What We’re Reading Now–September edition

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith

This challenging and haunting debut novel straddles the line between horror and literary fiction, following three women in Vietnam in three different time periods: 1986, 2009, and 2011. In the 2011 narrative, young American ex-pat Winnie goes missing without a trace. The book is an unpredictable mash-up of Vietnamese folklore, colonial history, revenge, violence, and ghosts- all of which have something to do with Winnie’s disappearance. I have yet to finish the book, but the puzzle of these intersecting characters and timelines is intriguing and I’m looking forward to how this all comes together in the end. Nicole

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen 

The Vietnam War is coming to an end, and as Saigon is about to fall, a Captain begins to plan his General’s escape from the county.  Together, with a select few, they flee Saigon on one of the last army transports over-crowded with other refugees.  The Captain, half-French half-Vietnamese, a man of two minds, is a communist agent whose role is to observe and report back on the military cadre as they establish themselves in America.  As suspicion of a mole rises, the Captain must deflect attention away from himself at terrible costs.  This was an especially interesting and relevant contemplation of war, refugees, politics, and film considering the parallels of current events.  Trent

The Guncle by Stephen Rowley

Patrick loves his niece and nephew, but he is not prepared to be their caregiver when their mother dies and their father checks himself into rehab. A six and nine-year-old don’t really fit into his solitary actor’s life, but he’s resigned to making the best of it. He has Guncle Rules (Gay Uncle Rules) and treats for dinner. The trio stumbles through the summer not realizing how much they are all helping each other. I loved this one so much. It gave me the same feelings as The House in the Cerulean Sea-charming, delightful, and the perfect book for right now. This book was so funny I could almost forget it was, at its heart, a book about grief and loneliness. A must-read, feel-good story. Megan

Her Heart for a Compass by Sarah, Duchess of York

In 1865 London, Lady Margaret Montagu Scott is supposed to be delighted with the man her father chooses to be her husband. She is not! The night her engagement is to be announced, she runs off. Margaret’s family is embarrassed in front of 200 aristocratic guests. Her father refuses to have anything to do with her. Margaret is banished from the family and soon devotes her time and energy into helping the poor.  She heads to Ireland, America and then back to England. This is a fun gossipy tale. Emma

Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel M. Lavery

Lavery’s collection of personal essays struck me with a range of emotions but mostly it had me laughing. This insightful and clever memoir switches from genres and formats with each chapter (and interludes) showcasing the author’s skill as a writer. I highly recommend the audiobook version which is read by the author. Greg

The Wonder Test by Michelle Richmond

On-leave FBI agent, Lina, and her son Rory head to Silicon Valley to clear out her recently deceased father’s house (which is in an extremely snobby and upscale neighborhood) as they are also recovering from her husband’s death. As Rory tries to adjust to life at his exclusive new school, he discovers all academics revolve around something called “The Wonder Test”, a national exam in which his school continuously places first. Students who do poorly on practice tests are required to see tutors in the evenings and on weekends, encouraged to “be sick” on exam days, and there have been some strange teen disappearances. Lina can’t help but to investigate as she attempts to make sense of this strange town and keep her son safe. Sara

February is Women in Horror Month

For the past twelve years, February has been celebrated as Women in Horror Month, a topic very near and dear to my heart. According to the Women in Horror Month website, “Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre.” WiHM aims to help horror works by and featuring women reach a wider audience. This inclusive and positive movement is open to everyone, of course, just as they believe the horror genre should be open to everyone.

WiHM recently announced that as of March 1, 2021 there will no longer be an official WiHM organization, but that they have found there is more than enough content, traffic, and engagement to bring this celebration to communities year round. So, Women in Horror Month might look different moving forward as everyone is now encouraged to choose their own month to celebrate, but I look forward to seeing the creativity and innovation from this community in the years to come!

You can take a look at events going on around the country celebrating WiHM here. Two events I was particularly excited about this month are the “Females of Fright: Zoom Edition” live author panels, both offered for free, thanks to the Horror Writer’s Association! The first panel took place on Friday, February 12th but luckily you can watch it on the HWA’s YouTube channel here. The first panel included Zoje Stage, author of Wonderland, which just so happens to be the next title up for discussion in our Novel Scares book club. Interested in joining us on March 18th to discuss this great creepy novel? Sign up here! The next “Females of Fright” panel is Friday, February 26th at 8 pm (EST) and you can register here.

Looking for more resources for WiHM? Check out two of my favorite blogs, RA for All: Horror, and Ladies of Horror Fiction. Finally, I want to share a recent discovery that is full of dark and horrific literary treasures- including some up and coming women authors- Nightmare Magazine. You can read and listen to full articles for free on their website, and the February 2021 issue includes this *amazing* short story from author E.A. Petricone, “We, the Girls Who Did Not Make It.” I cannot stop thinking about this piece and look forward to reading more from her!

Happy reading and stay safe and warm!

What We’re Reading Now….

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

I’ve been reading The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman, which is the fourth book in the ‘Invisible Library’ series. In this series Librarian Irene Winters steals books from alternate worlds for her interdimensional Library, which helps balance the universe between order and chaos. Expect faeries, dragons, and a fun mash-up of fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction! Shannon

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

I am currently reading The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis. The story takes places in 1913 and in 1993. In 1913 Laura Lyons, her husband, and two children, Pearl and Henry, are living at the New York Public Library. An apartment was provided for the superintendent of the library and his family at that time. The main library was a research facility and no items were allowed to be checked out. Occasionally a rare item would disappear, perhaps stolen. There is a mystery behind why the family left the library, what happened to the superintendent, and what happened to the missing items. In 1993, Pearl’s daughter and Laura Lyons granddaughter, Sadie Donovan works as the curator of a special collection at the New York Public Library main branch. A valuable rare item is missing and library employees are suspected of taking it. At this point Laura and her co-workers are searching to track down the item.  This is where I am in the novel, and I look forward to finishing it.  Emma

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

As the book opens, we meet 13-year-old Giovanna.  Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks.  “Giovanna looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day” says her father, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise.  Giovanna insists on meeting her Aunt Vittoria, described as mean and manipulative.  Once Giovanna’s father concedes to the meeting, Aunt Vittoria warns Giovanna it is her father who is cruel and manipulative.  As the story progresses, we watch how Giovanna grows from being a child, full of naivete, to a rebellious adolescent, to a maturing young adult, breaking free of her parents’ protective space, and creating her own new world.  This is a wonderful coming-of-age novel told in Ferrante’s signature eloquent yet authentic voice. Mary

Count Crowley Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter by David Dastmalchian

This past week I had some time off and decided I wanted to reconnect with some of the things I loved as a kid. This graphic novel was a perfect answer with its focus on two of my early loves, the supernatural and TV horror hosts. This graphic novel is a combination of the movie The Monster Squad with a good dose of the horror hosts we grew up with (Elvira, Ghoulardi, Mystery Science Theater 3000). The art style harkens back to the 1980s aesthetic of its setting. A great read for Universal monster films or anyone looking for a read to help get them in an October mood. Greg

The Stone Sky by N.K Jemisin

I’m finishing book #3 of The Broken Earth trilogy, The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin. It is a fantasy series with a slow burn mystery as we are allowed to piece together whether this post-apocalyptic world could have resulted from a world very similar to ours. The ironically named Stillness is a land where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are commonplace. Through this one super continent two females, a mother and daughter, Essun and Nassun, have separate but always linked adventures. They are two of the most powerful of a race of Orogenes who can control tectonic movement as well as newly discovered strands of magic energy. Other humans fear them, but also need their powers to survive. Things seem to be heading toward an explosive confrontation between mother and daughter. And what of the enigmatic Stone Eaters? Can our heroines trust their intentions? Will they restore or destroy the Earth? Byron

Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit

Set a decade after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, this work of historical fiction explores the imagined back story to that colony’s first recorded official murder. Told in the voices of several colonists, Puritans and their once-indentured servants, this novel sheds light on what was likely a tension-riddled colony with members being afforded different status based on their faiths while others felt marginalized and poorly treated. With characters who come to life, this book makes for a quick and fascinating read that helps reshape some thoughts on our country’s founding. Carol

Florida Man by Tom Cooper

In the late 1960s, Reed Crowe watched a small plane go down off the coast of Emerald Island, Florida, assumed no one survived, and snagged a marijuana bundle bobbing near the wreckage. Almost twenty years later, Reed can still be impulsive but now owns a kitschy roadside attraction and hotel, both only slightly worse for wear. A few uncomfortable coincidences and a few near misses, it seems there was a survivor and they want to make Crowe pay. Can Reed stay alive long enough to figure out what’s going on *and* find a way to fix things? Quirky settings, some dirty deals and graphic violence, perfectly imperfect characters who are (for the most part) doing the best they can, and an intricately plotted storyline, will keep on surprising you with clever, connected details each time you turn the page. PS: Quentin Tarantino fans -this one’s for you! Stacey

Heaven and Earth by Paolo Giordano

 In Heaven and Earth by Paolo Giordano, a group of young men being raised in the farm complex next to her family’s summer retreat accept Teresa into their group, and so begins an intense and emotionally damaging story. Giordano weaves the narrative backwards and forwards in time,  as Teresa forms a deep bond with one of the young men, Bern, and they grow up and in and out of each other’s lives, try to start a farm/commune, and dark secrets leading to tragedy come to the fore. A coming of age novel that is beautifully written, emotionally driven, with fascinating characters.  Dori

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

Lizzie Kitsakis has taken a grueling job as a corporate lawyer in an elite New York law firm- not out of ambition, but in attempt to keep her marriage and financial life afloat as her heavy-drinking husband drifts from one job to another and as Lizzie struggles to accept that he isn’t just “a guy who likes to have a good time” as she’s always thought of him, but an alcoholic. She is surprised by a collect call from Rikers from an old law-school-friend- recently-turned-software mogul, Zach. His wife Amanda has been found dead at the bottom of their staircase, and Zach is a primary suspect. He swears he didn’t do it and begs Lizzie for help. Against her better judgment she allows herself to be drawn in- not only to this case, but to the idyllic world of the suburban elite with its private schools, neighborhood parties, cheating spouses, blackmail of dark secrets, and maybe even murder? As she learns more and more about the people involved in this case, she wonders whether anyone, including herself, truly has a good marriage? Sara

What We’re Reading Now…

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Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey

An introspective murder mystery set at a school for magic, where non-magical private investigator Ivy must find the killer while trying to ignore years of built-up resentment for her magical prodigy of a sister. Shannon

 

 

 

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Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural by Peter Bebergal

I chose this book from a recommendation of a podcast I listen to and it did not disappoint. An exploration of how technology has historically been used to explore and interact with the supernatural, this book covers a wide range of time periods and topics. The author’s addition of a personal narrative of his own efforts to make and use the discussed technology helps to structure the text. The author is thorough in his research and presents the information in a clear and concise tone. Recommended for readers who enjoyed Real Magic by Dean RadinOccult American by Mitch Horowitz, or Netflix’s new show Midnight Gospel.  Greg

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Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham is the Hillary Clinton fan fiction you didn’t know you wanted.  Hillary and Bill meet at Yale law school and share a strong intellectual, emotional, and physical connection.  Well, we know that story of what happened, but Sittenfeld chooses her own adventure in Rodham.  Hillary decides against marrying Bill, instead going on to blaze a different trail. Beth

 

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Good Kids, Bad City: A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in America by Kyle Swenson

In Good Kids, Bad City: A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in America journalist Kyle Swenson weaves the personal stories of three young men who were sentenced to grow up in prison with detailed accounts of corruption and injustice that plagued the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland police department. Swenson’s narrative is a scathing indictment of systematic discrimination that continues to this day.

On May 19, 1975, Harry Franks, a white salesman, was robbed, assaulted, and murdered in broad daylight in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. Three black youth were sentenced and spent a combined 106 years in prison for the crime. The murderer was never caught. The entirety of the prosecution’s case against Wiley Bridgeman, Kwame Ajamu, and Ricky Jackson was based on the eye-witness testimony of 12-year old Ed Vernon. Nearly 40 years later Vernon recanted his story, revealing that the police used fear and coercion to convince him to tell the story they wanted him to tell. Megan

 

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American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Marie, a Black woman, languishes in the New York FBI counterintelligence offices during the height of the Cold War.  Grieving her sister’s mysterious death and frustrated that she  continuously overlooked for high profile assignments, Marie lets herself be recruited when a CIA agent approaches her to infiltrate the entourage of Thomas Sankara, the visiting Burkina Faso president.  John le Carré styled spy fiction that combines intrigue and examines issues of family, loyalty, what it is to be a good American. Trent

 

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Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

This is a story of two sisters’ lives, beginning in their childhood in the 1950’s to present day.  The story begins in Detroit, with Jo and Bethie Kaufman, two sisters who could not be more different from each other.  Jo is a tomboy. intelligent and a rebel bent on making the world a more fair place to live in.  Bethie is the feminine good girl, with dreams of a traditional life of marriage and “happily-ever-after”.  From a young age, the girl’s world is shaken with surprise and tragedy, and they learn to lean on each other for support in order to navigate an ever-changing and evolving world around them.  This is historical fiction, and you will experience a trip down memory lane with Weiner’s descriptive writing. I grew close to these sisters as the novel progressed, and by the end, did not want to let them go.  Their life journeys were compelling & bittersweet.  I strongly recommend this book to shelve on your summer reading list, trust me, you will not be disappointed. Mary

 

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Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

I have to admit that when I started this book, I thought it was the book with a popular miniseries based on it, but that’s Defending Jacob —oops! This book has a similar theme. Stay-at-home father, Simon, has tried to do a good job raising his two children while his wife works as a successful lawyer.  He has doubts as to whether he’s done everything right even now as his kids are teenagers, and his son Jake is not as friendly and outgoing as his sister.  One warm November day, Simon receives a text that there has been a shooting at the high school.  As he rushes to his children, he discovers that Jake is nowhere to be found.  As the story unfolds and suspicion is cast upon Jake, Simon must face his demons about what kind of father he really was, and whether or not he knew his son at all.  It was a riveting read, and I enjoyed it all the way through.  Sara

What we’re reading in March…

The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland

The Floating Feldmans: A Novel by Elyssa…

What happens when a waspy mother, her shopping addict daughter, marijuana growing son, and their families are all stuck on a luxury cruise ship together? The dysfunctional family trip of a lifetime, of course! The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland is the perfect lighthearted companion to bring the comic relief you need on your next family vacation. Beth

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon is set in Laos during the Vietnam War, when the country was continuously bombed in a covert attempt by the CIA to wrest power from the communist Pathet Lao, a group allied with North Vietnam and the Soviet Union. Three teens, Alasik and siblings Prany and Noi have lost their parents to opium and violence, and are surviving by working at a makeshift hospital, driving motorbikes to make deliveries, tending to patients and staking out paths between the unexploded bombs. Yoon’s spare, exacting prose expresses their hopes, their friendship, their humanity in the midst of heartbreaking events. Beautiful, just beautiful – I couldn’t stop reading it. Dori

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

This spooky supernatural thriller follows 20-year-old Carly Kirk as she ventures to upstate New York, having recently lost her mother to cancer, determined to solve the mysterious disappearance of her aunt Viv at the Sun Down Motel 35 years ago. Viv worked the overnight shift at the motel and completely vanished one night in November of 1982- her body was never found by authorities and her family basically wiped her from their collective memory. Carly herself signs on for the same graveyard shift at the motel, and soon discovers that the town of Fells, NY seems to have had a number of never-solved murders of local young women immediately preceding Viv’s disappearance. Readers experience the story in alternating narratives, from Viv’s point of view in 1982 and Carly in the present, with both characters experiencing terrifying moments at the motel as they dig deeper into the motel’s secrets. I haven’t made it to the end yet, but I can’t wait to see how this wraps up! Mystery and horror fans will definitely want to pick this up. Nicole

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli

This is the political rom-com I did not know I needed. Jamie Goldberg is happy to volunteer for his local senate candidate. His cousin is the campaign manager and Jamie himself has political aspirations, which will never happen because he just can’t talk to people. Maya’s life is falling apart–her parents are separating and her best friend is too busy working and getting ready for college. When her mom runs into Jamie’s mom the two mothers hatch a plan for the teens to canvass together. What’s in it for Maya? A car at the end of the summer. The reluctant duo start knocking on doors and before they know it a new friendship has developed. Jamie and Maya expertly handle their roles as activists, but the issue of cross-cultural romance is not so easy a topic to navigate. A rare YA book with present and supportive parents as well as normal and realistic friendships. While the relationship between Maya and Jamie is cute, the book doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to addressing racism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy. Megan

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Marianne and Connell are high school seniors and clandestine lovers. Both are star students, however, Marianne is an outcast, raised by her widowed mother in a wealthy home ridden with dysfunction. Connell is a popular star athlete, raised by his unwed mother, in a working class home, yet is nurtured by a caring, wonderful mom. The twist… Connell’s mother works as a maid at Marianne’s home. For the next four years, the reader follows Marianne’s and Connell’s intense yet complicated relationship that’s repeatedly muddled by secrets, miscommunication, and anxiety about their their place in the social hierarchy. As a reader, you will get mad at those two, you will root for those two, in the end, you will understand those two. If this review doesn’t draw your interest, at least treat yourself to a book taking place in Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! Mary

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Journalist Lulu Randolph heads to Nassau in 1941 to investigate the governor, actually the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, for a popular New York magazine. Soon Lulu falls in love with Benedict Thorpe, a British scientist who is captured by the Nazis. Told in alternating chapters, It’s also the story of Benedict’s parents, Elfriede and Wilfred decades earlier. This is an exceptional historical novel full of romance, spies, intrigue, racial tension and murder. Emma

What we’re reading so far….

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House is a story of siblings, Danny and Maeve Conroy, their obsessive connection with the iconic family house they lived in as young children and how their lives unfolded over the years.  The story is told through the eyes of Danny, younger of the two siblings.  We, as readers, watch Danny realize his life is peculiar, his childhood home is extraordinary, and the rooms and people of his childhood are more complex than he thought.  At times, the story resembles a fairy tale, with stepchildren and evil step mother, however, author, Ann Patchett, with such great compassion and wit, brings the story so alive that one can’t help but get hooked.  Get yourself on the holds list for this right now.  It was my favorite book of 2019.  In the meantime, treat yourself with any other book by Ann Patchett. Mary

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

VanderMeer quickly became one of my favorite authors after I read his amazing Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance) so I began reading Borne with high expectations. I’m happy to report that Borne does not disappoint and delivers more of the weird, literary, dark, dystopian science fiction that I had hoped for. In a destroyed city that is never named, readers meet the smart and resourceful scavenger Rachel. She tries her best to survive in the city with her partner Wick, gathering relics from abandoned buildings, rebuilding biotech, and trying to evade the gigantic, monstrous bear, named Mord. Mord enjoys flying above the city, eating whatever and whomever he pleases, and generally destroying all in his path. Mord is the creation of the evil and ominous Company, who appear to be responsible for not only Mord’s terrible presence but also the general collapse of the city and all of the terrifying and strange creatures who live there. Rachel finds a curious blob-like creature entangled in Mord’s fur one day while scavenging, and quickly discovers the blob is intelligent, talks, and is also growing at a rapid rate. She names the now tentacled discovery Borne, and things only get weirder from there. Nicole

That Darkness by Lisa Black

That Darkness by Lisa Black

That Darkness is the first in the Gardiner and Renner series. Maggie Gardiner is a forensic investigator for the Cleveland Police Department. Jack Renner is a homicide detective working a series of murders with the same cause of death but no other obvious connection. The more Maggie pores over the evidence, the more she suspects a vigilante killer who possibly has ties to the police department. When the evidence finally points to Jack, Maggie is confronted with a moral dilemma. Will she reveal Jack’s secret? Lisa Black is a former trace evidence specialist for the Cuyahoga County coroner and current CSI in Florida, and the crime scene details of the book are meticulously written and described. Jack’s vigilante serial killer story is introduced but not completely explained. Readers will have to continue the series for more details! I did, in fact, binge the series in it’s current entirety and it definitely gets better as they go along. Maggie and Jack tackle cases involving the murders of journalists, corrupt politicians, and teens living in a county facility. As they cover different cases they have to navigate the huge secret that defines their relationship. I look forward to more stories of fictional Cleveland crimes from Lisa Black.  Megan

Loom by Sarah Gridley

Loom by Sarah Gridley

I’m reading a book of poetry, Loom, by Sarah Gridley, which came out in 2013.  I had Sarah as a poetry teacher when I was briefly a student at Case, and she was wonderful for many reasons, so I could be biased.  But sometimes I think Sarah’s poetry is a kind of well-kept secret, not only in CLE but elsewhere as well, and that she deserves a wider audience.  Like other poets I love, including John Ashbery and Anne Carson, Sarah’s poetry gets pegged as “difficult,” but in a pejorative way – it’s too weird, people say, too interior, too lacking in narrative maybe, customary guideposts, something like that. But that’s exactly why I love Sarah’s poetry.  It is a kind of startling confrontation, because it forces you to trust your intuition, your heart, your own senses and your own mind, and encounter the poem without any preconceptions about what a poem should do, think, imagine or be.  Sarah’s poems are profoundly intelligent, open, spacious, deeply feeling-full, generous, fun, imaginative, and creative.  And the music of her poetry is her own – funny, wondering, modestly immodest, intimate. Check out Loom from RRPL, if you’re interested, and stay alert – her latest book of poems, Insofar, which won the Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press, chosen by Forest Gander, who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry last year, is coming out later this year in April.  Andrew

Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin

Recently I decided to take advantage of our large collection of digital audiobooks through ClevNet Overdrive to listen to audio versions of fantasy novels I haven’t yet read. I began with the iconic Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin. I am 4 books in and have enjoyed listening to each one immensely. Already being a fan of audio books, I have found this digital format very convenient as I am able to switch from device to device and pickup where I left off. Audio books have allowed me the chance to catch-up on books that I have been meaning to read. Would high recommend this series and this format. Greg

The Furies by Katie Lowe

The Furies by Katie Lowe

Violet begins the fall term as the new girl at Elm Hollow Academy, the site of witch hangings in the 17th century and the mysterious death of a student years later. Her home life has been unhappy since her father and sister died in a car crash, and her mother never mentally recovered from the tragedy. She expects to be a loner, like she has been since the accident, but is immediately taken under the wing of a wild and charming girl and her group of friends. They are part of an advanced study group with a teacher who studies ancient history and mythology as well as the rites and spells of the witches from long ago. Taught as history not practice, the girls nevertheless are drawn towards the idea of powerful women and powerful magic. They become increasingly wild and reckless as they learn the secrets of the women who came before them and begin to feel the power these women held. When one of the girls is violated, they swear revenge, and Violet is no longer sure of what is real, what is make believe, and what is magic. Sara

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Journalist Lulu Randolph heads to Nassau in 1941 to investigate the governor, actually the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, for a popular New York magazine. Soon Lulu falls in love with Benedict Thorpe, a British scientist who is captured by the Nazis. Told in alternating chapters, It’s also the story of Benedict’s parents, Elfriede and Wilfred decades earlier. This is an exceptional historical novel full of romance, spies, intrigue, racial tension and murder. Emma

What we’re reading now…..

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

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Whitehead’s harrowing story about a reform school in Florida during the Jim Crow-era is fictional, though based on real life accounts.  The story does not dramatize the violence and horrors of the reality, rather lets the circumstances speak for themselves.  It is a powerful story regarding the very real racial inequality of our country in the not so distant past.  Beth

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

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This is the second short story collection I have read by author Karen Russell. Just like her other anthology Vampires in the Lemon Grove : Stories, Orange World offers the reader a variety of stories where everything seems similar and yet uncanny. In a USA Today interview Russell has said that her work isn’t so much magical realism as it is “magical thinking” writing. Highly recommend for fans of Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, and Victor Lavelle. Greg

Russell’s third collection gives readers eight amazing stories that span a variety of subjects and experiences, all beautifully written, insightful, and often wonderfully weird. Each work is wildly creative, whether you are transported to a future Florida ravaged by rising ocean water and climate change, joining two young women as they attempt to survive an evening trapped in a haunted ski-lodge, or following a widowed farmer as he recklessly returns to a life of raising tornadoes on the Nebraska prairie. Russell skillfully weaves tales that combine both the supernatural and mundane, crafting subtly creepy and emotionally resonant stories. A highly recommended volume for fans of her prior collections, as well as those who enjoy darkly humorous literary fiction. Nicole

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

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I recently read the stage play The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by writing partners Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. It was first published in 1970 during the Vietnam War era, a time when many young people were protesting the American involvement in that conflict. In the play Henry David Thoreau, as a young man, engages in Civil Disobedience by not paying his taxes to show his disapproval of the Mexican-American War. The parallel is clear. The play also shows Thoreau’s relationship with Ralph Waldo Emerson and allows the character to express several themes that he would write about in his middle age before he died at the age of 44. The script is often dream-like with multiple flashbacks from the jail cell used to highlight moments from Thoreau’s development as a thinker who would not just “go along” with the status quo. Byron

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

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This is the story of Edith and her sister Helen who have been estranged for decades when Helen convinces their father to leave the family farm to her. Helen uses the money to rebuild the Blotz beer brand with her husband Orval Blotz. When granddaughter Diana’s parents are killed, Edith raises her. Together they barely scrape by. Diana has a talent for making beer and eventually buys a small brewery. With Diana’s talent, perseverance, and the help of her grandmother and Edith’s elderly friends, the brewery is successful. This is a hopeful and heartwarming story of take-charge women when the going gets tough. Emma

 

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

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In the Spring of 1981, the four young Skinner siblings lose their father to a heart attack and soon to follow will lose their mother to severe depression, a time period that the siblings will refer to as The Pause.  Caught between the easy & comfortable life they once had and an uncertain future, the children navigate The Pause with fear and resentment, only to become fiercely loyal to each other.  Two decades later The Skinners find themselves again confronted with a family crisis that will test the strength of these bonds and force them to question the life choices they’ve made and what exactly they will do for love.  This book was much like Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.  If you like family drama, like I do, I recommend this book. Mary

The Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson 

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is convinced that her best friend’s death is not part of a suicide pact that has already claimed the lives of the school’s two most popular mean girls. When she finds a mysterious grimoire with a too good to be true solution to her problem, she sets out to resurrect Riley. Of course things don’t go as expected–instead of bringing back Riley to get answers to her murder, she resurrects her bestie AND their bullies, the newly dead mean girls June and Dayton. To make matters worse, none of them have any memory of their deaths. Mila has one week to figure it all out while keeping her zombies out of sight. Surprisingly deep and insightful, this body-positive witch tale is a fun exploration of bullying, friendships, and redemption. Megan

Follow Her Home by Steph Cha

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Juniper Song has no experience as a detective.  The closest qualification she has when asked by her best friend to investigate whether his father is having an affair is that she is a Raymond Chandler super fan.  However, this lack of practical training does not deter Juniper from taking the role of Phillip Marlowe and agreeing to do some light snooping.  Following the tradition Marlowe long ago set, Juniper is quickly knocked out soon after she begins looking into the matter.  Only, when Juniper wakes up, the stakes have risen when she also finds a dead body in the trunk of her car.  Great noir that, while paying homage to Chandler, looks to update and add to the genre. Trent

Watching You by Lisa Jewel

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I read this quick moving thriller in a few sessions. Told from the points of view of a few “watchers”: a young, restless newlywed living with her brother and his wife has her eye on the handsome older neighbor who is the new school principal; the awkward teenage principal’s son has his eye on most of the neighborhood; the crazy lady next door is sure EVERYONE is watching her, and her daughter has heard terrible rumors about her new principal and is befriending his son to find out if they are true. This voyeuristic neighborhood is thrown into turmoil when someone is brutally murdered. Everyone saw something, but can anyone put it all together? Sara

The Religion of Tomorrow: A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions by Ken Wilber

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Wilber is a philosopher and transpersonal psychologist, and this is one of a few tomes he has written, all wonderful, about helpful ways of thinking about more out-there topics like mysticism, consciousness, and spirituality.  Wilber is also a Buddhist, but his critiques of religion are applicable to Western and Eastern approaches.  I have been reading him for some time now, and have always found him very insightful.  For anyone interested, a great place to start to understand his framework, which is called “AQAL” – standing for “all quadrant, all level” – is his Integral Psychology from 1994.  Andrew

What we’re reading now….

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

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This is a slightly twisted thriller that takes place in the suburbs of Boston.  Henrietta and her husband Llody move to a new suburb for a change of scenery.  Before they know it they are attending a dinner party at their neighbor’s house, and Hen stumbles on a suspicious clue that potentially links her neighbor to a murder in their old town.  Things quickly escalate as the story unfolds, and nothing is quite like it seems.  Beth

Silent City by Alex Segura

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Due to his drinking, Pete is barely holding on to his dead-end and unfulfilling sports editor job with the Miami Herald, and his social life is a mess.  Pete is half-in-the-bag and skipping on work when he accepts the request from the Herald’s washed-up columnist to search for his missing daughter.  Not really remembering why he agreed to help, Pete figures he will make a few calls to mutual acquaintances and ends up stumbling around and stirring up trouble as he plays detective. Silent City is Segura’s first in the Peter Fernandez series.  The recently published fourth installment, Blackout, is nominated for the Anthony Award to be announced in November. Trent

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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I am reading this for our Classic Book Discussion on Monday, August 12, at 7pm.  I have just finished part one and started part two (there are three parts).  The novel was written in French and published in 1856 (I am reading the more recent translation into English by Lydia Davis); when it was first published, in serialized form, the government brought an action against it for immorality (!) – the charge was acquitted.  The book is absolutely marvelous – the writing is really uncanny and exquisite, almost perfect in a way, and is the first example of what is called “literary realism,” a technique that we are now habituated to experience when reading novels, but was in many ways inaugurated by Flaubert.  Put simply, the book is about a dissatisfied and romantic heroine, Emma Bovary, who seeks to escape the boredom and banality of her life through increasingly desperate acts.  If you are interested, please procure a copy of the book, read it (and hopefully enjoy it), and come on August 12 to discuss.    Andrew

 The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

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This is the story of Martha Storm who volunteers at her local library. She lives in her childhood home surrounded by her dead parents’ possessions along with various projects she plans to finish for others. Martha receives a mysterious book signed and dated by her grandmother, Zelda, who supposedly died years before the date of inscription. Martha is determined to understand what happened and uncover any family secrets. This is a charming story with a happy ending.  Emma

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro

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In 2016 author, Dani Shapiro, on a lark, decided to submit her DNA for analysis at a genealogy website.  Soon after she received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father.   Dani Shapiro urgently begins a quest to unlock the story of her own identity.  She unfolds many secrets kept for a myriad of reasons.  He journey is a compelling story of paternity, identity and belonging.  This story is more a personal journey than a scientific journey.  I did find the author to be self absorbed at times, however, I am empathetic with the tremendous emotional upheaval this discovery caused the author.  A quick and interesting read.  Mary     

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep 

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This the story of the murder of Willie Maxwell, a southern preacher who was accused of murdering five people in order to collect the insurance money, the lawyer who defended the both Reverend Maxwell and the man accused of murdering him, and Harper Lee, the author seeking to write her own In Cold Blood.  This book reads like three separate stories, beginning with Willie Maxwell,  his alleged victims, and rumors of voodoo. Tim Landry, his charismatic lawyer is introduced to readers as the man who won acquittals in five murder trials. It is Harper Lee that ties these stories together. Readers are treated to a detailed biography of Nelle Harper Lee, including tales from her childhood, accounts of her friendship with Truman Capote, and details of her complicated writing career.  This is a real treat for true crime lovers and fans of Harper Lee.  Megan

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

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Andrea Cooper knows her mother Laura–a strong woman who has protected, loved and taken care of her for her whole life. Andrea, after an unsuccessful attempt at making it big in New York City, has come back home to her small childhood town of Belle Isle, GA to take care of her mother who has been diagnosed with breast cancer . She thinks she knows everything about the sleepy town and her never changing mother–until a mall shooter almost kills them both, and Laura takes him down like some sort of NAVY seal operative. It turns out her mother used to be someone else, and if Andrea doesn’t figure out who that person was, why her mother is in hiding or who is after her, they both may not make it. Sara

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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This is a story about a poor teen who joins a city wide track team. He’s never been part of a team before. His mother is working and putting herself through college. He frequently gets in trouble at school because his classmates make fun of the neighborhood where he lives, his ill-fitting clothes, the fact that his mother cuts his hair, everything associated with being poor. Can he adapt to the rules at track practice with Coach and find a place among the other young runners? Reynolds writes in a way that definitely gets inside the head of this teenager. I became interested in this title when I heard the author speak as part of the PBS Great American Reads series, and it is another part of my effort to read books from more diverse voices. So far it is very relatable even though I never participated on a sports team in school myself. Byron

What we’re reading now….

Secret Historian by Justin Spring

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This the biography of Samuel Steward, a man who would go by many other names in his life. Born in Southeast Ohio, Steward would attend Ohio State University, work as a university English professor, befriend Alfred Kinsey and Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, collaborate and contribute to the work of the Kinsey Institute, begin working as a tattoo artist, be ousted from his university job, move to California, and write gay pulp novels. The story of his career is intertwined with his identity as a homosexual man and his intimate personal life. This book uses the treasure trove of personal letters and personal effects to give a frank depiction. An exploration of Pre-Stonewall and gay liberation that gives the reader a glimpse into this man’s world and life.  Greg

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Daisy is a girl coming of age in the late sixties.  She is a free spirited, beautiful young woman with a fantastic voice.  The Six is a band led by the  brooding Billy Dunne.  Daisy and Billy eventually cross paths in the world of music, and a producer realizes that the key to massive success is to put the two together.  What happens next is the story of rock legends.    Mary

Chapters in the Course of My Life by Rudolf Steiner

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Steiner was a 19th century Austrian philosopher and “Anthroposophist” – anthroposophy is a spiritual movement Steiner founded, that believed there was a spiritual world accessible to human experience.  Steiner was also the founder of Waldorf education, which focuses on the child as a holistic being, with an emphasis on imagination and creativity. His autobiography is absolutely fascinating, both as a chronicle of his own intellectual and spiritual development, as well as a record of the amazing thinkers, poets, and artists that Steiner associated with and learned from. Andrew

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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This book, often touted as a very Millennial love story, follows Connell and Marianne and their shifting relationship as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.  During high school, Connell is a star athlete, popular and well liked while Marianne is an aloof loner.  They begin to grow closer during the times Connell picks up his mother from her work as Marianne’s family’s housekeeper, eventually starting a secret relationship.  As time passes, so does the nature of their relationship and personal circumstances.  Both Connell and Marianne are relatable, though at times, unlikable characters, leading them to make upsettingly poor choices.   A quick read with a lasting impact. Trent

Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

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In 2017 much was being written about the rediscovered classic Mrs. Caliban. That was the year Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water featured a similar story of love between a woman and an amphibious creature. Earlier this year the author died and I decided to add this to my reading list for something a little different. This novella moves along at a fast clip. Despite the character Dorothy’s unhappy marriage and humdrum domesticity in the suburbs, Ingalls writes with a droll voice. The creature goes by the human name Larry although the news reports warn people that he is a dangerous monster. I’ve read analysis that Larry could just be a figment of Dorothy’s imagination, a representation of an exciting liberation from her mundane mechanical life. I tend to think of Larry as real, but until I reach the end I have yet to fully make that determination. What do you think? Byron

Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander

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This is the Russian story of Katya who inherits an old Bluthner piano in 1962. She loves music and her piano. Katya marries Mikhail, who becomes a violent drunk, and eventually settles in California. Sadly, the piano is gone. Years later Clara receives a Bluthner piano from her father on her 12th birthday. At 26 years old Clara, suddenly homeless, leases her piano to photographer Greg Zeldin who uses it for a photo series in Death Valley. Greg travels to places he remembers visiting with his mother. Clara follows the adventure ultimately making a connection with Greg, his mother, her father and the piano. This is a beautiful story with lots of attention to detail. Emma

Crimson Lake  by Candice Fox

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Set in a small town in Australia, this series opener stars a disgraced former cop trying to hide from his past and start over.  On the advice of his lawyer he seeks out a local PI who has her own dark past. They make for an odd couple, but they are soon teamed up to work a case involving a missing author. As they work the case Ted and Amanda each start poking around the other’s past. One odd couple, three cases, and a box of geese all make for a fantastic series opener. Megan

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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This book is a fictional depiction of the very real, very heinous Tennessee Children’s Home Society.   Through alternating timelines we learn about one politically powerful family’s ties to this heartbreaking institution and how so many lives would forever be changed.  Beth

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

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Marie Mitchell is working for the FBI during the 1980s Cold War when she’s recruited to travel to Burkina Faso as a spy to take-down their revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara. Black, female, French-speaking and repeatedly snubbed in her FBI career, she’s the ideal candidate for the job. Marie chose to be an FBI agent to pay tribute to her recently deceased sister, who died mysteriously. Now, still grieving, she’s heading to Africa, knowing she’d been chosen for her looks, not her talent, and questioning whether Thomas Sankara is as destructive as the U.S. claims him to be. Told as a letter she’s writing to her two young sons, American Spy is a fascinating look at espionage, the Cold War, African politics, race, gender and imperialism, with a dose of romance and suspense thrown in for good measure. Bahni Turpin does an incredible job narrating the audiobook! Dori

I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

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Cody Swift is doing a podcast with his girlfriend in an attempt to re-open an investigation into the deaths of his two best friends which occurred twenty years ago when the boys were only eleven years old. As Cody interviews old detectives, parents and witnesses, he frightens someone into threatening his and his girlfriend’s safety. It seems that no one told the whole truth about everything that happened that night. Told in the present, and also through the eyes of 11-year-old Cody in flashbacks, the book is an engaging, page turning read. I felt that the ending had a good twist to it that I did not anticipate, but it was a bit too rushed which made it somewhat anticlimactic. I still would recommend it. Sara