Looking for your next great read? The staff of the J. V. Fletcher Library are happy to share some of their latest picks. Click on the title of the book to go directly to the library catalog . If an e-book or audio book version is available to download on Hoopla or the MVLC Overdrive collection, you will also find a link to that copy.
- The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben (Read it on Overdrive). It’s been years since I read & loved ‘Tell No One’ and ‘Gone for Good,’ so I was anticipating another page turner by Harlan Coban. Surely, I’m in the minority when I say that I was disappointed in his newest novel. Although the character descriptions are quite vivid, there is really no action until well into the story. The plot is tedious. There were surprises at the end, but by the time I reached that part of the story, I wasn’t interested. It was a struggle to finish as it lacked the suspense of the author’s usual plots.
- Carlin Home Companion by Kelly Carlin (Read it on Hoopla.) If you were lucky enough (or old enough) to experience George Carlin’s comic genius, you knew his career was red hot in the seventies, appearing regularly on tv and concert halls and creating classic comedy bits such as “Seven Dirty Words.” A Carlin Home Companion is an autobiography/biography penned by Carlin’s daughter, Kelly. Her recollections are full of humor, ridiculousness and…most abundantly… full of pain. The first chapters give an overview of George’s childhood/early career as well as an exposure to his wife Brenda’s family home life. The remainder of the book recalls what it was like being the only child in a dysfunctional Hollywood family during the 70’s & 80’s. But even between the drugs, the marital discord and the chaos, there were some sweet memories documented.
- Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (Read or listen to it on Overdrive. Listen to it on Hoopla.): Narrator Malcolm Kershaw is the co-owner of Old Devil’s Bookstore. An FBI agent arrives to question Kershaw about his internet blog in which he discusses eight titles of classic, perfect unsolved murders and their relationship with recent murders. I enjoyed that the setting was Boston and that the author referenced several local landmarks. The dialogue was naturally flowing and realistic (a sticking point for me) and the characters quite believable. Similarly to many great mysteries, the suspicion lands on different characters as the clues develop. I loved this story very much, particularly enjoying the author’s tributes to his fellow writers. I even learned about the Hays Code, which was an informal motion picture production list of rules created during the 20’s/30’s in response to a public outcry for decency in the business.
- Maid by Stephanie Land (Read or listen it on Overdrive.) “When a person is too deep in systemic poverty, there is no upward trajectory. Life is a struggle and nothing else,” writes Stephanie Land in her memoir. The subtitle, Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive sums up the book. Coming from generations of poverty in the Northwest, Land who has no college education and lives paycheck to paycheck becomes pregnant by her abusive boyfriend. When she decides to keep the baby, her hardships continue to mount. She eventually breaks free from the boyfriend, but her life is a series of halfway houses and government assistance. It is a fascinating exposure of the system in which she has to navigate. She revealed curious facts concerning Section 8 (tenant based rental assistance) as well as other requirements for food stamps and other aid (including Pell Grants). Most interesting is Land’s relationships with the clients with whom she forms bonds. She gives names to them such as “Clown House,” “Loving House,” and “Porn House.” The only downside for me was that the book ended abruptly. I wanted to know more about her new life. Perhaps there will be a sequel.
- The Third Victim by Phillip Margolin (Read it on Overdrive.) This was my first time reading a Philip Margolin novel and I thought it was very good. The Third Victim features a young, Ivy League educated lawyer who has a passion (and expertise) for mixed martial arts (this passion comes in handy). Her new position with a noted firm involves her in a high profile, serial murder case. The plot (as well as the subplot) is interesting enough for me to care about what happens next. Although there is some rough language used by the criminal element in the story, the investigative work and the court proceedings seem realistic. The way in which the story wraps up appears to leave an opening for a continuation of the series. I would classify it as a classic, misdirection, whodunit.
- Quicksand by Henning Mankell: Henning Mankell was a Swedish playwright and novelist best known for his Kurt Wallander detective series. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2014 at age 65. This book was his way of reflecting on life, his own and in general…and what it means to deal with the good, the bad and the unexpected. He also relates many of his personal experiences. His cancer diagnoses prompted him to slow down and appreciate life, to better understand others, and to reflect on many events/people in his own life. He sums up his thoughts by suggesting that we ask ourselves how we want to be remembered by others when we are gone and let that guide us throughout our lives.
- Ever wonder what it’s like to be a psychotherapist? Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb (Read it on Overdrive.)weaves together stories of her patients (disguised) with her own biography as well as her experience of being a patient aftera painful breakup with Boyfriend. Told with humor and insight, Gottlieb shares issues we commonly face in life and explains how holding up a compassionate mirror can offer the possibility of change from self-defeating patterns. Highly entertaining and thought-provoking!
- Successful Aging by Daniel J. Levitin (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.) is an accessible dive into the science of aging, modifications within our control, myths we need to dispel, and simple practices we can employ. Neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin covers, in three parts, such topics as memory, personality, emotions, social factors, pain, diet, exercise, and sleep. The handy appendix lists 10 things you can do to make the most of your advancing years. Here is a fact-based, practical plan that can help you make the most of “the advantages of aging—the wisdom, the bias toward positivity, the compassion that older adults exhibit” while you compensate for the inescapable effects of aging. A thorough and fascinating read!
- The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson (Read it on Hoopla or Overdrive.) Opening line: Hassan was deep in prayer. The story begins in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain in 1491, just before the Sultan, Muhammad XII, the last of the Muslim Nasrid dynasty, surrendered to Isabella I and Ferdinand II of the newly formed Spanish coalition. Fatima is a favored concubine and her best and only friend is Hassan, the map maker. Hassan has the curious ability to not only draw maps, but to make the world conform to the maps he draws, and this ability, once discovered, makes him a target of the Inquisition as the Spanish delegation enters the castle. What follows is a marvelous and fantastic flight as Fatima and Hassan flee the Alhambra and put their trust in a jinn. Their adventures take them across space and finally, outside of time itself, where they find in themselves what they need to create a safe haven for themselves and others.
- A Song for a New Day, by Sarah Pinsker (speculative fiction) Opening line: “There were, to my knowledge, one hundred and seventy-two ways to wreck a hotel room.” In an eerily familiar landscape, history is divided into the “Before” and the “After” by waves of violence and epidemics. Large gatherings of people are prohibited by law and musicians have gone underground, playing illegal concerts in secret clubs. Rosemary Laws leaves her job at the local “Superwally” store, to work for a virtual concert promoter. What she doesn’t know up front is that her efforts to find new talent will result in her friends’ venues being shut down. Rosemary will have to make hard choices in this post-epidemic world in which Americans have given up their rights to gather and congregate for safety and don’t know how to get them back when the danger is past.
- The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.) Opening line: There is a pirate in the basement. This is the 2nd novel published by Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus. In this sprawling epic of stories within stories, Zachary Ezra Rawlins is quietly earning a master’s degree in Emerging Media Studies, which has a lot to do with game design, when he finds a mysterious book in the fiction section of his campus library. The book leads him on a wild journey into an underground world in which all the stories run together, and there needs to be an ending before there can be a new beginning. Featuring a gay protagonist, a woman with pink hair who may or may not be Fate, a man lost in time and his lady love who found this place by falling through a crumbling door as a young girl (tale within a tale: The Ballad of Simon and Eleanor), Erin Morgenstern’s masterful organization and gorgeous phrasing helps us keep track of it all (and mesmerized even when we’re a bit lost in the strands of time) and brings all the threads to a satisfying conclusion by tale’s end. The audio version is read clearly by a full cast of talented readers.
- Beating around the Bush by M.C. Beaton (Read or listen to it on Overdrive .) is the 30th title in the Agatha Raisin mystery series. M. C.Beaton is the pseudonym for Marion Chesney who wrote Regency romances as well as the popular Hamish Macbeth series. Many of her titles are available on Hoopla (not this title) and Libby. These books are set in the Cotswolds and feature Miss Raisin as an amateur detective. As you read through the series you encounter colorful coworkers, neighbors and lovers of Ms. Raisin. I consider the books to be mystery “light”, some are thought provoking and others frivolous. I recommend reading the titles in order. Sadly Miss Beaton passed away (December 2019) and we will not be able to experience resolution of Agatha’s personal life, unless the author had tucked away some partially completed manuscripts for her heirs to develop.
- Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.) This book is a poignant memoir written by a younger daughter (seven years old at the beginning of the ordeal) of a Japanese American family sent to an internment camp in the high mountain desert of California. It is written through the child’s eye about her family struggles to survive in the camp which often clashed with their cultural ideals and strong family bonds. The book is an interesting, well written and sobering memoir of a period in American history frequently overlooked. A statement in the book “what we cannot change, we must endure” resonates with the events of Spring 2020.
- Massacre on the Merrimack by Jay Atkinson (Read or listen to it on Overdrive. Listen to it on Hoopla.)I have lived in the Merrimack Valley for fifty-one years and had heard mentions of Hannah Duston being captured by Native Americans and escaping. This is a fast paced, well researched book which reads as part mystery and part biography. The reader finds themself rooting for Hannah’s escape as well as feeling sympathy for the captors and their plight. The book presents historic information about treaties, politics and treaties during the 1600’s in Colonial America as well as the daily struggles that the settlers endured.
- More than words by Jill Santopolo (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.) This romantic, fast paced and thought provoking title is read by the author. It chronicles the life and passions of Nina Gregory, a New Yorker used to a life of privilege. Her journey through grief, love, loss!, self discovery and evolving family dynamics is one we all travel but in varying dimensions. A timely passage for today in the book is “Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone.” [Octavio Paz] I look forward to reading other titles by this author.
- b. Book and Me by Kim Sagawa: A poignant coming of age story, this is a heartbreaking novel of two Korean high school girls, who equally despair over and desire adulthood. The rights of passage, of schoolyard beatings, unhealthy sexual relationships, and eventual despondency over a future that will not exist, occupy their dreams, hopes and reality. Unable to escape their narratives, the End where the lunatics live, acts as the moral compass to their behavior. No childhood games can change the fact that Book, their only male friend, will be tried, convicted and jailed as an adult. The lessons for Rang and b. are sobering and perhaps being an adult is not the experience that they thought it would be.
- I Know You Know Who I Am:Stories by Peter Kispert: How do you reconcile a queer identity with a world where lies and deception take center stage? In Peter Kispert’s I Know You Know Who I Am, portraits of darkly humorous actors search for the truth in the intimate performance of their lives. Sympathetic voices find this debut short story collection to be uncomfortably riveting. These are modern love stories for all.
- Space Invaders: a novel by Nona Fernandez: Leading Latin American writer, Nona Fernández , eloquently and accurately voices the fictional stories of young school children who grew up during the seventeen year military junta of Chilean General Augusto Pinochet. Recalling regimented school assemblies, nationalistic class performances, and the real fear of persecution, forced disappearances and execution, Fernández summons the collective memory of a generation while exploring the children’s haunted stories. Old enough to sense the danger but too young and powerless to change its path, these youngsters were not only victims but sometimes unwitting accomplices.
- The Whistler by John Grisham (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.) It is the job of Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, to prove judicial misconduct not massive corruption in a long time sitting judge like Claudia McDover or the Tappacola Indians who so brilliantly launder money for the Coast Mafia. With the aid of previously disbarred lawyer, Greg Myers, she and her longtime partner, Hatch, learn just how dangerous and sometimes deadly truth can be. Grisham’s signature Southern raconteur style keeps his colorful characters mired in a legal who done it.
- Winter at the Door by Sarah Graves (Read it on Overdrive or listen to it on Hoopla.)is a “leave the lights on and lock the doors” mystery which will have you questioning who really lives in the vast expanses of wooded highway areas of the Great North Woods of bumpkin Bearkill, Maine. This suspenseful, nail biter, finds heroine cop, Lizzie Snow, at odds with criminals vastly different than those found in the sophistication of her hometown of Boston. Is it the rich gun culture or the meth supply chain that attracts Daniel, a backwoods survivalist to “effectively utilize his resources”? When Lizzie confronts the captive woman and child he calls family she quickly finds out exactly how good Daniel’s aim is. The secrets kept, lies told and friends betrayed are at the crux of this dark drama. Readers who enjoy Linda Castillo and Lisa Gardner will find Lizzie to be strong, driven and brave.
- Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck (Read or listen to it on Hoopla. Read it on Overdrive.) Five very different people are invited to participate in a “Story Society.” Each of them is hurting in some way. Even though they don’t know why they are together in this “society,” their coming together starts a chain of healing and new direction. By listening to each other, becoming friends, and offering support, their complicated lives are changed and renewed. Near the end is an element of religion which took me by surprise. I hadn’t realized that this book was a Christian romance.
- The Housekeeper by Natalie Barelli (Listen to it on Hoopla) Seeking revenge for a terrible event which destroyed her life 10 years ago, 24 year old Claire takes a job as a housekeeper for the woman she thinks is responsible. This book is a thriller that will keep you turning the pages to discover the real villain in the house.
- The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (Read or listen to it on Hoopla or Overdrive.) We find out at the beginning of this heartwarming novel that the English gentleman Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things, but the story really begins as we learn why Anthony is collecting things and the mystery behind each object. The stories of the interesting characters involved, told in seemingly unrelated vignettes with humor and sometimes heartache eventually lead to a satisfying conclusion.
- The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths, 2020 Edgar Award winner (Read it on Overdrive or Hoopla. This book begins with passages from fictitious Gothic writer R.M. Holland’s “The Stranger”, a ghost story written 100 years ago. R.M. Holland’s historic former residence is now an academic building on the campus of Talgarth High where Clare Cassidy is an English teacher and fan of “The Stranger” and R.M. Holland. Clare’s life begins to spin out of control when colleagues are murdered, strange messages appear in her diary and it becomes apparent that many of these occurrences mirror events in the story “The Stranger”. I enjoyed this whodunit and was surprised by the ending.
- Unfollow: a Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps- Roper (Read it on Overdrive.): The Westboro Baptist Church, known for protesting in the name of the Lord the lifestyle of homosexuals, is at the center of this book. It is a well written account of Megan’s life in that church and the struggle she faced when everything she was taught and believed no longer made sense. It is an inspiring account of her courageous journey.
- Fight of the Century edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman . (Read it on Overdrive.)The editors have put together synopses of leading U. S. Supreme Court cases of the past 100 years. Each case is followed by an essay from different authors on how the case came about and how it affects us now. Cases range from the right to an attorney in criminal cases to Gay marriage rights. Libraries were involved in the unblocking of the sale of the book “Ulysses” by James Joyce in the case of U. S. v One Book Called “Ulysses” (1933). The Library of Congress was involved in the case of Schrorer v. Billington (2008) which forged the way for transgender rights. The book is an enlightening history of the fight for our rights in America.
- Just Mercy: a Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (Read and listen to it on Overdrive.): Bryan Stevenson is a graduate of Harvard Law School who started the Equal Justice Initiative(EJI). The EJI defends death row inmates and wrongly convicted people. The book tells of how Attorney Stevenson created the EJI and how he proved the innocence of a death row inmate. The book also explains Attorney Stevenson’s involvement in the eliminating of the execution of juveniles and life without parole for juveniles. The book is a sad commentary of our criminal justice system due to our human frailties of prejudice, over zealousness, and the attitude that “the end justifies the means”. But it is inspiring to read about a man who feels compelled to fight the injustices he sees in the system. This book is well worth reading.
- Truth Worth Telling by Scott Pelley If you enjoy watching 60 Minutes, you will love reading this book. Scott Pelley brings you behind the scenes of his most interesting interviews. The stories range from interviews with Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Trump to the tragedies of 9/11 and the shootings at Sandy Hook. Some of these stories will make you laugh, some will make you mad, and a couple may even make you shed a tear, but they all are worth reading.
- We’ll Meet Again by Mary Higgins Clark: A wife murders her husband-or did she? A family man commits suicide-or did he? And what are those creepy doctors doing in the lab? This is a classic Mary Higgins Clark mystery. You will need a scorecard to keep track of the suspects. The story will have you guessing until the last page. I guarantee that once you pick this book up, you will not put it down.
- Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renee Lavoie (Read it on Hoopla) Diane and Jacques are a happily married couple, until they’re not. Diane is blindsided when Jacques, her husband of 25 years and father of her three children, announces that their marriage is over and he’s met someone else. (Big shock, it’s a younger woman!) The reader is taken on Diane’s emotional journey as she works to navigate her new normal which humorously involves the destruction of furniture, the consumption of much wine, and a certain pair of size 8 boots. Aided and abetted by BFF Claudine, you’ll cheer and cringe for Diane as she examines who she is on her own and what she wants out of life and family. This book is just begging for a sequel.
- The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson.(Read or listen to it on Hoopla. Read or listen to it on Overdrive.)This historical fiction novel is set in rural Kentucky. Cussy Mary Carter, a nineteen year old mobile librarian, loves her job working for the Kentucky Pack Horse Project. She travels by mule to remote crags and hollers delivering books to Appalachian families. They call her The Book Woman. But, she is also known as Bluet because of the blue color of her skin. Her father, who works in the coal mine, says that she is the last of their kind. Unfortunately, kind is not a word to describe how everyone in Troublesome treats Cussy This book will have you cheering for Cussy on one page and crying the next. At one point, I was so mad at the author that I had to walk away from the book. But, I returned because the story was so compelling. I needed to know how Cussy’s story ended. I definitely recommend reading this book.
- Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman (Read and listen to it on Overdrive.): The mystery begins when a semi conscious man washes up on a remote Norfolk shore, with no memory of who he is or what has happened to him. The press dub him Mr. Nobody and with that an international spotlight is thrust upon the case. Enter Dr. Emma Lewis, a respected London neuropsychiatrist, brought in to treat Mr. Nobody. This case could change the trajectory of her career, yet it could also unravel a past she would best like to forget. She seems to feel a strange connection to this man, now called Matthew. Is that real or imagined? WHO is he? I highly recommend reading the book to find out.
- Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald (Read it on Hoopla.) After a happy reunion with her high school boyfriend, 33 year old Henny Broer is killed in a traffic accident. But, that is not the last we see of Henny. Her spirit remains to observe her once tight knit group of high school friends and fellow employees of the ramshackle Pine Away Motel and Cabins as they struggle with their loss. A colorful cast of characters join forces to try and save the inn from its demise and you don’t want to miss it. Originally, I thought this this would be a quick chic lit beach read, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it is much more than that. Why that is, I will let you find out for yourself.
- Lady Clementime by Marie Benedict (Read it on Hoopla.) Lady Clementine is a historical fiction story about the strong woman behind the man – “Winston Churchill”. Clementine was not only a wife and mother but also a great supporter and advisor during her husband’s political career during World War I and II. This is well written and well researched and a real pleasure to read.
- Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron (Listen to it on Hoopla.): Emily Harlow is a clutter remover and organizer, who may be living with her biggest challenge. Her husband is a bit of a hoarder and he fills the garage, basement and attic with treasures. She would like nothing better than to clean out these areas, but she has a rule in her organizer business. The rule is you can only clean and organize your own clutter. When Emily acquires two clients that could be the death of her, things get interesting. One client is an elderly woman with an “unknown” storage unit full of her husband’s items and the second a younger woman who is not allowed to move her belongings into her new husband’s home. Little does Emily know that a scheme has been put in place with her husband’s help to have her take the fall for the death of one of their husbands. A hard to put down novel that challenges Emily at every turn.
- Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons by Cara Natterson, M.D.: A fascinating look at puberty from a boy’s perspective. Many puberty books have been written for girls and what it means to go through puberty, but this book tells you what trials and tribulations a boy goes through at this time of development. When it comes to boys, much more is going on than you think. Although they do not show signs to the general public, things are happening below the belt. In fact, the hormones are coursing through their bodies and filling their minds with things I would never have thought a middle schooler would be aware of. The screen age is accelerating the information they have access to through the internet, and frankly it startled me.
- A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner (Listen to it on Hoopla. Read or listen to it on Overdrive.) This book tells a marvelous tale of a beautiful scarf covered with marigolds. Two women, nurse Clara Wood and Taryn Michaels, who both encounter this scarf during two tragic events in New York City’s history and the stories of how the scarf changed their lives. Clara is a nurse working in Manhattan who was in love with a man she meets on an elevator one day. On the day he was to show her his workplace he must grab the hand of a young worker at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and jump to his death. Now she wonders what might have been. She flees Manhattan and takes a nursing assignment on Ellis Island to care for the ill immigrants who arrive daily. Here she meets a newlywed gentleman whose wife died on the passage from scarlet fever and now he too has the fever. After she nurses him to health, he gifts her the scarf that once belonged to his wife. Read how the scarf passes through history and winds up in the hands of a young widow of the events of September 11thand all the twists it has been part of through time.
- The End of The Day – Bill Clegg (This title will be published in June, add your name to the waiting list now). I read “Did You Ever Have A Family” a few years ago and it still resonates with me. Bill Clegg examines the mind and hearts of people navigating unsettling transition masterfully. This is a quiet, reflective book that takes place over a single day. The interconnected lives of five individual’s stories, secrets, trauma, and regrets spanning decades are revealed. Throughout the book there is love, and loss and many topics that people don’t always share with others and how these issues effects more than just the person dealing with it. Highly recommend for people who enjoy Anne Patchett and Anne Tyler.
- The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman (Listen to it on Hoopla or Overdrive.) While opening up my windows this weekend, I took a moment to stop and listen to the glorious song birds in my yard. Although I was able to identify some of the bird calls, it was the many unfamiliar songs and calls that made me think about this book that came out a couple of years ago. It is on several Top Ten Bird Books lists. The author shares her insight into the different varieties of bird intelligence. The book features research by experts focusing on social, vocal, and even spatial cognition. It is accessible to non-birders as well as avid birders. The author’s simple explanations of complex studies are both understandable and enjoyable which makes the scientific topic fun. It also highlights our need to take a long hard look at how we are affecting our world, often to the detriment of our feathered friends. I enjoyed listening to this informative and beautifully-written book sitting out on my deck while observing these beautiful creatures. I highly recommend it.
- Privilege by Mary Adkins An exploration of the complexities of sexual assault from the points of view of three women in different roles– The victim, an advocate for the perpetrator, and a woman who believes the perpetrator over the victim. Carter University is considered the “Harvard of the South”. Annie was the smartest girl in her small, public high school in Georgia. She feels like she has scholarship written all over her forehead. Bea Powers put aside her misgivings about attending college in the south as a bi-racial student when she was accepted into the school’s criminal justice scholarship program. Stayja York goes to Carter, not as a student but a barista at the Coffee and Bean. She is just making ends meet. Their lives intersect when Annie accuses fourth-year student, Tyler Brand, of sexual assault. Bea is assigned as Tyler’s student advocate and the girls find themselves on opposite sides. A timely book about assault, privilege, and power dynamics. For fans of Prep, The Female Persuasion, Know My Name.
- The Toni Morrison Book Club – A memoir about four book club members whom share secret parts of their lives and pair these very secret experiences with personal meaning they found in Toni Morrison books. The writers share a brief synoposis of the book they selected and write about how it impacted their lives and how it pertains to their current lives. Racial bias, fears, families, childhood, mental health, and friendships are just a few of the subjects touched upon. A very thoughtful memoir and a true testament to their love of Toni Morrison. The introduction alone gave me goosebumps. For Fans of The End of Your Life Book Club and of course, all Toni Morrison books.
- Finna by Nino Cipri FINNA is one part bizarre premise, one part exploration of a complex relationship and one part seemingly lighthearted but poignant satire revolving around capitalism. The whole that these three parts create is a fast read that will entertain as well as invite the reader to take a look at how our society treats minimum wage workers. Ava and Jules are sales associates at a popular big-box furniture store. When a customer’s grandmother gets lost in a wormhole that has opened up in one of the displays, Ava and Jules are contractually obligated to be the ones to try and rescue her because they are the lowest ranking members in their retail “family”. If it wasn’t bad enough that they won’t get paid for the hazardous mission, but they had actually gone through an explosive break-up three days ago. Being stuck in another dimension with Jules is the last thing that Ava wants at this point in time. With the length of 136 pages, FINNA is perfect for those looking for a quick read that is both fun and thought provoking.
- Lanny by Max Porter (Read it on Overdrive or listen to it on Hoopla.) Reading Lanny by Max Porter is a dreamlike experience that slips into a nightmare. The story flits lightly from the troubled relationship of two parents and their lack of adjustment to English village life, to the mercurial nature of their son, Lanny, and his friendship with Pete, an aging artist. The narrative weaves through the points of view of Lanny’s Mum, Lanny’s Dad and Pete before an inevitable tragic event opens it up to the whole village. Throughout the book, sections from the point of view of a figure of local legend, Dead Papa Toothwart, clue the reader into village gossip; fragments of sentences are literally splashed across the page which dovetails nicely with the artistic themes of the book. Readers looking for a surreal, moody story, that is somehow both distant in its telling yet deeply intimate and emotional should check out Lanny.
- Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Read it or listen to it on Overdrive or Hoopla) Lovers of a modern mystery and a good, old fashioned whodunnit should definitely take a look at Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. This 500 pager may look long on the outside, but its length comes from the fact that it actually contains not one, but two mysteries between its covers. The story centers around an editor at a publishing company, Susan Ryeland, who is reading though the much anticipated new novel of the company’s most popular author, mystery writer Alan Conway. Conway’s manuscript, which is rendered in a classic whodunnit style, makes up the first half of the book before switching back to Susan’s point of view when an actual murder occurs. Susan notices some peculiar parallels between the manuscript and the real murder, and decides to play the part of detective to try to solve the crime. Magpie Murders has a leisurely start that feels very much like reading a book by Agatha Christie. The pace picks up once Susan is on the hunt for the real-life murderer, and a tempting breadcrumb-trail of clues will keep the reader turning pages until the dramatic climax. Anthony Horowitz does an exceptional job of capturing that small-English-village-murder feel, and it’s no surprise as he’s the individual who originally adapted the Chief Inspector Barnaby books by Caroline Graham for the Midsomer Murders television show.
- Network Effect by Martha Wells Many of science fiction’s most notable rogue artificial intelligences go on brutal killing sprees. But what if the liberated AI in question just wanted to be left alone to watch its favorite show rather than being at the constant beck and call of its human masters, or going on the aforementioned murderous rampages? This is the premise that is explored in The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells, and yes, it is just as hilarious as it sounds. Much like the previous four novellas, at its surface Network Effect is a fast-paced action/adventure space romp and the sarcastic tone injects humor into often dark situations. However, what makes Network Effect such a compelling read is that, at its heart, it is the continuation of the character study of an individual coming to terms with its “personhood” in a reality where most humans don’t consider it to be a person. Murderbot has to protect its humans from harm while coming to terms with the fact that it’s OK to have feelings and that, sometimes, its humans need to protect it. Don’t let the genre intimidate you; give The Murderbot Diaries and Network Effect a try if you like stories that balance fast paced action with artfully written characters.
- Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (Listen to it on Hoopla.) Gailey’s novella takes place in a future where technology and resources have been made scarce, and where ideas of what is morally acceptable (as defined by The State) have grown very narrow; as a result, it reads like a western of days gone by. After watching her secret lover, Beatriz, hang for being in possession of unapproved reading materials, Esther, filled with confusion and shame, runs off to join the Librarians. She hopes that leading a life in service to The State, bringing “approved materials” from town to town, will “fix” her. Little does she know, the Upright Librarians that she stows away with might not be as beholden to The State as she originally believed and she herself might not be as “broken” as she originally thought. Upright Women Wanted is a moving story of self-acceptance, a 172 page anthem of: no matter what anyone says, yes, you are allowed to exist.
- The Wayfarer Series by Becky Chambers. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit can be found as Ebooks on Hoopla and Overdrive. If you prefer to listen, all three Wayfarers books can be found as Audiobooks on Hoopla. Wouldn’t it be nice to look into the future and see that, while maybe it won’t be 100% rosy, overall it will be pretty good? This is the sort of future that Becky Chambers presents in the novels of her Hugo Award winning Wayfarers series: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit and Record of a Spaceborn Few. One of the most wonderful aspects of Becky Chambers’ writing is that, even though her books are in the science fiction genre, they can appeal to a broader audience. The Wayfarers books are extremely accessible in that they are first and foremost character studies. They look at how people interact, agree, disagree and ultimately tend to get along. The books engage the reader by both lingering on the small moments and asking big questions. They never get too bogged down in the technical side of science fiction, and thus can be recommended to all readers looking for a positive outlook and extremely well written, diverse characters. If you are a reader of science fiction or are looking for something a little bit different, give these books a try!
- Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.) The heart wrenching story line follows Rill, a 12 year old girl from a poor riverboat family in Memphis, Tennessee, who finds herself inexplicably kidnapped along with her little sisters and a brother. Rill tries to fathom how they have become part of the Tennessee Children’s Society, subject to mistreatment of all sorts, family separation, and adoption to strangers.The storyline also follows Avery Stanford, a successful federal prosecutor in present day. She comes from a privileged background and has a bright future, with a handsome fiancé and a political career with her father. Avery suspects her Grandmother is hiding a dark secret and begins to obsessively chase down clues regardless of what they may reveal. The two stories are intertwined within a compelling mystery that has its origin in disturbing true events.
- Binti The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor Binti Book One (Read and on Overdrive. Listen on Hoopla.) : Book one of this science fiction trilogy introduces a wise-before-her-time young woman, Binti, who has been chosen to attend the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. She is the first of her people to attend and must travel far away from her home and culture to a future that may bring her near her people’s long-time enemy, the Meduse. The author is masterful at drawing Binti close to the reader’s heart. The relationships between characters and the sometimes startling action scenes will keep the reader turning pages. Best order book 2 and 3 as soon as you can. However, this trilogy absolutely must be read in order.
- Binti Book Two: Home (Listen on Hoopla)Binti has been at the Oomza University for a year and has now returned home. There has been pain, growth and conflict in the life of this galactic hero. Her family’s small-minded expectations and prejudices cause her pain as she stretches past their limitations in the course of book two.
- Binti Book Three: Night Masquerade (Listen to it on Overdrive. Listen to it on Hoopla.) At this point in the trilogy, Binti has taken on some of the physical attributes of the alien Meduse that had been her tribe’s enemy. She also has bonded with a tribesman desert dweller.Binti faces enormous conflict in all her connections and relationships, yet she is the catalyst for change, unity and understanding. Secrets and surprises revealed continue to drive the action in this compelling science fiction trilogy. I was surprised at the author’s ability to bring color, texture and passion to this alien world. Binti still lives in my heart.
- The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.) brings us back to the alternate world created by the author in the trilogy: His Dark Materials. Book of Dust is Book one of a new trilogy. In this book, a young boy, Malcolm from a local pub, the Trout, becomes fascinated with a mysterious baby, Lyra, who is being protected and hidden by nearby nuns. There is espionage and intrigue as well as danger and adventure in this absorbing fantasy. Malcolm is a true hero as he and his friend Alice fight and escape a relentless villain to bring baby Lyra to safety. Although rated for juvenile or young adults, be aware there are some dark allusions to sexual assault that may be more appropriate for more mature readers. The author is a master at fleshing out the primary and secondary characters. There was not a moment when I wasn’t rooting for Malcolm. I found the villain revolting and terrifying. Please consider this a must-read if you loved the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. The audio version with reader Michael Sheen really enhances the story as he meets the challenge of numerous characters’ unique voices. Very recommended.
- News of the World by Paulette Jiles (Read it on Hoopla or Overdrive.) The setting in 1870 rural Northern Texas is a backdrop for a 400-mile long journey of an aging itinerate civil war veteran, Captain Jefferson Kidd, who brings and reads news of the world to communities for a small fee. Along the way he gives his word to escort and reunite a 10 year old German girl with her family after she had been a captive of the Kiowa natives for four years. The child, Johanna, has no English after years of captivity and no memories of her early years. The author develops these characters and their relationship beautifully as they travel through this historical novel. There are moments of adventure and danger as well as really heartwarming moments. This was an excellent and memorable read and I highly recommend it.
- A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay (Listen to it on Hoopla. Read it on Overdrive.) Paul Davis is a small town college professor. Eight months ago he stumbled upon a murderer disposing of two bodies. Unfortunately for him, the murderer sees him and tries to kill him too. The attack has left him with a severe concussion and recurring nightmares. He decides to face the events of that night head on and maybe even write a book about it. As a gift, his wife Charlotte gives him an old typewriter to use in the unraveling of that nights tragic events. What could go wrong? That’s what Paul thinks. Until one night he wakes to hear the keys on the old typewriter tapping away? It seems that the spirits of the two murdered women are trying to reach out to him. Is this possible or is he losing his mind? Read to find out! This book kept me guessing right to the very end.
- The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica (Read or listen to it on Overdrive or listen to it on Hoopla.) Sadie and Will Foust have recently moved their family to a small coastal town in Maine. This move was to be the new beginning their marriage needed. It isn’t long after they arrive that their neighbor is found murdered. As eyes turn to Sadie as a potential suspect the mystery begins. What really happened to their new neighbor and who is responsible? What follows is the unraveling of a mystery where nothing is as it appears. Complete with a twist at the end that I just didn’t see coming. If you enjoy a psychological thriller than this is the book for you!