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A good mystery must have a well-developed sense of place, and this book exceeds every expectation. It is set in East Texas, a place that has long been considered a law into itself, with its murky bayous and bloodlines, and its only slightly under-the-surface racial tensions that have been simmering for generations. Darrin Matthews, a Black Texas Ranger, currently suspended, is unofficically sent to Lark, a desolate town barely more than a wide spot in the road, to investigate the deaths of a Black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman whose bodies have washed up on the shores of the bayou.
Dream Girl mixes a big helping of Stephen King’s Misery with a bit of Rear Window, a hunk of #MeToo, and a smidge of Gaslight to make a complex tale of psychological suspense. Novelist Gerry Anderson is confined to a hospital bed in his apartment, incapacitated by a fall. He has only his assistant and his night nurse for company. He starts to get phones calls, letters, and texts from a woman who claims to be the fictional character in his most successful novel, but nobody believes him. Are they real or are they results of his medication? Is he starting to suffer from dementia? What about the body that turns up in his bedroom? A great mix of suspense and satire.
One Great Lie by Deb Caletti
Just turned 18-year-old Charlotte is about to have her dreams come true. She was accepted at a summer writing workshop in Venice with Luca Bruni, an author she idolizes. While there she hopes to investigate a family mystery. One of her ancestors was a Renaissance poet and is perhaps the true author of a famous poem attributed to her lover. Charlotte wants to find out the truth. Caletti links past and present gender politics and the abuse of power structures with a #MeToo narrative and by using chapter heads that give information about female Renaissance poets who were only known through their relationships with men. This is a powerful, entertaining, and enlightening book.
Liz Lightly has always felt that she could be invisible in her small Indiana town. Too black, too poor, too awkward to be noticed. She has a plan, though. She will win a scholarship to elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and then become a doctor. When the scholarship falls through, Liz's only option is to join the group of super-popular girls vying for Prom Queen and the hefty scholarship that comes with. The only upside is a new girl who joins the group. Mack is quirky and smart, but like Liz, not obvious Prom Queen material. This book is laugh-out-loud funny, deeply touching, and a joy to read. Do yourself a favor, and pick up You Should See Me in a Crown for some light-hearted fun.
This is a prequel to one of my favorite books: Practical Magic, but it can also stand alone. The Owens sisters come from a long line of women who are skilled at the “Unnamed Arts”, or as you might call it, witchcraft. The women of this family suffer from a curse cast by the matriarch of the family in the 1600s. Maria Owens followed her love to Salem, Massachusetts just in time for the witch hysteria. She escaped the noose but declared that every man who falls in love with a woman in her family will die. As she lives out her life, she discovers the rules of magic, and the last, most most important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.
First, let me say I do not usually read fantasy, but I couldn’t resist Legendborn. While still reeling from her mother’s death, 16 year-old Bree Matthews begins an Early College program at her mother’s alma mater the University of North Carolina. On her first two nights on campus she witnesses demon attacks that no one else can see. When a strong mage (called a Merlin) tries to alter her memories of the attacks, Bree not only resists but realizes that a similar magic was present the night her mother died. She is determined to find the connection to her mom and joins a secret society on campus whose members are descended from the original Knights of the Round Table. As Bree learns more about her mother, she also taps into her own magic that has roots in Southern Black Girl Magic and in the horrors that chattel slavery visited on descendants of all involved. The Kirkus review said it best: “Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling.” I can't wait for the next book!
Ten-year-old Dela and her sister sixteen-year-old Suki haven’t ever had much except each other. Not when their mother was arrested for cooking meth and left them with her last boyfriend, and not when that boyfriend did something so terrible that they had to escape right away with only the clothes they were wearing. Now as wards of the state and living in a foster home they can start to have some kind of normal life. Della is a fierce and unforgettable protagonist, careful to let you know when the story is going to get rough. And rough it is. This is a powerful, important book about sexual abuse, trauma, and the power of speaking up to protect someone you love. Although the subject matter is terrifying, there is warmth and hope in the story as well. Fighting Words has already received many starred reviews, and, no doubt, will continue to gather many more.
I have read quite a few of the novels that use Jane Austen and her writings as a plot device. Some were fine and some were definitely not. I was skeptical to try another, particularly by a debut author. My doubts disappeared within the first few pages. The story is set just after WWII in Chawton, the small village where Ms. Austen lived for a few years and where her mother and sister Cassandra are buried. The characters have all been wounded by life (and sometimes family), and the devastation of the war is inescapable. They each find a comfort in Austen’s gentle writing that helps them cope with their tragic loss. I don’t want to give up too much of the plot because I want you to have the joy of that discovery on your own. If you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, you will love this charming, wonderful book.
Conviction by Denise Mina
STOP! Don’t buy this book unless you are prepared to ignore phones, meals, and all other distractions until you finish it. It starts innocently enough with Anna McDonald, a Scottish housewife up early to drink coffee and listen to a her favorite true-crime podcast before her children and husband wake. As she listens, Anna is startled to realize that she has a connection to the suspect. Fast forward a couple of hours, and Anna’s husband has left her for her best friend and has taken the friend and Anna’s children on an extended holiday. Pretty tame, yes? Well, get ready for a roller coaster ride featuring Hitchcockian level paranoia, very dark humor, and multiple identities. Perfect for fans of Jo Nesbo, Thomas Harris, and Ruth Ware.
One of the best books I have read in a long while. If you loved Little Fires Everywhere and Where the Crawdads Sing, this is the book for you. Be prepared for an intense and powerful read. It is a story of two families who become neighbors in a small neighborhood in North Carolina. It is a story of racism, justice, and power. It is a story of facades, and corruption. It is a story that will rip you in two, then haunt you. I walked around in a daze for almost a week after I finished this book. Read it and you will see.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendie (March 2020)
I don’t know who thought of having Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendie collaborate on a young people’s edition of Stamped from the Beginning, but it was genius! Reynolds presents the facts from the adult version in a way that is accessible and interesting for younger adults (or for older adults who feel intimidated by the more intense book.) He cogently explains how western culture in general, and United States culture in particular had racism baked in from the very earliest days. There aren’t many books that change your life, but this one has the power to do so. (March 2020)
Prepare to be drawn into the violent, racist, misogynistic world of the oil fields in West Texas in the 1970s.This powerful, but lyrical book begins with the brutal rape of Gloria Ramirez, the 14-year-old daughter of an undocumented Mexican immigrant by the white son of a preacher. The reverberations from the attack reveal deep divides in the community between friends, neighbors and families. I usually scoff at comparisons of new authors’ work to my favorite established authors, in this case Barbara Kingsolver, but Valentine lives up to that description.
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.
You by Caroline Kepnes
This book definitely comes under the category of a guilty pleasure. The premise: a witty, handsome, charming bookseller happens to also be a serial killer. Who could resist that, right? The book is told from the POV of the afore mentioned bookseller/serial killer, and as you read you find yourself being persuaded by Joe’s perfectly logical inner monologue that what he is doing makes perfect sense. It was a startling to realize how deep I found myself involved in Joe’s reasoning. You is deeply creepy and very explicit, but addictive. You and the sequel Hidden Bodies are the basis for the Netflix series.
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
This was my first Nic Stone book, and it certainly won’t be my last. Meet Rico Danger (pronounced Don-ger, but seriously one of the best names ever), a mixed-race high-school senior trying to do school and work as many shifts as possible at the Gas & Go to help out her single mom and younger brother with groceries and rent for their tiny low-rent apartment in a great school district. On Christmas eve, a winning lottery ticket is sold at the Gas & Go, and Rico is sure she knows who bought it. When no one comes forward, Rico feels she needs to contact the little old lady who bought it to let her know that she won. Her plot requires her to approach Zan Macklin, a gorgeous guy she has been looking at all year to help her do so. Zan also happens to be the son of a very rich family who has made their pot of gold in bathroom paper products. This book has some laugh-out-loud moments and invites readers to consider what money can and cannot buy.
Imagine if you will a black French-Canadian teenage boy (Norris) who loves (in no particular order) hockey, snow, living in Montreal, and his best pals. Now further imagine that after his dad moves clear across the country with his new family, his mom gets a great job. But it is in Austin. Texas. Where clearly there is no hockey, never any snow, and not even one friend. To make matters worse, he manages to tick off the whole team of cheerleaders in his first few days. Things can only get better, right? This is one of the cleverest books I have read in a long time. Witty dialogue, lots of pop culture references, and believable characters make this one to put at the top of your list
11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.
One reviewer wrote: “Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.”
Rebecca Roanhorse bases this action-packed adventure in the world of the Dine, or Navajo creation myths. Young Nizhoni Begay is a typical seventh grader. She is trying to find one thing that she can be best at, so she won’t feel like such a loser at school. Lately, though, she has been dealing with something that has been occupying her mind even more: she is able to see monsters. Even when they look human and wear a coat and tie (as Nizhoni says, scales, horns, and claws are for beginners.) When she hears a talking stuffed horned toad telling her that she and her brother are descended from the Hero Twins, sons of First Woman who were known as Monsterslayer and Born for Water, she finds that they must journey to the Sun and complete 4 impossible tasks in order to save the world from the monster she saw. I enjoyed this book immensely and recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Rick Riordan’s books.
I am always looking for middle-grade mysteries, and I am delighted to report that this book is an absolute gem! A compelling puzzle and a pair of smart likeable sleuths would be enough to add PI to your to-be-read pile, but there is much, much more. It is a story of family and friendship, of race and racism, of love and bullying, and of the past and its effect on the present in the history of a Southern town. As the two African American preteen protagonists investigate clues from an old letter, they learn what living in the Jim Crow South was really like. As one reviewer said “Come for the puzzle. Stay for the biting glimpse of America’s intolerant past.” If you liked The Westing Game, you will love The Parker Inheritance.
Although Cathay Williams was born a slave, she never forgot that she had the blood of an African warrior-queen running through her veins. Sarah Bird takes the few facts that we know about Williams and weaves a page-turner of a story about this strong, brave woman who was the only known female to serve in the Buffalo Soldiers disguised as a man. The danger she faced as a soldier was matched by the danger she faced if she was discovered to be a woman. If you loved The Invention of Wings and Hidden Figures, I guarantee that you will find this book fascinating.
Although many generations removed from protagonist Marin Lospato, I found myself identifying with her in many ways. Marin has always been one of the “good” girls, following all the rules so that she can accomplish her major goal: getting into Brown University. When she finds that following those rules only means that the game is stacked against her, she starts to question how those rules have limited her life and expectations. The situation she faces are familiar in this Me, too# world, but Marin’s reaction to them are not. I found myself cheering her strength and determination to make her way on her terms, and I think you will, too.
If you asked 1000 people how forensic medicine in the US began, I would wager that no one would guess that the guiding force was a wealthy grandmother who never finished high school. Frances Glessner Lee, daughter of one of the founders of International Harvester, was interested in medicine at an early age, but as a young woman of affluence she was not supposed to be concerned about working outside the home. In any case the only university she would have considered was Harvard, and that opportunity was unavailable for any woman, no matter how heavy her purse. After a surgical procedure Lee was convalescing at the same facility as George Magrath, a family friend and the Medical Examiner for the city of Boston as well as head of the Pathology Department at Harvard. This revival of their friendship led to Lee donating the funds so that Harvard could establish a department of Legal Medicine with Magrath at the helm. Over the next twenty years, Lee was on hand to help expand the department with money and many more concrete ways of expanding that department. At one point she created 18 tiny detailed recreations of crime scenes that were used for training doctors, lawyers, and police officers how to investigate crime scenes. (These Nutshell Studies give the book its title.) She was a remarkable woman who is finally getting the credit she deserves.
Thirteen-year-old Lydia has had more experience with loss than most people her age. She has cared for her mother who has a failing heart condition for six years since her father walked out. After her mom's death Lydia is moving in with her Mom's sister Brat and her jovial wife to their farmhouse in rural Connecticut. This is a lovely story about love, grief, and the world's best bad dog. Great caring characters, and a class of welcoming students help Lydia begin to process her loss and begin to make her way back to a new life.
This is the 10th book in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series, but it was easy to follow even if I hadn't read the previous books. Val McDermid is the queen of psychological thrillers, and she does not disappoint here. Young women are being founddead in burning cars all around Scotland, but there doesn't seem to be any connection betweem them. Carol Jordan, head of the newly formed Regional Major Incident TEam and Dr. Tony Hill, psychological profiler, are challenged to find any clues that would help them prevent the next incident. This has one of the most surprising endings that I have read in many years. Be prepared to want to start the series from the beginning!
How can someone disappear without anyone saying a word?
Claudia is counting down the minutes until school starts so that she and her best bud Monday can hang out again. She spent the summer in Georgia with her Grandmother and as usual, she sent funny drawings and letters back to Monday. But this year, Monday didn't send any back. School starts and Monday isn't there. Her phone has been disconnected and no one has seen her all summer. And no one seems at all concerned.
How can someone disappear without anyone saying a word?
Inspired by actual events, the YA mystery tackles some real world problems: missing young BIPOC women, gentrification, and mental illness.
There is new master of psychological thrillers in town! As she did in The Marsh King’s Daughter, Dionne keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Rachel has been locked away in a mental health facility for 15 years for accidentally killing her mother when she was eleven years old. However, Rachel does not remember that day or anything of the next two weeks when she apparently lost in the woods surrounding her families house. When she was found, she was unable to speak. When a reporter hoping for an interview gives Rachel the file on the murder, she discovers that she couldn’t possibly have killed her mother because she wasn’t tall enough to use the rifle!
She returns to her family home where her older sister and aunt still live, to try and piece together what really happened that day, and who was the real killer. Tension builds on every page until the explosive ending. This riveting thriller probably shouldn't be read at bedtime...
If you love mysteries with surprises, then you must pick up this book. Mr. and Mrs. Adam Wright have hit a rocky spot in their marriage. They win a weekend at a B&B in a very remote part of Scotland, and they know this weekend will make or break their union. They arrive to find no B&B, but an abandoned chapel made into a creepy home. Strange things happen (this is a mystery, after all), and then the fun begins. At least one of them is not what they appear to be, no one won the trip, and it looks possible that not everyone will get out alive. The twist happens quickly and will knock you out of your chair!