Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By the Book ~ Julia Sonneborn (Pub. Date February 6, 2018)

Sonneborn, Julia. 2018. By the Book. New York, NY: Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

I'm a big fan of contemporary retellings of Jane Austen's works and have read some great and not-so-great ones. By the Book is definitely one of the better ones I've read.  I am always so impressed when a debut author creates a novel that feels like they've been writing for years, and that's how I felt about Julia Sonneborn's writing. Plus, she managed to take a novel like Persuasion, and yet create a thoroughly new story, keeping the basics of the plot.  There was a lot of humor, as well, though more overt than Austen's would be; but that goes with the contemporary aspect of this novel. The campus setting was perfect, and it was enjoyable to read about the life of academics (publish or perish, gossip, drama, student behavior etc.).  As the author states in her acknowledgements: "This novel is a love letter to books...and book lovers."  I felt that love as a reader, and look forward to recommending this book to my patrons (and peers) who I know will enjoy it, too!  Plus, the cover of this book is lovely!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Need to Know ~ Karen Cleveland (Pub. Date January 23, 2018)

Cleveland, Karen. 2018. Need to Know. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. ISBN  978- 1524797027. $26.00 USD.

I am very excited about the release of this debut spy thriller written by former CIA analyst Karen Cleveland.  I was lucky to receive a digital advance reader’s copy a few months ago and have been recommending it for a while for customer holds.

The reviews have been mixed, so all I have to say is that I stayed up until 1 a.m. two nights in a row, work nights (!), in order to finish it.  I don’t read books to find the faults; I read them for pleasure, and this one fit the bill for me.

The main character, Vivan, is a married CIA Analyst (natch) with four young children.  She works for the Counterintelligence Center, Russia Division, which is searching for agents who are running sleeper cells in the U.S.  During the course of her research, she discovers something ominous that directly affects her family, and that is where the book really takes off.  Written in the present, with flashbacks to her relationship with her husband, it is almost impossible to stop reading.

Even Lee Child says, “Prediction: If you read chapter one, you’ll read chapter two. If you read chapter two, you’ll miss dinner, stay up far too late, and feel tired at work tomorrow. This is that kind of book.  Superb.”  I have to concur with his statement on this book, as that is exactly what happened when I read it.

The author does a fabulous job of ending many of the chapters with bombshells that left me gasping. The suspense and tension in this book were so high that at times I covered my eyes with my hand with just enough room to peek between my fingers at the text I was reading! That was really a first for me in the hundreds of books I’ve read as a bibliophile and librarian.  I wanted to skim the pages at times to get to the next part of the story.  My emotions were all over the place while reading it, and I even read the ending three times, just to let it all sink in.  It’s not without a few flaws (plot holes), but the story was so enjoyable that I happily overlooked them when I saw them.

 Need to Know will make a great movie, and I’m pretty sure it’s already been optioned.  I’m always so impressed with debut authors who pull off such great first novels.  Highly recommended!  Happy Reading!

The Night Market ~ Jonathan Moore (Published Today)!

Moore, Jonathan. 2018. The Night Market. New York, NY: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt. ISBN: 978-0544671898. $24.00 USD

The Night Market is the third book in Jonathan Moore’s Triptych of novels set in San Francisco (after The Poison Artist and The Dark Room), and this one kind of blew my mind!

Set in the near future, this SF noir mystery has a lot going for it.  There is a very strong "Blade-Runner" feel to the setting in this book, with all the action being at night, or near dusk, constant rain, electric cars, areas of destruction and rubble adjacent to new extravagant edifices, LED postcard ads ("glow cards") littering the sidewalks and some futuristic equipment used by the characters in the book.

Detective Ross Carver and his partner, Cleve Jenner, are called to a very strange late-night crime scene where the body is covered in some kind of growing gray moss.  FBI agents in Hazmat suits arrive and that’s the last thing the detectives remember: something has erased their memories.

 Ross awakens days later with his new neighbor, Mia, at his side, with no memory of recent events, but with the knowledge that something is very, very wrong.  I cannot write much more about his excellent mystery without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that it will leave you very unsettled, but with the feeling that you’ve been in the hands of a very creative and imaginative author.  The books in this series can be read in any order, but I can recommend all three.  Happy Reading!

Hunted ~ Meagan Spooner

I don’t read a lot of YA anymore.  I got on a kick a while back when many of the adult novels I was reading were really dark, graphic and, to be honest, depressing.  Ironically, a lot of the YA novels being published lately fall into the latter category now!  But, at the time, I found myself enjoying more lighthearted teen books.  Recently, I saw a dedication from a book posted on Twitter or Facebook, which made me investigate the book and author.  It read:

"To the girl
who reads by flashlight
who sees dragons in the clouds 
who feels most alive in worlds that never were
who knows magic is real
who dreams

This is for you."

The post asked the reader which book this dedication belonged to, and in the comments section I discovered it was the YA novel Hunted by Meagan Spooner - a Beauty and the Beast retelling.  Luckily, my library had it on the shelves and I fell into the book as easily as falling into a magical fairy tale.

Set in the 13th century around the time of the Mongol invasion of Rus,' this tale follows a father and three daughters who live in a bustling village. The father was a famous hunter who settled into a merchant’s life after he married and had children.  The mother died at some point, and the family of four has settled into normal roles and routines.  The youngest daughter, Yeva, called Beauty by her family, acts as a companion to the Baroness in town, but secretly only wants to be out in the forest hunting with her father (he used to take her when she was younger).  When her father loses the family fortune and moves the daughters to the outskirts of town, Yeva is much happier in spite of their reduced circumstances.

One day the father goes hunting and comes back raving about magical creatures and other strange things.  The family believes he is losing his mind, and when he goes missing, Yeva leaves her sisters to try to find him.  What she finds in the woods sets up the rest of the story of Beauty and ……you guessed it: the Beast.

The author has done an incredible job of describing the era of the story, the frozen landscape of the setting, and the relationships among the characters.  The story of Beauty and her experiences with the Beast are new and fresh, and the reader cannot help but get lost in this fairy tale.  Great escape reading (but you might want to wait until it's warmer: this book will have you shivering)!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Now That You Mention It ~ Kristan Higgins

I’ve been a fan of Kristan Higgins for a number of years for her Blue Heron romance series, and was surprised and pleased when she made the transition to writing books with more substantial content (domestic fiction), though these books usually do contain an element of romance – not a bad thing!

Now That You Mention It is one of the best books I’ve read of this genre lately.  It has well-developed characters, great inner dialogue by the main character and realistic and witty dialogue between other characters in the book.  There are conflicts to overcome, relationships to mend, and some to begin, a wonderful small town setting, disabilities to work through and Harry Potter references throughout!

Nora Stuart escaped a very unhappy adolescence by winning a scholarship to Tufts, which the whole town assumed would be given to the “golden boy” of the high school.  Now a practicing doctor in Boston, she has a tense relationship with her mother who still lives in coastal Maine, and a younger sister in jail in Seattle. When Nora is in a serious accident, and overhears her boyfriend flirting with a nurse in the recovery room, Nora decides she wants to go home to recover.  But does “home” want her to come back?

Exploring many contemporary themes and brimming with humor and heartache, Now That You Mention It is a great book for readers who need a little lightness to counteract the dark themes of other popular books found on the shelves and a good escape from the troubled world we live in today.  Highly recommended and Happy Reading!

January LibraryReads!

A review of mine was featured in the January 2018 LibraryReads List, the top ten books published each month that Librarians across the country love!

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Published: 1/9/2018 by St. Martin’s Press
 ISBN: 9781250130921

“A thriller told from the perspective of three narrators:  a woman, her ex-husband, and his fiance. The storyline is intricate and nonlinear and the characters are likable, but unreliable. This one will keep you guessing.”

Kelly Moore, Carrollton Public Library, Carrollton, TX

Click here for the other titles librarians love this month:

2018 Texas Library Association Lariat List - Fiction for Adults

The Voting is in and the following are the 25 books published in 2016 and 2017 that the Lariat Nominating Committee chose as the best Fiction for Adults!  (The ones I nominated are highlighted). Over 100 books were considered (and read), to come up with the top 25.

The 2018 Lariat Reading List
The Best in Adult Fiction (2016-2017 publication dates)

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (Penguin Random House)
A slacker in an alternate 2016 filled with great technological advances inadvertently travels back in time and erases existence as he knew it. He must adapt to the world we live in today and reconcile with the remnants of what could have been that have lingered.

The Atlas of Forgotten Places by Jenny D. Williams (Macmillan Publishers)
Set in the war-torn Uganda of 2008, two women's lives become deeply intertwined as they search for lost loved ones. This haunting tale of oppression and grief is also a story of redemption, compassion, and ultimately, love.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Simon & Schuster)
In Beartown, jobs have been disappearing and the town has been slowly dying for years. Now, one win from their junior hockey team can put them back on the map, but a scandal erupts that threatens to tear the remaining community apart. Can this town survive? This is a story of friendship, family, love, standing up, and learning what is really important.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Penguin Random House)
Avery Stafford is home visiting her ill father, a U.S. Senator, when a chance encounter leads her to learn of her family's secret past. The Stafford family history is closely tied to the infamous Tennessee Children's Home, and if this shocking past becomes public, no one will ever be the same.

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall (Penguin Random House)
Set in a small southern town, this heartwarming and humorous tale features young Willow, who was a very late arrival to her eccentric mother, Polly. Filled with fear that her secretive mother will die soon and abandon her, Willow becomes obsessed with uncovering the mystery of Polly's past.

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (Macmillan Publishers)
Two scavengers, Rachel and Wick, live in a post-disaster city in which bio-tech has run amok. While out exploring one day, Rachel finds a sentient blob she names “Borne,” and her life changes as she watches it grow and learn. Exploring themes of love, forgiveness, and redemption, Borne is an examination of what it means to be human.

Celine by Peter Heller (Penguin Random House)
Celine, a 68 year old privileged blue-blood with emphysema and an impressive personal cache of firearms, is a semi-retired private investigator who only takes special cases to reunite families with missing loved ones. She embarks on a road trip with her husband Pete to search for a famous photographer who went missing in Yellowstone National Forest, and uses some unique skills to solve the mystery.

The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson (Penguin Random House)
Alternating in time between the present and past eras, The Clockwork Dynasty tells the tale of a race of almost immortal mechanical beings who have lived among humans and impacted history in surprising and profound ways.

The Dry by Jane Harper (Macmillan Publishers)
Set in a drought-ridden farming community in Australia, a federal agent returns to his hometown for the funeral of a childhood friend and ends up involved in a mystery stemming from the past he would rather forget.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Penguin Random House)
Eleanor Oliphant’s life is a closed cycle of mind-numbing work, lost vodka weekends, and chats with her sociopathic mother. Then a series of unexpected events changes everything, and Eleanor will have to confront the trauma of her past to overcome the difficulties of her present life.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Penguin Random House)
Civil war and political unrest are the backdrop for this meeting of Nadia and Saeed. As their passion for one another increases, so does the turmoil in the city. The two decide that they have no other choice than to leave their homeland and families behind. Part speculative fiction, part magical realism, Exit West is at its heart a love story.

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman (Penguin Random House)
Lilian Girvan is an illustrator and grieving widow raising two precocious girls on her own. When she is assigned a book on gardening and botany, she takes a Saturday morning gardening class full of quirky characters who open her eyes to the possibility of new beginnings.

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig (HarperCollins Publishers)
A teenage girl with autism named Ginny Moon has been passed from foster home to foster home until she ends up with a family that provides a stable and loving environment. But Ginny cannot convince her new family that she has unfinished business, so she hatches a plan to find on her own the thing that she feels is missing.

Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (Macmillan Publishers)
Private investigator, Nils "Shap" Shapiro is known for his ability to solve difficult crimes. However, when he is called to the home of Maggie Somerville, he finds a crime scene like no other. Everything, including her dead body, is covered with the dirt from numerous vacuum cleaner bags. Solving this case will take keen observation skills and good old-fashioned detective work.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (Macmillan Publishers)
Tender, poignant, and filled with surprising humor, Goodbye, Vitamin chronicles in journal entries and vignettes the year that 30-year-old Ruth, recovering from a bad breakup, returns home to help care for her father who has early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Penguin Random House)
After President Lincoln's son Willie passes away, the young boy finds himself in the "bardo," or the space between life and a permanent resting place. The cast of characters in the bardo try to help Willie understand his new circumstances, but he may help them more than they expect.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (HarperCollins Publishers)
Magpie Murders is a clever mystery within a mystery in which a book editor, setting out to read the latest manuscript by a difficult but popular author, gets to the end of the story to find the last chapter inexplicably missing. Her attempts to find the missing pages plunge her into another mystery where she uncovers more about the author and his manuscript than she expected.

The Reminders by Val Emmich (Hachette Book Group)
After having a very public breakdown following the loss of his partner, Gavin Winter seeks solace with longtime friends, Paige, her musician husband Ollie, and daughter Joan. Ten year old Joan has the rare ability to recall every day of her life starting at age 5. She helps Gavin by recalling all her memories of his partner, Sydney, and he helps her to write a song for a songwriting contest and deal with her worries of not being remembered.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (Hachette Book Group)
Six clones wake up in a vessel traveling through outer space without any knowledge of what had happened to the previous clones. One thing is very clear – they were all murdered; but the question is….which one of them is the murderer?

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (Macmillan Publishers)
A software engineer moves to San Francisco to work for a robotics company. Spending most days without human interaction, she befriends two immigrant brothers who run a "hole-in-the-wall" take-out service. When they must return home, they give her an unusual sourdough starter which propels her into a strange world that combines food, mysticism, and technology.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (Penguin Random House)
This novel is filled with quirky characters about the unusual Telemachus family, including Buddy, who can see into the future, Irene, who is a “human lie detector,” and Frankie, a psychokinetic. However, it is the astral-projecting powers of Irene’s son Matty that become the catalyst for events that transpire.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora  Goss (Simon & Schuster)
After the mysterious deaths of her father and later, her mother, Mary Jekyll is thrust into the Victorian world of secret societies and horrific scientific experiments. With the help of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary sets out to uncover the truth and save the women who have been used and abused by such figures as Frankenstein, Hyde, and Moreau.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (Penguin Random House)
Samuel Hawley is doing the best he can to raise his daughter Loo on his own after the death of his wife, Lily. After years on the road, Loo and Samuel move back to their hometown where they must navigate and repair old relationships while forming new ones against the backdrop of Samuel's violent past.

What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Penguin Random House)
What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky is a collection of short stories about complicated family relationships affected by Nigerian history and the modern day diaspora to America and Europe.

When the English Fall by David Williams (Workman Publishing Company)
An Amish man's journal chronicles the days surrounding a natural disaster that renders all modern technology useless. As the outside world falls apart, Jacob and his Amish community find themselves confronting unprecedented interactions between the two societies.