyson Duff. The weekend is full of champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust stir beneath the surface. When everything that could go wrong seems to do just that, a wedding which should have gone off with military precision threatens to become a spectacle of misbehavior. I found this laugh-out-loud funny and look forward to discussing it with my book club--it's our June selection.

If you're keeping track (and I am, over at, that's 44 books read so far in 2017, and if I keep it up, I may finally make my ultimate goal of 100 books in a year!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Meg's Picks: June 2017, part 2

There are so many great new books coming out this summer! (I realize I say this every summer, but it has never stopped being true.) Want to know what has made my list? Read on!

Our Little Racket, by Angelica Baker. Baker's debut novel about five women whose lives are irrevocably changed after the fall of a financial titan hits very close to home, set in Greenwich, CT.
When the investment bank Weiss & Partners is shuttered, CEO Bob D’Amico must fend off allegations of malfeasance, as well as the judgment and resentment of his community. As panic builds, five women in his life must scramble to negotiate power on their own terms and ask themselves what —if anything—is worth saving. A juicy page-turner about wealth, envy and secrets. Also available in Large Print

The Lost Letter, by Jillian Cantor. Cantor's latest (after 2015's The Hours Count) is a historical novel of love and survival inspired by real resistance workers in Austria during World War II. In Austria in 1938, Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver, forced to engrave stamps for the Germans after his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht. He simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher's fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself. In America, 1989, Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad's collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall. I'm recommending this for readers who enjoyed The Nightingale, Lilac Girls and Sarah's Key.

The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne. Psychological thriller fans, I'm picking this as this summer's must-read for you. Helena Pelletier has worked hard to build a life she's proud of--a good marriage, great kids, a business she's built from scratch. And one emergency broadcast has just brought her past roaring back from where she'd buried it. Helena's secret? She was the product of abduction, and grew up off the grid, learning to hunt, fish and track at her father's knee. But her father has now escaped from prison, and Helena must meet her past head-on, because the only one who can help authorities find the infamous Marsh the Marsh King's daughter. I'm recommending this to fans of authors like Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Karin Slaughter.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Meg's Picks: June 2017, part 1

I'm a firm believer in the notion that there is a book out there for everyone, and that if you think you don't like reading, you're just reading the wrong type of book. Which is why I like providing lots of variety in my "Meg's Picks" posts! Read on and see what strikes your fancy.

The Little French Bistro, by Nina George. I've mentioned here, more than once, how much I enjoyed reading George's debut novel, The Little Paris Bookshop, which ultimately is a love story for bibliophiles. So I am eagerly awaiting her follow-up novel, and thought you might be, too. After forty-one years in an unhappy marriage, Marianne has reached her limit and, after a pivotal moment on the bank of the Seine, she leaves her life in Paris behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, known as "the end of the world." And yet, the end of the world's locals welcome her as one of their own, and here, Marianne ultimately learns the meaning of belonging. This is absolutely on my list this summer. Also available in Large Print

The Child, by Fiona Barton. This is another sophomore outing that I believe readers will want to know about. Barton's debut, 2016's The Widow, was a New York Times bestseller and a chilling tale of psychological suspense. She now offers readers another twisted tale: as an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby? As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss. But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. Also available in Large Print.

Every Last Lie, by Mary Kubica. Kubica (The Good Girl, Don't You Cry, etc.) will chill readers to their very cores this summer with her new thriller. Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. Some truths, it turns out, are better left buried.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reading Ahead: June 2017, part 4

Feeling the need to plan your summer reading? Next month's titles will get your summer off to a great start!

The Identicals, by Elin Hilderbrand. Identical twin sisters couldn't be more different. Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She's inherited her father's rundown house on Martha's Vineyard, but she can't hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.
Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She's also inherited her mother's questionable parenting skills--Tabitha's teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode--and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion.
After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands--and lives--to save what's left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they'd outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer novel--fans are already lining up for this new title. Also available in Large Print

The Sunshine Sisters, by Jane Green. In this emotional, warm novel from fan-favorite Green, three sisters who left home (and their narcissistic, disinterested celebrity mother) years ago must now return when their mother learns of her fatal illness and asks her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. This would also make a great book club selection in months to come.

The Duchess, by Danielle Steel. Steel explores new territory in a novel that takes place in nineteenth-century England. Angélique Latham has grown up at magnificent Belgrave Castle under the loving tutelage of her father, the Duke of Westerfield, after the death of her aristocratic French mother. At eighteen she is her father’s closest, most trusted child, schooled in managing their grand estate. But when he dies, her half-brothers brutally turn her out, denying her very existence. Angélique has a keen mind, remarkable beauty, and an envelope of money her father pressed upon her. To survive, she will need all her resources—and one bold stroke of fortune. Also available in Large Print

Beach House For Rent, by Mary Alice Monroe. When Cara Rutledge rents out her quaint beach house on Isle of Palms to Heather Wyatt for the entire summer, it’s a win-win by any standard: Cara’s generating income necessary to keep husband Brett’s ecotourism boat business afloat, and anxiety-prone Heather, an young artist who’s been given a commission to paint birds on postage stamps, has a quiet space in which to work and tend to her pet canaries uninterrupted. It isn’t long, however, before both women’s idyllic summers are altered irrevocably, resulting in the unlikeliest of rooming situations, two strangers ultimately becoming friends. Feel-good reading for the summer.