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I always enjoy Susan Isaacs’ books because her protagonists are always strong, whip-smart women. In this book Cori Geller left her job working on the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the CIA when she married a widower with a young daughter. Now she freelances reading modern Arabic fiction for some literary agencies. On Wednesdays she has lunch with a group of other freelancers sharing stories and tips. One of the regulars-Pete Delany- is about the most boring, Milquetoast-y person on the planet, but something about him alerts Cori’s Spidey sense. She can’t help checking out his bonifides, but is there really something nefarious, or as her husband suspects, is she just bored with her tame suburban life? Isaacs keeps the plot moving with sappy dialogue, witty characters, and lots of sass. A smart, fun book!
Ellis Kimball is a high school junior who suffers from General Anxiety Disorder, and therefore fearful of so many things. Like crossing the street (someone could lose control of their car!), getting a driver’s license (SHE could lose control of her car!). Mostly though, she obsesses about the end of the world and the millions of ways she can prepare to save her family and herself. Ellis is a practicing Mormon, and her faith and her family are very important in her life. This is an excellent, funny, complicated book, and Katie Henry is an author to watch.
Not exactly a cozy, this debut mystery is clever and just a little bit frothy. Protagonist Samantha Claire’s description of her job as an editor at a small London publisher is bitingly astute, and not too far off from the truth for some publishers I have worked for. (Doesn’t everyone roll into work at 10 AM, and enjoy 2+ hour lunches?) Sam’s favorite author Kit Lowell has just submitted a new book that dishes the dirt on a famous designer’s empire, and throws doubt on the accidental death of one of the scions. When the courier delivering the manuscript is killed in a traffic accident, and Kit disappears, a Detective from CID enters Sam’s life. Filled characters that one reviewer describes as “a basket of adorables”, this little gem is a perfect beach read.
Imagine, if you will, in the not-too-distant future a giant tech company has all but eaten up most of the American economy. Everything is delivered by drones. The Government is collapsing. The only viable jobs to be had are working for Cloud. Employees not only live at The Mothercloud, they buy their uniforms (and everything else) there, they eat at the restaurants and drink at the bars there, and all the costs are deducted from their meager paychecks. No one is allowed to leave. Remind you of anything? Apparently George Orwell missed the mark by about 40 years.
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown
For those fans of The Crown who were intrigued by Princess Margaret. This biography is unusual in that it is written in 99 short chapters focusing on anecdotes from friends, acquaintances, and those with no love lost for the Princess. She was definitely a character. Knowing from childhood that she must obey all the restrictions placed on royalty, she had very little chance to live the life she wanted. Some of the selections are hilarious, some are delightfully bitchy (she had an ongoing feud with Elizabeth Taylor), and some are even sad. Interesting look at this unusual woman.
This wise and wonderful book is, as one reviewer says" A GPS for navigating life's later years." She blends information from interviews with women from all over the country and that from her years experiences as a renowned clinical psychologist to give us a practical and inspiring manual to help develop resistance to the challenges life is sure to throw our way. Her suggestions for strategies to help readers take responsibility for our attitudes, and to focus on our strengths and joys are truly uplifting. This is a book that I will keep on my bookshelf to re-read many times
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson
This extraordinary picture book combines a beautiful poem with stunning artwork to tell the story of African Americans that isn’t covered in many history classes. The book begins with a picture of Jesse Owens jumping out of the page and continues to depict the struggles and the unspeakable as well as the triumphs of both famous and ordinary people. Kadir Nelson is one of the most accomplished artists that illustrate children’s books today, and I think that this book is his masterpiece. Prepare to get chills.
This is a dazzling debut! Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst, working to access the computer of the leader of a Russian sleeper cell. As she searches the files that could give her information about the other members of the cell, she clicks on a files called "Friends". In the file there are pictures of 5 people. One of them is her husband...
In this heart-pounding thriller, Cleveland ratchets up the suspense with every chapter. Plan to spend some time with this one. You won't be able to stop reading until the very last page!
That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour by Sunita Puri
Occasionally after you read a book, you want to tell all your friends about it. After I read this book, I wanted to run down the street and tell everyone I met “You have to read this book!!!” This lovely and moving memoir is about a young doctor as she begins her career as a palliative care physician. Dr. Puri is a wonderful storyteller, and she weaves bits of her life and spirituality into her training. Her musings on the body and the soul are thought-provoking and enlightening. You might expect that a book (or a medical practice) about people who have come to the end of their lives would be depressing. Instead, you will find the stories about people who do this work are inspirational as they help people to finish on their own terms. I can’t really do this book justice. Read it and you will see.
This is a delightful book! Young Mimi Mackson loves to bake. One summer, after her best friend moves to Australia, Mimi is trying to find somethingthat will help her cope. Wandering in the woods behind her house, she meets a new friend Vik who is just as into baking as she is. At the same time, a new restaurant in their small town announces a baking contest for kids. Mimi and Vik can't wait to experiment with combining all sorts of flavors, some from Mimi's garden and some from her mother's traditional Indian cooking. Some seriously strange things begin to happen. Is it due to Mimi's unique recipes or could it be...magic? Lovely book about family, with a little bit of Shakespeare, faeries, and magic sprinkled about.
Heroine by Mindy McGinnis
McGinnis is one of my favorite YA authors because she doesn’t pull any punches. This book is no exception. Mickey Catalan is living for the upcoming softball season, when her team is ready to reap the benefit of their years of hard work. They have a very good shot at winning the state championship, and being able to parlay that into financial aid for college. Instead, a terrible car accident leaves her with an injury so severe that the doctors can’t be sure if she will walk again, much less be able to play catcher. Her determination to get back in shape pushes her beyond her ability to tolerate the pain, and she secretly starts to up her opioid medication. She soon spirals out of control while putting her relationships with friends and family in jeopardy. The conclusion is devastating, but realistic.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
This heart-warming debut novel introduces 12-year-old Lolly Rachpaul, a young man still reeling from the gang-related death of his beloved older brother. He is desperately searching for a way to deal with his grief, and to avoid the pressure to join a gang. He remembers his love of building with Legos, and starts to design his own city. This leads to an unexpected friendship that helps him find a way past his grief. We see realistic depictions of Lolly’s Harlem neighborhood which can be harrowing, but I is also filled with families that are just trying to do their best for their children. This wonderful book deserves all the kudos it has received, and more. A film version will be coming out with Michael B. Jordan at the helm.
It isn’t often that you read a book that changes your entire perspective on the world. This book did that for me. Written by a white woman for white people who want to do the hard work of looking at themselves to make things better now.
If you have ever said (or thought) I can’t be racist because:
• I was raised to treat everyone equally
• I don’t see color
• I have lots of Black friends
• I marched in the 60s
• I voted for Obama
then, please read this book.
I was an early fan of Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski who broke ground as one of mystery’s first female private eyes. After a while I thought the books fell into a rut, so I moved on to other authors. I was delighted to find that they (Paretsky and Warshawski) are back to their very best. This time one of V. I.’s nieces has disappeared while her oldest friend’s nephew is accused of murder. The two stories don’t meet, but they intertwine beautifully. It also looks like V. I. ‘s horrible ex-husband may be involved in something pretty rotten. Will he finally get his comeuppance? Read and find out.
Part bromance, part mystery thriller, this delightful book will leave you laughing out loud. Were you wondering how President Obama and VP Joe Biden were filling their time since leaving the White House? Poor uncle Joe is hanging out in his Delaware house, feeling left out as he watches Obama jet skiing with Bono, yachting with Richard Branson, and generally rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Then the suspicious death of one of Biden’s favorite Amtrak conductors brings them together again to find out what really happened. Lots of fun, and not a bad mystery.
A very powerful book that relates the Lithuanian experience under Stalin's regime. Young Lina and her middle-class family have a happy, comfortable life until the NKVD (Soviet police) invade their home in the middle of the night. They are shipped in cattle cars to Siberia, and the to the Arctic Circle to serve hard labor. This books is particularly important in light of the movement to rewrite Soviet history, eliminating the unpleasant parts.
As she did with Zelda Fitzgerald in Z, Fowler goes beyond the historical hype to tell the story of an unconventional woman trapped in a time when women’s roles were incredibly narrow. Alma Smith’s family had impeccable breeding, but her wastrel father had drunk or gambled away all the family’s money. When she captured the attention of William Vanderbilt, she used her social reputation and skills to help them break into the upper echelons of society. After twenty years of a loveless marriage, Alva found that her husband had been carrying on a decades-long affair with her best friend. Against the advice of friends and family, she filed for divorce, and won! She then threw her influence into progressive causes including women’s suffrage. Imagine what she could have achieved in a more enlightened time!
This astonishing book is the story of a young woman whose violent, anti-government father kept his family isolated on a mountaintop in Idaho. His extremist views kept his family from seeking any medical treatment and led to keeping his younger 4 children from school for fear that the government would brainwash them. Although Ms Westover was not allowed to attend classes, she was a voracious reader and read enough textbooks to do well on the ACT and be admitted to Brigham Young University. Out in the world for the first time was frightening at first, but she threw herself into her studies, and managed to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. Perfect for fans of The Glass Castle.
This is a hilarious and heartwarming memoir of a single mom trying to hold on to her farm and raise her sons to be responsible and self-reliant young men. One reviewer said "It is almost as if Cheryl Strayed at stayed down on the farm instead of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Imagine the movie "Castaway" redone, except this time the portagonist isn't a FedEx guy stranded on a tropical island. He is an astronaut/mechanical engineer stranded on Mars. He has no way to communicate with NASA, who think he is dead anyway. The temperature outside his module is about -55 degrees celcius; any water is frozen or buried in underground caverns. The next mission isn't scheduled for 4 years.
This gem of a debut novel tells the story of the bizarre and heartbreaking summer before Cullen Witter's senior year of high school. It begins with his cousin's death from a drug overdose, and includes the sighting of a thought-to-be extinct woodpecker and the attendant media frenzy. Just at the height of the furor, Cullen's sensitive and gifted younger brother disappears. The twist of an ending makes you consider how chance encounters can change your life.
Introducing Flavia de Luce, precocious 11-year-old aspiring chemist and sleuth. Ignored by her older sisters and eccentric father, Flavia finds time to investigate all sorts of things in her small English town. Her nosiness comes in handy when a stranger dies mysteriously in her garden. A great beginning to a wonderful series!
Fans of Lee Child and Harlen Coben will devour this book. Out for a run in the middle of the night, ex-special forces agent Sam Dryden encounteres a young girl running from a group of heavily armed men. The complex characters and non-stop action make this thriller unputdownable. The Runner was optioned for a movie before it was published.
Who is the real Richard III? Was he a benevolent ruler or a murderous tyrant? A plice detective forced into temporary inaction researches the case against Richard and finds out som esurprising facts. Even if you don't change your mind, you will consider the evidence in a different way.
This is a very realistic look at high school cliques, labels, mental illness, teen suicide, and survival. Finch and Violet meet at the top of the school bell tower, both comtemplating suicide. Violet is having trouble recovering from her sister's death in a car accident. Finch is a funny, quirky, smart guy who has suffered from an undiagnosed depression (remember that label thing?) As Finch helps, Violet grow stronger, he slips further away. The are not quick-fix happy endings here. This is an unforgetable, heart-wrenching book.
This is my favorite YA book of all time, but it is one that adults will love as well. For most of high school, Steve York is a 4.0, National Merit Finalist kind of student. You know the type. By spring of senior year, he is flunking out, and in order to graduate he must write a 100 page paper. After a few false starts, he decides to write about the last turbulent year of his life Rats has a spot-on depiction of high school, sassy dialogue, and memorable characters. Even though it has a weird title, and a horrible cover, it is a great book.
This book opens with the narrator, a captive spy, writing down everything she knows about the British secret missions for her Nazi captors. In short order, the reader realizes that everything is not all it seems. A very sophisticated novel that begs to be read at least twice. Perfect for adults as well as YA readers. It is everything historical fiction should be.
When Nora awakes in the hospital, covered with blood, she know that she did something horrible, but she can't remember what happened. Her last memory is of reluctantly attending a bachelorette party for a woman she lost touch with after high school. In the same vein of Girl on a Train, the mystery is revealed slowly, and the narrator may or may not be unreliable. A delicious pageturner!
Set on the furthermost isle in the Outer Hebrides, this wonderful trilogy paints a vivid picture of the lives of the inhabitants of this remote place, bordered on all sides by the brutal weather, and rampant unemployment and alcoholism. Underlying everything is the rigid, unforgiving hand of the church. In The Blackhouse, a savage murder on the Isle of Lewis bears similarities to one in Edinburgh, and Detective Fin Mcleod, a Lewis native living in Edinburgh is dispatched to investigate. These are gripping mysteries that explore the darkness in our souls, and the difficulties of escaping the past.
I loved this book! It has all my favorite things: great writing,a compelling plot, historical fiction, and magic! After Hope Walton's mother is killed in an earthquake, she accepts an invitation to visit her family in Scotland. There she discovers that her mother's family belongs to a secret society of time travelers, and that her mothe ris not dead! She has been trapped in 12th century London in the court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor is as feisty as you might imagine, and Thomas Becket is a wicked, wicked man! Great fun!
Against the backdrop of the Great depressiona and the Dust Bowl, this follows nine young men who withstand the brutal physical demands, and develop the laser-like mental focus necessary to produce the poem that is elite rowing. Their accomplishment on winning the National Collegiate Championship sends them to Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics. Hitler and company were determined to fabricate an elaborate production designed to convince the world that the Nazis were benign. His plan to showcase the superiority of his Aryan German athletes was thwarted by the success of Jesse Owens, Glen Cunningham, and these young men in America's Men's Eight. Perfect for fans of Seabiscuit and Unbroken.
My favorite Easter Story! The Country Bunny is told that she will never be an Easter Bunny because: 1) she is brown, 2) she lives in the country, 3) she is a girl, and 4) she has 21 children. However, she proves herself to be wise, kind, clever, and the bravest bunny of all. This book was writeen in 1939, and the art is beautiful.
A delightful and satisfying mystery! Sophie Collingwood has just begun her new job in an antiquarian bookstore. In one day she has two requess for the same obscure book. Investigation leads to a startling question- was Jane Austen really the author of Pride and Predjudice, or do letters from an elderly clergyman to Jane prove that he wrote the book? It is a great read for bibliophiles and Janites, but others will enjoy the mystery as well.
This is a fascinating account of the family tha presided over the British Empire for over 300 years. The Plantagenets have been overshadowed in American minds by the Tudors and the Stuarts, but Jones brings them out of the shadows in all their dysfunctional glory. The dynasty included "good" kings (as in effective, not nice) such as Henery II and Edward III, and "bad" kings such as John, whose tyrannical rule inspired the Robin Hood legend and the Magna Carta, which sought to limit the power of kings. This is a must for British history fans.
It has been 5 years since John Hart's last book, and Redemption Road is worth the wait. As with all good mysteries, there are several threads that run through the story. One protagonist is a detective, suspended due to her shooting of two men who had kidnapped and were in the process of totruring a teenaged girl. Another is a former cop about to be released from prison for a crime he may or may not have committed. A third is a teenager, determined to kill the man who killed his mother. All these stories come together in an explosive conclusion. This is a real barn-burner!
When a book begins "Rachel isn't at the station. This isn't unusual. Her shifts at he hospital often run late.", you can be pretty sure that things most likely won't turn out well. This taut psychological thriller has plenty of twists, lots of red herrings, and a surprising, well-done ending. Perfect summer read.
This book grabs you, settles in your heart and minds, and won't let you go. The story follows young Cora as she escapes from slavery with help from a physical underground railroad. She is relentlessly pursued by a patroller who is obsessed with recapturing her. Whitehead drew me so deeply into Cora's life that I found myself reacting viscerally to her experiences. I finished this book weeks ago, and I am still haunted by it.
John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong. Without a group of African American women responsible for the mathematical computations that allowed NASA to launch men into space AND bring them back safely, you might never had heard of these names. These women were pioneers, combating racial and sexual prejudices in the decades leading up to the Civil Right Movement. Their stories are filled with joy and sacrifice, frustation and triumph. Hidden Figures will be a major motion picture released on December 25th, and soon everyone will know the names of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson, along with rest of these brilliant coureageous women. It's about time.
Louise Penny gets better with every book, and this is a fine addition to the series. During remodeling at the Bistro in Three Pines, a puzzling old map is found. Given to Armand Gamache who, after his retirement from the Quebec provincial police force, has been called back into service as the Headmaster of the training school for the Surete officers. As he is trying to root out the deep corruption there, one of the suspects is found murdered, a copy of the old map in his possession. It is up to Gamache to follow both trails to find the cnnection, risking both his reputation and his life.
This is a stunning, beautifully written novel about a difficut topic. From the first sentence :"This is how I kill someone." you know that this story will be one of darkness and violence. Three high school seniors are brought together by events in their small Ohio town, setting them on a collision course in the explosive finale. This book is an unflinching look at raoe culture and its consequences.
The Hollywood elevator pitch for this book would be "The Breakfast Club" meets "Ocean's Eleven", but actually the book is much better than that. Plain-old Max Cobb and a random few of his classmates think that they have been invited to join the super-secret Chaos Club, a group notorious for playing outrageous pranks at their high school. In reality, it was all a set-up, and after getting caught, the group decides to band together for revenge against the CC. The pranks get more and more elaborate until it is hard to tell who is pulling the strings. This is a laugh-out-loud book with great characters. A wonderful debut!
Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips
Forsyth County Georgia, just north of Atlanta, had a large African American community at the turn of the twentieth century, anchored by the strong presence of the Black churches. After the rape and murder of a white girl, the community erupted in a frenzy of violence, lynching a black man on the town square, and hanging two black teenagers after a one day kangaroo trial, though there was no evidence any of them had been involved. Egged on by racist newspapers’ false reports of gangs of Blacks rampaging through the countryside, and aided by complicit law enforcement, white citizens of the county systematically terrorized the remaining black citizens, forcing them from their homes with threats of murder and arson. Then they took the animals, crops and land for their own. Forsyth remained all white until the 1990s.
Phillips unflinchingly relates a history of racial terrorism that began with the elimination the Cherokee from the same land in the 1800s and continues to shape America even now. This important book is difficult to read at times, but these stories must be told.
Locally Laid by Lucie B. Admundsen
This is a thoroughly entertaining book about a plucky couple who decide to follow the husband’s dream of starting an organic egg farm from scratch. Admundsen doesn’t pull any punches in writing about the back-breaking work of running a farm, but she has a quirky sense of humor that pulls you through each crisis. The slightly risqué name of the business and lots social media helped them with the start-up, but the support of their community rescued them from disaster many times. This book is such a fun read that you don’t realize you are learning a lot about the American way of farming. I guarantee you will never look at supermarket eggs the same way again!
Coffin Road by Peter May
You have to love a book that begins with a man washed up on a remote beach on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. And he has amnesia. This is a complex and compelling story, with the strands of three stories winding together and apart. Wonderful descriptions of the play of dark and light in the landscape and the story. Peter May’s books have just recently become available in the US. He has quickly become one of my favorite authors, and if you love great writing and tautly written plots, he might become one of yours, too.
The Dry by Jane Harper
This is a smashing debut novel, set in a part of Australia that is experiencing the worst drought of the century. When Federal Agent Aaron Falk hears that his best childhood friend Luke has killed his wife, child, and then himself, he, like most of the town, assume it is a result of desperation caused by the drought. Then he opens a letter from Luke’s father with eight words:” Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.” Aaron returns to his childhood home, twenty years after he and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, and is convinced to look into the deaths. As in the best mysteries, things are not what they seem, and there are some great red herrings throughout. Harper’s descriptions make you feel the searing heat and the stifling atmosphere of the town. One of the best mysteries I have read this year.
The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston
Rumors of a lost city buried under the Nicaraguan jungles have circulated for hundreds of years, even before the arrival of Cortes in the 1500s. In 2012 new technology allowed archeologists to locate several huge sites in areas that had had no human contact for thousands of years. Seeing them from an airplane was the easy part; digging through the jungle to find out what they actually found was not. This hair-raising true story reads like wild adventure tale, complete with curse: a flesh-eating bacteria that could have explain why the city had been abandoned so long ago.
The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Young wife and mother Helen Pelletier finds out that her father has broken out of prison. This would alarm anyone, nut Helen has more to fear than most because it was her testimony that put him there. Helen spent her youth in a rustic, and I mean rustic! Cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Until a stranger happened upon them by accident, she has not realized that her father had abducted her mother as a teenager, and had imprisoned them in that remote cabin. Helen knows that her father is coming for her, and she knows that she is the only one who can find him. This is a delightfully creepy story, but you may have to sleep with the lights on!
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Teenager Will lives in a community where there are certain rules: 1) no crying, 2) no snitching, and 3) always seek revenge. After his brother Shawn is gunned down, Will retrieves Shawn’s gun, prepared to adhere to rule #3. As he rides down the elevator, he is visited by some people from his past, all victims of gun violence, and ultimately he must make the decision that will change his life.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
This is the true story of one of those hidden incidents in American history that now is being brought into public consciousness. It is the shocking tale of an attempt to eradicate members of a family of the Osage Nation in order to steal their substantial income from mineral rights in the barren rock-filled property they were relegated to after removing them from their homeland. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Osage were the richest people per capita in the world, and the unscrupulous whites in Oklahoma couldn’t stand that these people they thought were sub-human were rich and they were not. This book is hard to read, but impossible to put down.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This gentle novel is perfect when you need a break from harsh reality. It is set in Britain in 1946, just as the country is beginning to claw its way back to some kind of normalcy after WWII. It is a love story, but it isn’t just a story of romantic love. There is love between friends both new and old, filial love, and, most of all, a love for books. It isn’t all sweetness and light, though, as much of the book relates the experience of some of the Guernsey islanders during the German occupation. Some were hilarious, most are decidedly less so. You may admire, and maybe fall in love with these lovely people (well, most of them anyway), as I did.
“If only you had listened to us, none of this would have happened.” So begins the book that will be recognized as the rallying cry for millions of women who have their own #me-too moments. In a mega-corporation in Dallas, the CEO dies suddenly. Ames Garrett, the loathsome General Counsel expects to move into the plush corner office, but not everyone is thrilled by that possibility. Rumors of Ames’ “trouble” with women have surfaced over the years, but none of the women involved wants to risk her career by coming forward. At the same time a list of “bad men” circulates among women in Dallas. Totally entertaining and empowering! Don’t be surprised to find yourself standing on your chair and cheering when you finish.