It was fun to look back and see what I was reading all year long–some of them feel like I finished them so long ago, and some I remember every detail like I read them yesterday. It was another year of suspense and mystery for me, with a little fantasy thrown in. Not usually my favorite genre, but I may be changing my mind a little. In no particular order, please enjoy ten of my favorites that I read this year!
Take a look at some of the exciting new fiction coming to our shelves this winter. Whether you are looking for a literary fiction read, a historical page-turner, or a medical thriller, we have something for you!
12/03: Genesis by Robin Cook – New York Times-bestselling author Robin Cook takes on the ripped-from-the-headlines topic of harnessing DNA from ancestry websites to catch a killer in this timely and explosive new medical thriller.
12/03: The Peppermint Tea Chroniclesby Alexander McCall Smith – The latest book in Alexander McCall Smith’s popular 44 Scotland Street series is a sheer delight. Once again, Scotland Street teems with the daily triumphs and challenges of those who call it home, and provides a warm, wise, and witty chronicle of the affairs in this corner of the world.
12/10:The Book of Science and Antiquitiesby Thomas Keneally – The bestselling author of The Daughters of Mars and Schindler’s List, returns with an exquisite exploration of community and country, love and morality, taking place in both prehistoric and modern Australia.
12/10: The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz William – The dazzling narrator of The Wicked City brings her mesmerizing voice and indomitable spirit to another Jazz Age tale of rumrunners, double crosses, and true love, spanning the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Long Island to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
12/10: Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin – A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, and fate.
12/17: The Network by L. C. Shaw – A pulse-pounding, page-turning thriller involving corruption, secrets, and lies at the very deepest levels of government and media.
Meet recently separated Toby Fleishman, medical professional by day, kids every other weekend, newbie bachelor exploring the the singles scene through a dating app on his phone. Toby’s life has been turned upside down by his ex-wife’s disappearance. Has she truly disappeared, is she avoiding Toby and their shared responsibilities with their kids, or is she having a nervous breakdown? Toby will embark on a desperate search for his ex-wife while juggling his career and trying to parent 2 unraveling kids. Don’t pass this book up. From the outside it seems like another “Bridget Jones ” type story, but there is much more here to enjoy and explore. This book is witty, fast-paced, with sharp observations about marriage, divorce and parenting in today’s world. Mary
This is the tale of the ‘shining’ Genji, the favorite son the Japanese Emperor, and Genji’s many romantic dalliances and the resulting political consequences. While a bit of slog at roughly 1200 pages and with an unsympathetic main character, this novel, argued by many to be the world’s first novel, fascinatingly details the intricate court life of a thousand years ago in Heian Period Japan. Trent
High school dropout Galaxy “Alex” Stern has narrowly escaped her disastrous Los Angeles past of drug dealer boyfriends and violence, awakening in a hospital bed the sole survivor of a gruesome multiple homicide. While recovering, she is offered a strange but irrefutable second chance: attend Yale completely free of cost if she serves as the new “Dante” for Lethe. Lethe is the Ninth House of the Houses of the Veil, secret societies at Yale that generally practice magic to ensure their own professional success and financial security. Alex is responsible for overseeing the rituals and magic of the other eight houses, assuring everyone involved survives and that no dangerous magic escapes. Soon though a young woman is found brutally murdered on campus and Alex suspects magic was involved. Wildly atmospheric and emotional charged, this page-turner is highly recommended for fans of dark adult fantasy. Nicole
Lerner is one of my favorite contemporary novelists. Whenever I read one of his books, I feel that he is describing aspects of my own experience, but much better than I could ever do – sort of giving me the words, or some words, I guess, that make sense to me, and help me understand my own life up to this point. TheTopeka School is a fictional take on Lerner’s adolescence – he grew up in the Midwest, Jewish, white and privileged, but also experienced anomie, rootlessness, angst, all the blues that come with being a teenager. The novel is very smart, poignant, and incisive, as well as experimental in ways I find really interesting and exciting. Recommended as a fascinating study of violence, whiteness and maleness, that is not afraid to be both honest and compassionate. Andrew
Nebula and Hugo Award winning Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is a quick placed novella that introduces the reader to Binti as she leaves home to study at the most prestigious university in the galaxy, Oomza University. The author propels the reader into a futuristic world where marvels of technology live as the everyday and intergalactic travel is routine. At times the amount of new information and fast pace can be a bit overwhelming, but when enjoyed as a whole series (there are two sequels that expand on many of the terms, concepts introduced) the reader is presented with a rich narrative that explores heroism, growth, and family. Greg
It is 1957 and Naoko Nakamura wants to marry American serviceman Jimmy Kovac. Her family has other plans for her including an arranged marriage. Pregnant Naoko leaves her family’s home to marry Jimmy. When Jimmy is away, Naoko finds herself in a maternity home designed to take care of unwanted pregnancies, namely mixed-race children. Eventually Naoko escapes from the maternity home and her sickly baby is born. Decades later in Ohio Jimmy’s daughter, Tori, is given a letter from her father on his deathbed to be given to Naoko in Japan. Tori is determined to find her half-sister. This is an enjoyable well-researched piece of historical fiction. Emma
Inlandby Tea Obrecht
Two lives unfold in the late 19th century American West in Inland by Tea Obrecht. A duel narrative, we hear the story of Lurie, a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts, lost souls who always want something from him. Lurie’s mysterious traveling companion hears his story. Meanwhile, Nora awaits the return of her sons and her husband in drought stricken Arizona while conversing with her daughter, who died in infancy. Haunted by their pasts, Nora and Lurie do what they can to survive. I listened to the audiobook, which was transporting, with talented narrators who really captured the characters. Dori
A deep detailed history of the Caribbean and North America with a little coverage of major events in Meso and South America. The Spanish have older roots here than the English. Written records like diary entries and letters by government and church administrators are quoted as often as possible. Gibson is specific also about the different ingenious cultures (ex. Tainos, Maya, Apalachee, and Zuni) encountered. It is a thick history book and is taking quite a commitment of time to work through it, but I am finding it constantly fascinating. Byron
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
This novel begins in the summer of 1969. Four young siblings stumble upon information of a traveling fortune teller within their neighborhood, whom can tell anyone the day they will die. Curious about such a power, the children seek out the fortune teller, and each are told the day of their death. The story is told in four separate parts, each part dedicated to each sibling. The four children, straightforward Varya, bossy Daniel, magic obsessed Klara and dreamy Simon, must come to terms with the information imparted on them by the fortune teller. This is also a story about family. While each sibling has their own story, their relationship with each other is woven into their lives, and always a piece of them. What keeps the reader most engaged lies in which characters will meet their demise on said projected date and how will death take them, or better yet, can they somehow change their fated date? Mary
Long ago the Raven promised his protection to the lands of Iraden. In return for his protection, the Lease must sacrifice himself upon the death of the Raven’s physical manifestation. Mawat rides for the Raven’s Tower informed that this rite is imminent. There he will take his rightful place on the throne as the Lease’s heir. However, another now sits on the throne and claims the title Lease for himself. Worse yet, he claims the previous Lease fled and the sacrifice to the Raven has not been made. Though The Raven Tower may be a fantasy novel, Leckie has retained some of the essence typical of a science fiction novel. Large swaths of the novel are taken over by explaining the magical system and contemplating what are essentially logic puzzles. Everything is very precise, but as with the best science fiction, it remains lively and fascinating. Trent
I was fascinated by and completely absorbed in this debut book of short stories by Neel Patel. I finished the book in a week, which is unheard of for me. Most of these stories have a refreshingly modern voice and are told from the perspective of a first-generation Indian American who stands at the intersection of cultures where traditional beliefs (such as arranged marriages) collide with modern rituals (such as Facebook stalking). The stories are deceptively casual in that the language is conversational, but each character contends with complicated questions about cultural and sexual identity, mental illness, and family dysfunction – and does so with charm, depth, and humor. Hand this book to any person who likes a thoughtful and entertaining story. Lindsey
I also have Ms. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series on my reading list so when an advanced copy of this Smoke & Summons became available I was excited to sample it. It is the beginning of a new trilogy called the Numina trilogy. It is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic steampunk world, but with outlawed magic talismans and spells secretly used by a select few. Or you could say it is a polluted, corrupt, “smokepunk” world with a big division between the haves and have-nots. Young adults Sandis and Rone are unlikely heroes at the center of the story. Sandis is a vessel for an ancient spirit, known as a Numin. She is a slave to an evil wizard who can summon a raging fire horse into her against her will. Rone is a street-smart thief who is willing to help her escape as long as he can fix his own family troubles first. So far the first half of this fantasy adventure with religious hypocrisy and dangerous occult forces sprinkled throughout is exciting. It has delivered several surprises that make me eager to find out what happens next. Byron
In this best-selling book, renowned anti-racism educator Dr. DiAngelo clearly and succinctly outlines how racism is not simply a “bad person” phenomenon, but a systematic construct. Her concept of white fragility refers to the defensive moves white people make when their notions of race are challenged. Beyond detailing the problem, DiAngelo also provides clear instructions on how white people can engage in cross-racial discussions more productively. This is an eye-opening, must-read for white people who are truly invested in having meaningful, live-changing conversations about race. Megan
Written by singer, songwriter, and performance artist, Amanda Palmer, this book straddles the line between biography and manifesto. This book’s creation was spurned by Palmer’s TED Talk where she told of her time as a living statue and how it exemplified her belief in the act asking and the act’s power. This book gives a short biography of Palmer’s career and how it was influenced/driven by relationships she built. A great book that offers an alternative relationship than the producer/consumer of many artistic fields. I personally recommend the audio book as it includes songs from Palmer’s career and creates a fuller picture of her creative output. Greg
This is the story of Emily Bryce who wants to join the war effort. After the death of her only brother, Emily’s parents want her home. When Emily turns 21 she joins the Women’s Land Army where “land girls” are taught necessary farming skills while the young men are off fighting in WWI. Emily falls in love with an Australian pilot who is killed in action. Pregnant and alone she volunteers to tend the neglected gardens of a Devonshire estate. The “Woman’s Land Army” detail was an interesting addition to a great story from a very talented author. Emma
Scholem, as a scholar, pretty much brought the topic of Jewish mysticism into the consciousness of the 20th century. Kabbalah is a book about Jewish mysticism – its historical development, ideas, and personalities. Although at times somewhat dry, especially in the opening section on the historical development of Jewish mysticism, the book picks up much speed in the section where I am now, which discusses the really staggeringly original ideas involved with Kabbalah, including the sefirot, the Zohar, and ideas about how the world was created. Recommended for people interested in mysticism and religion. Andrew
I just finished the third book of the Bear and the Nightingale trilogy, and it was fabulous. These stories are set in Russia of the 1400’s and are a seamless mix of truth and folklore. Vasilisa Petrovna must once more save her beloved Moscow from the evil forces bent on destroying it. As Christianity and old religion come face to face, things are not as simple as the parish priests would like the people to believe. Vasya must come to terms with the accusation of being a witch and the shame it brings her family, and the reality that Rus needs someone to fight and believe in the “old ways” in order to battle forces of evil and destruction. Sara
This book is a beautiful testament to the importance of providing a nurturing and supportive environment for children to grow into their best possible selves. The inside view of Michelle’s childhood is evidence that through the support and encouragement of her parents and extended family, she was able to focus on her education and become a successful female, African American lawyer before she was 30. Her early career in law was only the beginning of her reluctant journey to become one of America’s most beloved first ladies. I walked away from this book with strong admiration for the very public figure that Mrs. Obama has become in our culture. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone. If you love the Obamas you should read this book. If you don’t like the Obamas, you should really read this book. Beth
Four girls attending boarding school participate in a sinister game which involves lying to everyone except each other. However, years later when a body is found, it becomes obvious that someone broke the only rule of the game.
When Beth disappears, everyone says she’s run off with another man. But her best friend Natalie, doesn’t believe that at all, and proving it just might get her killed. A perfectly paced psychological thriller that keeps you wondering until the end.
After heartbreaking infertility and failed adoption attempts, Tess sees a young, half-dressed little girl in the road who disappears into the woods. But with no other sightings, missing child reports or witnesses, Tess begins to be doubted by the townspeople and herself.
Young Eddie and his friends develop a game using chalk figure codes which leads them to a dismembered body and to the end of their game. Years later chalk figures are showing up again, and one old friend turns up dead. Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others.
Essie is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a hit reality TV show about her family’s life and fire-and-brimstone religious beliefs. When Essie winds up pregnant, will she be forced into an arranged-blockbuster-marriage episode? Or will she escape her strange, always-on-display life?
Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy, small-town life is torn apart by a horrifying attack which leaves their mother dead, and their family forever shattered. Twenty-eight years later, another violent act forces them back together, and brings up long lost secrets and questions.
Five-year-old Madison disappeared while chopping down her family’s Christmas tree. Three years later, her parents are still desperate to find her and hire a private investigator known as “the Child Finder,” who is their last hope.
Tarot card reader, Hal, discovers she has been left an inheritance. She is certain it is a mistake, but is desperate for cash and decides to play along. But once at the family estate with the brooding, mysterious heirs, she wonders if she has made a terrible mistake.
Adrian Wolfe has been divorced twice and recently lost his newest wife to suicide or so it seems. As Adrian searches for answers, he discovers his perfect modern life with two amicable divorces and 5 step children who love each other seamlessly may not be as perfect as it appears.