Check out this selection of new releases for your enjoyment coming this week!
Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict – Tells the story of Rosalind Franklin, who, despite an environment of harassment and bullying in the late 1940s and 1950s, worked in a stringent, scientific manner and became one of the first scientists to map the structure of DNA.
Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis – When mod English model Veronica Weber, while at the Frick museum, chances upon a series of hidden messages, she is led on a hunt that could not only solve her financial woes but could finally reveal the truth behind a decades-old murder in the infamous Frick family.
Violeta by Isabel Allende – Living out her days in a remote part of her South American homeland, Violeta finds her life shaped by some of the most important events of history as she tells her story in the form of a letter to someone she loves above all others.
Easter Bonnet Murder by Leslie Meier – A part-time reporter, Lucy Stone, investigates when Tinker Cove’s retired librarian goes missing after a silly dispute during the annual Easter Bonnet Contest in the latest novel of the long-running series following Irish Parade Murder.
The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz – Owen and his best friend Luna, who have been inextricably linked for years—and who share a deadly secret, feel the walls quickly closing in around them when Owen’s wife is murdered, unleashing a torrent of secrets from the past.
Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner – Helen innocently befriends Rachel at a prenatal class despite the woman’s unbecoming behavior and has no idea her new friend has ulterior motives and is on a vindictive mission to ruin the lives of her extended family.
Mermaid Confidential by Tim Dorsey – Dropping anchor in the Florida Keys, Serge A. Storms and his permanently baked sidekick, Coleman, become local favorites as they take a stand against investors who are trying to destroy their paradise while dealing with drug smugglers who have arrived in a hail of bullets.
Quicksilver by Dean Koontz – When the discovery of a coin worth a lot of money forces him to run for his life, Quinn Quicksilver meets his destined companions as he barrels towards a confrontation with an enemy who is as every bit as scary as the power within himself.
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk – Working in the rare books department of a large university, Liesl Weiss discovers that a priceless book has gone missing as well as the librarian, and, investigating both disappearances, learns a shocking truth that shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life.
The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf – True crime writer Wylie Lark, snowed in at an isolated farmhouse where she’s retreated to write her new book, finds a small child in the snow outside and, bringing him inside for warmth and safety, learns that the farmhouse isn’t as isolated as she thought.
Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier – A wealthy couple who invite successful entrepreneurs to live in their guesthouse and then conspire to ruin their life for sport meet their match when Demi, a woman who took over another person’s identity, moves in.
Already Enough: A Path to Self-acceptance by Lisa Olivera – A therapist, writer and creator of a popular Instagram account explores how our stories affect us more than we realize and guides readers through reframing that story on a transformative journey to healing.
I am admittedly late to the game where Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries are concerned. But thanks to our library’s digital service Hoopla, this winter I started streaming “Agatha Christie’s Marple” and don’t know what I was waiting for. This British show is loosely based on the famous mystery writer’s novels and short stories, and ran for six series from 2004 to 2013. The role of Miss Marple is played by Geraldine McEwan from the first to the third series, followed by Julia McKenzie for its remainder. Both actors spectacularly portray Miss Jane Marple as a sweet older woman who could be anyone’s neighbor, who has a seemingly endless supply of nieces and nephews to assist her in collecting clues, and whose clever and feisty personality aid her in outwitting local police and catching the murderers herself. It checks all of my boxes for a great TV series –a smart crime to solve, a little bit of romance, and British period drama (1950s in this case). It is also fun to spot noteworthy guest-starring actors, including Julian Sands and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Because the show takes liberties with Miss Christie’s original novels, I thought I should experience a Marple novel as the author intended and I downloaded the e-book (from Libby, thanks again RRPL) Murder at the Vicarage to read. In this series first, a murder occurs in the sleepy village of St. Mary Mead, a hamlet where everyone knows each other’s business and the vicar, Leonard Clement, is everyone’s confidante. When Clement finds Colonel Lucius Protheroe murdered in his study, it is lucky for him that his neighbor is the witty Jane Marple. Miss Marple immediately has seven suspects, and while the police do not appreciate the nosy spinster getting their way, readers know that Miss Marple will solve the case and keep her village safe. How utterly delightful and reassuring!
It’s cold and snowy. Perhaps you too will want to get cozy with Agatha Christie and her charming Miss Marple this winter.
It’s Fall of 1983 and Winston Barnes, the 63-year-old Sheriff of Oak Island, North Carolina is awakened one night by the sound of a low flying airplane. When he investigates, Barnes is surprised to find a huge, abandoned cargo plane crash-landed on the local airport’s small runway. He is further surprised to discover the body of a local young Black man, a new dad whose wife says just ran out for diapers, shot dead nearby.
As Barnes begins his investigation, he believes he is mere days away of being voted out of office. His opponent, Brad Frye, a land developer and “good old boy” is delighted when the FBI roll onto the scene to put doubt in the public’s mind that Barnes is still a capable sheriff. Frye is also more than happy to stir up local suspicion that the murdered Black man was part of a drug smuggling ring. Action culminates when the locals begin to threaten and attack the home of the new widow, and Barnes must choose between being popular and doing what is right.
If you are in the mood for simmering, southern atmospheric fiction, with a bit of mystery, pick up When Ghosts Come Home and prepare to be absorbed by this quiet but compelling, character-driven novel that explores themes of grief, greed and racism.
If you’re having trouble deciding what to read next, let the stars (and the Library!) help you decide. The 12 signs of the zodiac, ancient in origins, help us to understand the complex and emotional journey of being human. If you don’t know your astrological sign, it will be whatever date below corresponds with your birthday.
Yes, Aries is represented by the ram, but if you look at the glyph used to depict the animal’s curving horns it also looks like the first green sprouts you see emerging from the cold, snowy earth in springtime. Being the first sign of the zodiac, Aries always marks the beginning of something, springing into action, and an intense enthusiasm. When looking for books, look for ones with brave and energetic heroes, or fast-paced adventures.
If you’re looking for Aries authors, look no further than Maya Angelou, Leigh Bardugo, Barbara Kingsolver, Anthony Horowitz, Louis L’Amour, and Jennifer Weiner.
I like to think of Leos as the equivalent of a fireplace: warm, inviting, the central gathering point for friends and family. Leos have a natural ability to bring people together. Combine that with their sense of humor, flair for the dramatic, and sense of pride, they make easy and exciting friends. When looking for books, go for bold, strong characters that love to stand out and that have a certain charisma that draws people into the fold.
Famous Leo authors include Madeline Miller, Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling, Ray Bradbury, Sue Monk Kidd, and Stieg Larsson.
Sagittarius is the traveler of the zodiac, in all respects. Sagittarians love to visit new places, experience new things, and dive into a variety of philosophies in a never-ending quest for knowledge and discovery. Ever hear the phrase “Shoot from the hip?” Represented by the centaur, Sagittarius rules the hips. Sagittarians are extremely vocal and willing to immediately share their thoughts on anything and everything. When looking for books, choose ones with rich, lush locations and ones with thought-provoking questions.
If you’re looking for a Sagittarius author, try Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Ann Patchett.
Being an earth sign, Taurus is known for being well-grounded in the physical world. Taurus is all about the senses and curating the best quality stuff. They’re more than happy to indulge in an elaborate meal or bubble bath. A Taurus can be slow to act but once they get the motivation, watch out! Nothing can stop them. When looking for books, go for ones that feature determined characters or some of the sweeter pleasures in life. Work hard, play hard.
Taurus authors include Harper Lee, Jodi Picoult, Daphne du Maurier, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Terry Pratchett, and Charlotte Bronte.
Virgos are perfectionists; they love to create order out of chaos. They have keen observation skills, and they can be quite eloquent and thoughtful. A Virgo can piece together details when no one else can or find patterns when there seemingly are none, so look for books that feature a mystery to solve or that illustrate the subtle intricacies of everyday life.
Virgo authors include Angie Thomas, George R.R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Agatha Christie.
If you want something done, ask a Capricorn. Symbolized by the mythological sea goat, there is no mountain a Capricorn cannot scale. Extremely independent and ambitious, Capricorns typically have a list of goals and they enjoy the hustle. Look for memoirs, biographies, or other books that will inspire wisdom and achievements.
Famous Capricorn authors include Michelle Obama, J.R.R. Tolkien, Donna Tartt, Junot Diaz, Nicholas Sparks, and Zora Neale Hurston.
There’s never a dull moment with a Gemini. Geminis are intensely curious, playful, and cerebral. Geminis are constantly bouncing from idea to idea, entertaining new hobbies and passions, and adapting to new things. I also find them to be the funniest of the zodiac. Being of the mind, new ideas and communication are important to Geminis. Look for books with sharp dialogue or clever plots that will fuel the imagination.
Famous Gemini authors include Fredrik Backman, Andy Weir, Maria Semple, Louise Erdrich, Adam Silvera, and Ken Follett.
Scales symbolize justice, equality, and harmony. While they love to exchange ideas or join a lively debate, Libras seek the peace and balance of the scales. They’re known for being peacekeepers and mediators since they’re adept at seeing all points of view. Libras can talk for hours, they’re incredibly approachable after all, and they are known to invest deeply in their relationships. Look for books that are idealistic or charming, and that highlight the beauty in relationships.
Libra authors include Kristin Hannah, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Roxane Gay, Ursula K. Le Guin, Nora Roberts, and Oscar Wilde.
Every Aquarian is a rebel and a visionary at heart. They have a knack for seeing the big picture and they’re open to a multitude of ideas and experiences. Ready to change the world at a moment’s notice, Aquarius is known for being the humanitarian of the zodiac. If an Aquarius feels they’re meant to change something on the planet, they will. Look for books with a spark of revolution, unusual plots or retellings, and characters with a deep desire to improve the world around them.
Famous authors born under the sign of Aquarius include Toni Morrison, Samantha Irby, John Grisham, Virginia Woolf, Marissa Meyer, and Casey McQuiston.
The crab perfectly represents the sign of Cancer: hard, tough exterior; soft, squishy inside. Cancers are very compassionate, protective, and loyal to the ones they love. Drawn to routines and comfort, a Cancer would much rather snuggle up with a book or have a movie night at home with a loved one instead of going out. Ruled by the Moon, Cancers are very intuitive and can assess the tone of a room instantly. Look for books with sweet, gentle characters, or ones that dive deep into emotion.
Authors born under the sign of Cancer include Markus Zusak, Elizabeth Gilbert, David McCullough, Ernest Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, and Anna Quindlen.
Some of my favorite people are Scorpios and if you prove your loyalty to them, they make very devoted and passionate friends. Scorpios have an air of mystery and intensity about them that makes them hard to ignore. If you’re looking for a honest answer, ask a Scorpio. Their bluntness has no filter. They’re also great at keeping secrets. Profound thinkers, fearless, and intuitive, when a Scorpio wants something, they don’t hold back. Look for books with broody, intense characters or look for dark, moody mysteries.
Scorpio authors include Anthony Doerr, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Liane Moriarty, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Holly Black.
If you’re a Pisces, you may have been called an old soul a time or two. Pisces are magical, soulful, and dreamy. They seem to have an endless source of creativity and empathy for others, and a sense of wisdom that runs incredibly deep. The glyph associated with Pisces is two fish swimming in opposite directions, reflecting the duality and internal struggle of this water sign. Pisceans want to chase big dreams, but they can easily wander and be pulled in different directions. Look for books that feature magical realism, fantasy, or beautiful language that you can get lost in.
In This Tender Landby William Kent Krueger, hundreds of Native American children have been separated from their parents and sent to the Lincoln School in Minnesota, a boarding school meant to take the perceived “wild” out of these children by providing structure and forcing them to speak only English. The Brinkmans are the corrupt family who run the school and for years have taken advantage of their students, by stealing their money, by not permitting any family contact, and by doling out physical & mental abuse along with a shortage of nutritional food and clean clothing.
Odie narrates this novel and shares his adventures from the summer of 1932, when at 12-years-old, he and his older brother Albert O’Banion, along with Mosie, a mute Native American boy, and Emmy, a six-year-old ward of the Brinkman’s, decide they’ve all had enough at the Lincoln School and escape by canoeing down the Mississippi river.
As the group of self-proclaimed “vagabonds” journey in search of better lives, they have run-ins with drunks, bootleggers, hobos and con artists and get into some seriously dangerous situations along their way to St. Louis. Suspense builds as the gang learns that the Brinkmans have hired bounty hunters and are after them and closing in fast.
This Tender Land, was published in 2019 but is set during the Great Depression and reads like a modern classic. and is a beautifully crafted novel that has plenty for every reader —a mix of literary fiction, coming-of-age, adventure, mystery, and a lesson in morality and forgiveness.
If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, Huckleberry Finn or just enjoy compelling historical fiction, you won’t want to missthis novel.
I drove over two hours in 2016 to see Anthony Doerr, as one does when one is nerdy and obsessed with an author and in school to become a librarian. I remember clutching my copy of All the Light We Cannot See and being completely enamored. For an exercise in curiosity, Doerr presented a slideshow full of close-up pictures and asked us to guess the everyday objects. He described how a dropped call on the subway in New York City in 2004 was the inspiration behind All the Light We Cannot See, and how he spent ten years researching and writing the book, including studying the history of radio and Nazi art looting. When he signed my book, I remember him taking the time to ask about my weekend and wishing me a happy birthday. So needless to say, I was excited to get my hands on Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Cloud Cuckoo Land is ambitious novel, spanning multiple centuries, places, characters, and even genres. There’s Anna, an orphan who lives and works in an embroidery house in 15th century Constantinople with her sickly older sister. She learns Greek in secret and during her quest to uncover even more words, she discovers a ruined library. Having a cleft palate and believed to be cursed or even demonic, Omeir is exiled to a remote part of Bulgaria and is raised by his whimsical, sweet grandfather. He is conscripted into the Ottoman army with his oxen to attack Constantinople, putting him directly in the path of Anna. Seymour lives in present-day Idaho and his only comfort is the natural world. He befriends an owl that lives in the woods behind his home but when the forest is destroyed for a new housing development, Seymour becomes a radical eco-warrior and crosses paths with Zeno in a devastating way. Zeno is an octogenarian, amateur translator, and Korean War veteran attempting to put on a play with a small group of children. Lastly, there’s Konstance. Konstance is trapped on a spaceship in the future with an infinite library meant to preserve humanity’s knowledge for a new, unspoiled planet. All five stories are connected through an ancient book following the fantastical and humorous adventures of a poor shepherd. Doerr’s writing is just as lyrical and rich as in All the Light We Cannot See. The novel is a clear ode to libraries, language, and the art of storytelling. While I wasn’t as invested in the characters as with All the Light We Cannot See, no one can illustrate the interconnectedness and beauty of our worlds like Anthony Doerr. Cloud Cuckoo Land is an epic worth diving into.
If you are a fan of good crime fiction, start the year right with Kathleen Kent’s “Detective Betty” trilogy, which follow the ups and (mostly) downs of a tough-as-nails, Brooklyn-born, Dallas-based narcotics detective. Betty Rhyzyk was raised by a family of policemen, but was all but destroyed by the death of her brother and the rampant police corruption in Brooklyn. For love, Betty has followed her partner Jackie to Dallas, where she is also hoping for an easier gig. Unfortunately, Betty is still haunted by her past, and not only are the good old boys in blue just as corrupt in Texas, Betty’s new batch of bad guys aren’t afraid of her one bit, even if she is carrying and badge and a gun.
In Betty’s first outing in The Dime, a vengeful cult leader Evangeline Roy tortures and nearly kills Betty. Both women survive and Roy escapes, leaving Betty perpetually looking over her shoulder, even as she throws herself into chasing down the next criminal. In the subsequent volumes of her adrenaline-filled story, The Burnand The Pledge, Betty’s dogged sense of right and wrong get her in more trouble than most of her male counterparts, and her inability to let go of an investigation or listen to authority figures has her on the outs with her superiors more often than not. Even when she’s closing drug cartel cases, catching criminals and getting promotions, Betty faces adversity as a female detective and as a lesbian on the force, and finds she must work that much harder to get respect. No worries –Detective Betty Rhyzyk thrives under pressure. Fans of Michael Connelly’s books and smart, high-octane crime fiction should snap this trilogy up and get ready to enjoy.
I’ve always loved to read so I can travel somewhere else, but thank goodness for reading and books in these last couple of years. They were a means to escape the stresses of the daily pandemic, to think about something different for a bit. This doesn’t mean the books I enjoyed were not challenging for the most part, but they let my brain shift to another time, another character, another place. And at the same time, they encouraged my engagement with essential issues: gender, autocracy, art, racism, antisemitism, history, language, belonging, love.
Some of these were published this year, some fiction, a couple of non-fiction, some I found on my own, others recommended by readers that I know. There are many more to get to and the pile next to my bed is still unwieldy, but I was held steady and engaged with the following titles:
The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernandez, Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel andSongs for the Flames: Storiesby Juan Gabriel Vasquez are all novels set in South America. I’ve always been interested in South American countries, their histories and political trends, and these titles all tell of that violent history, blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction, to try to capture the otherworldly feelings of war and terrorism and how everyday people tried to understand and respond.
In. by Will McPhail, And Now I Spill the Family Secretsby Margaret Kimball, andThe Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel are graphic novels that cover a range of topics, from loneliness and the need for connection. to family dysfunction, to the emergence of fitness culture in the U.S. Funny, informative, moving, weird – mixed with great art – what else do you need?
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ni Ghriofa, Not a Novelby Jenny Erpenbeck and Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal are memoirs/biographies, stories of self with a lot of history mixed in. I loved A Ghost it the Throat, written so beautifully by an Irish poet, a book that dives into the lives of women, current and past, through an exploration into a famous Irish poem. Not a Novel is a series of essays by novelist Erpenbeck about her life growing up in East Germany and the lasting effects on her life. Letters to Camondo is told through a series of letters about a Jewish-French art collector who tried to assimilate into French culture but whose prodigy were destroyed by war and French collaboration. De Waal’s Hare with the Amber Eyesis great, too.
The rest of my favorites are novels that have struck me in some way: through writing, story, humor, insight. These include Matrix by Lauren Groff, about a 12th century nun who creates her own feminist idyll and Our Country Friendsby Gary Shteyngart, who writes of a group of friends forced together during the pandemic, modelled on Anton Chekhov’s plays. Then there was The Wrong End of the Telescope, by Rabih Alameddine, with moods ranging from funny to devastating, about a transgender doctor who left Lebanon to live her life, and has now returned to the Meditteranean to help refugees. Oh, William! is Strout‘s latest about Lucy Barton and is told as if Lucy is spilling it all to the reader. It’s sparse, but playful, informed by Lucy’s traumatic past. Carter Sickels‘ The Prettiest Star, won the 2021 Ohioana Book Award in Fiction; it’s the story of a young man who left Ohio to be able to live his true life, who returns home to his family, dying of AIDS. Exploring hatred, prejudice, ignorance and love, it’s a gem. Snowflake by debut Irish author Louise Nealon, is compared to Sally Rooney’s books, but I found it to be less angsty and more interesting. Nealon’s protagonist is from poor stock, but is smart and so is accepted into university. As she meets people more affluent than her, she learns that they might not be as happy as she imagined.
I’ll finish with two last books. One, I’ve started, but haven’t finished: Kinby Miljenko Jergović, a Croation author. At 800 or so pages, it’s going to take me through this Winter, but so far it’s the kind of book I love. Set in Eastern Europe, it’s an epic about generations of family living through history that changed everything around them. And the last is the most recent in a science fiction series, The Wayfarers by Becky Adams. To me, her books are a perfect blend of envisioning the future, with a firm grip on humanity and a dose of humor thrown in.
I hope you find something to carry you through this time in the books that I’ve loved this year. If you have any favorites to recommend, feel free to comment and share!
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves A new series by the UK’s queen of crime. Beautiful but bleak settings, genuine and dedicated characters- a lovely addition to the Ann Cleeves universe.
Northern Spy by Flynn Berry Tessa’s non-political, hometown sister, Marian, is caught on video blowing up a gas station in Northern Ireland with members of the IRA. The police think she’s a member, Tessa thinks she’s been kidnapped.
The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor A single mother takes a job as a vicar in a small village. Of course she must find out where the bodies are buried. Not a cozy mystery.
Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella Cady Archer attends Harvard the year after her older brother committed suicide, hoping to understand his death. I’m pretty sure I remember something creepy happens.