A Gothic That Keeps You Guessing

Mrs. England
by Stacey Halls

A recent graduate from the renowned Norland Nurse program, Ruby May might be new to the role of governess, but she knows when a family dynamic is normal or not, mostly due to her own unusual upbringing. When she is hired by the wealthy England family to care for their four children, she is unsurprised that their manor home in a remote Yorkshire town feels so isolated compared to her last appointment in London. The differences from her previous happy workplace to her new position, unfortunately, don’t stop there. The longer Nurse May stays at the England’s Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right going on in its halls. Not only does Mrs. Lillian England keep strange hours, she seems to ignore her children and mostly stays hidden in her room for hours at a time. Unusually, it is her husband, mill owner Charles who appears to run the household and who warns the new governess not to leave Lillian alone with the children. Is Lillian truly to be feared, and why? What’s really going on in Mrs. England’s house and what is Nurse May willing to put up with to keep her own secrets hidden?

Simmering with slow-burning suspense, Mrs. England by Stacey Halls is a gothic mystery set in 1904, against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire. This compelling and descriptive slow-burn of a novel transports its readers to a different time and place, where danger lurks around every corner, and it is the perfect read for fans of Jane Eyre, Rebecca and Downton Abbey.

-Carol

Check Out a New Mystery Debut

Pay Dirt Road
by
Samantha Jayne Allen

After graduating college, Annie McIntyre returns to her small hometown of Garnett, Texas –a place, she thinks, where nothing much ever happens. She begins working as a waitress while trying to figure out her next step when two murders happen on the same day. Sadly, one of the victims is her coworker Victoria, a newly single mother, who Annie had cancelled plans with just hours before her death. Annie is racked with guilt and the feeling that she could have prevented this tragedy. She gets a chance to redeem herself when Leroy, her grandfather and former town sheriff asks her to assist at his private investigation firm. Before she knows it, Annie dives head-first into the world of crime solving, even as her lack of experience gets her into hot water with locals who would prefer she look the other way.

Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen won the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize, which is awarded to a previously unpublished author for a first mystery novel set in the Southwest. This slow-burning mystery is a solid debut with a surprise ending and refreshing and relatable characters, especially Annie, who bungles her way into dangerous situations as she learns the ropes of investigative work. Crime fiction fans in need of something new have just hit pay dirt, and this reader is hoping it will be the first in a new series.

-Carol

Earth Day, Every Day

Founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, the first Earth Day saw rallies held in held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and most other American cities, including here in Cleveland, Ohio.

Earth Day is recognized annually on April 22 and is considered to be the largest secular observance in the world, marked by over a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local environmental policy changes.

Rocky River Public Library will celebrate Earth Day this Saturday, April 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on our Front Lawn. We’ll have representatives from green-friendly organizations who’ll be here to help you learn ways you can be kinder to our planet, opportunities for recycling, seedlings for planting, crafts to make, a plant swap from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and more!

The good, clean Earth Day fun will continue on Sunday, April 24, with a volunteer opportunity to help clean up Rocky River Park. Meet us there, starting at 9:00 a.m.

Sure hope to see you there.

– Carol

Dive into a Sea of Tranquility

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

In 1912, English immigrant Edwin St. Andrew wanders into a forest on Vancouver Island and unwittingly witnesses a fragment of time occurring at an Oklahoma City Airship Terminal in the year 2172 –a phenomenon also witnessed in the same spot and caught on film by Vincent, a teenage girl in the 1990s.

Gaspery-Jacques Roberts grew up in Night City on the moon’s Colony Two. In 2401, he is hired by the Time Institute to investigate this recurring blip in time, a scene which has also been written into a pandemic novel by Night City novelist Olive Llewellyn. Gaspery travels throughout time to investigate the anomaly and meets with Llewellyn in a chapter titled “Last Book Tour on Earth,” set just as a pandemic is about to hit. The connections Gaspery makes with the people who witnessed this time blip only seem to increase his questions about reality, life, and humanity.

I devoured Sea of Tranquility in a single sitting and while its plot is tricky to describe, it is the perfect post-quarantine novel. It subtly asks big questions about the human experience, while taking you on a magical journey through time that reminded me how good making connections with people (even through time and space) feels. While Sea of Tranquility can be read independently, fans of Mandel’s most recent novels, The Glass Hotel (2020) and the recently adapted for television Station Eleven (2014) will especially enjoy how Mandel continues to build on the multiverse of characters that span across her novels.

-Carol

Spring into a Crime Fiction Series

Hideout
by Louisa Luna

Zeb Williams, a one-time college football player went into hiding after he sabotaged his own team’s chance at a huge win. Thirty years later, California-based private investigator Alice Vega, a missing persons specialist, is hired to find him. On the outs with her partner, ex-cop Max “Cap” Caplan, Vega heads alone to the small town of Ilona, Oregon – the last place Zeb had been seen. There, she ends up uncovering a white supremacist gang who are terrorizing their neighbors. Vega won’t let that stand and interjects herself, getting badly beaten in the process. She heals, but then learns that Cap’s daughter is being harassed on the other side of the country. Readers will almost feel sorry for the revenge Vega has planned for this group, whose members include the son of a town bigwig. Is Vega over her head? And how does this connect to the disappearance of the infamous Zeb Williams?

Hideout is an adrenaline filled entry in the Alice Vega series by Louisa Luna, and fans of the first two books will appreciate the character and relationship development and surprises in this installment. Alice Vega is a tough as nails, fearless yet complex P.I., a champion for the helpless and downtrodden who is not afraid of hurting those who hurt others. Readers of Lee Child, action-packed gritty crime fiction, and strong female leads should pick up Hideout or, better yet, the series’ starter Two Girls Down.

-Carol

My Life Is Murder

I love a good mystery program. I like it even better when I can borrow and download one *for free* from one of Rocky River Public Library’s digital streaming services.

On Hoopla, I’ve been enjoying the first two seasons of My Life is Murder, starring Lucy Lawless, best known for her role in Xena: Warrior Princess. In My Life is Murder, Lawless doesn’t fight mythical beasts, but she does kick butt as Alexa Crowe, a former homicide detective turned police consultant.

In the first season, set in Australia, viewers meet Alexa, a widow who has left the world of police work behind her and has turned to baking bread for a living. She reluctantly agrees to look over one baffling murder file at the request of one-time colleague Detective Kieran Hussey and she finds that she just can’t resist helping him out. Alexa’s good instincts and her skill at crime solving quickly make her Kieran’s go-to investigator, in cases ranging from a dead culinary student who slipped in oil, to the death of a teacher that puts Alexa back on the grounds of her former high school.

In season two, Alexa has moved back in her home country of New Zealand—and hopefully, she thinks, to a quieter life away from murder and mayhem. Unfortunately, tales of her legendary investigative skills (and her tech-savvy sidekick Madison) follow her to Auckland, where Alexa finds herself back in the business of busting murderers. Her investigations are just as exciting in round two, with the added bonus of some famous guest stars, including William Shatner.

My Life is Murder is a lighthearted show that is filled with plenty of humor to balance its high, but mostly bloodless, body count and there is a fresh crime for Alexa and her friends to solve each episode. Fans of Columbo and Agatha Raisin or those looking for a fun, breezy, and well-acted mystery series, won’t want to miss this one, which has just been renewed for a third season.

-Carol

A Book That Rocks

The Unsinkable Greta James
by Jennifer E. Smith

36-year-old Greta James is a successful indie rock star whose world is turned upside-down when her mother unexpectedly dies. Grief causes Greta to meltdown on stage in a disastrous performance that goes viral and prompts Greta to impulsively to break up with her current boyfriend. All Greta wants to do is hide from the world but unfortunately, her brother has talked her into going on an Alaskan cruise with their father Conrad.

Greta gets on the ship, knowing the trip will be a disaster and worried that her career might be over. The cruise, meant to be a celebration for her parent’s 40th year anniversary, will be the first time Greta and Conrad are together without her mother there as a buffer. Greta isn’t sure she can have a meaningful conversation with her dad who has always disapproved of her career choice, but now that they are trapped together for a week on the ocean, she might just have to try.

This novel about grief, family, and growing up is moving story with sympathetic characters, a bit of romance, and atmospheric depictions of Alaska. You won’t regret getting on board with The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith. Just be sure to pack a tissue or two.

-Carol

Heat Things Up with a Romance

The Roughest Draft
by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

When Katrina “Kat” Freeling and Nathan Van Huysen met six years ago at a writers’ workshop in upstate New York, their writing styles and personalities just clicked, and the two quickly became the closest of friends and the co-authors of a well-received first novel. By the time their second book goes to print and is on its way to become a hugely successful best-seller, however, something has fractured their partnership and the two aren’t even on speaking terms.

Four years later, Kat and Nathan are still under contract to co-write a final book for their publisher who won’t take no for an answer. Kat very reluctantly agrees to write with Nathan once more, but only to please her agent/fiancé Sam. Nathan agrees, because he secretly thinks he can’t write without Kat.

The two reunite in the same house in the same Florida town they wrote their last book, the one that propelled them to fame, broke up their friendship and quite possibly destroyed Nathan’s marriage. Sequestered on Key Largo, long-buried sparks fly and closing the cover on their book and their relationship may not be as easy as it sounds.

Will they or won’t they? Did they or didn’t they? Told in the present time and through flashbacks, The Roughest Draft by co-authors and real-life couple Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka is a steamy, slow-burn of a romance that will definitely heat up your reading list.

-Carol

An Award-Winning Good Read

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera is a middle grade novel that blends Mexican folklore and science fiction. I just had to read it after learning it won the 2022 Newbery Award, one of the most prestigious prizes in children’s literature.

When Earth is destroyed by a comet, 12-year-old Petra Peña’s family is among those chosen to travel through space and time to help populate a new planet. Something goes wrong while they are in their sleep-states and when Petra wakes up hundreds of years later, she seems to be the only person who remembers Earth. Even more disturbing, the management of the ship and its mission have been taken over by an evil “Collective,” who have purged the memories of those on board, eliminating those unwilling to be brainwashed. Petra, whose close relationship with her abuela (grandmother), Lita, prepared her to be the future world’s cuentista (storyteller), must look deep within herself and her memories in an attempt to save civilization.

I absolutely loved this unusual book that reminded me of The Giver by Lois Lowry. I also loved the way the author weaves Mexican folklore and language throughout the novel, as Petra shares her favorite cuentos (stories) with her newly awakened shipmates. If you like books about the importance of stories, folklore and family, take a magical and memorable journey along with The Last Cuentista.

-Carol

Enjoy a Mystery, BCE

Disappearance of a Scribe is the latest mystery by Dana Stabenow. This second of a planned trilogy is set in Ancient Egypt, 47 BCE in the capital of Alexandria, where Cleopatra is Queen. Her dearest, lifelong friend Tetisheri is her new “Eye of Isis,” a title with the royal authority to investigate mysterious matters that are linked to the Queen. After solving the murder of her predecessor in the series starter, Death of an Eye, Tetisheri isn’t sure she is cut out for the role, but finds herself called to the scene after the bodies of two young men are found drowned in the Mediterranean Sea with their feet set in concrete.

Tetisheri enlists the help of Vitruvius, a famous architect, who identifies a rare additive in the concrete reserved solely for special projects for Cleopatra. As Tetisheri tracks down the people responsible for the murders, her investigations take her to many atmospheric and vibrant locations in Alexandria and put her own life in danger along the way. This historical mystery kept me turning pages with its strong female lead, plenty of political intrigue, atmospheric depictions of Egypt’s bustling capital, some steamy romance between Tetisheri and her handsome bodyguard Apollodorus and of course, its front seat journey through time to the Hellenistic Age. Maybe some crime-solving in Egypt is in your future, too. Pick up Disappearance of a Scribe, or better yet, start with Death of an Eye.

-Carol