Choosing the next book for your Book Club can be daunting. Here’ a selection from our 18 Book Club kits, ready for you to check out. Keep in mind, a kit includes 8 copies of the same title and a set of discussion questions , available in a library canvas bag, to be checked out to the library card of the person picking up the kit. Stop by the adult reference desk and give it try.
Synopsis: On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate a wedding. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding fit for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?
This has been an unusual year (such an understatement!) and (not shockingly) it’s translated to what I wound up reading this year… (so much insight!) But like every previous year, it was a struggle to decide which books and why. Hopefully you’ll find a new book to try or you’ll have a happy “oh! meeee too!” moment! (Bonus comments in parentheses because you can’t see me doing eyerolls at myself. Enjoy!)
Now let’s get on to the goods, in alphabetical order by author, The Books:
Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen
It felt like reading an excellent BBC series: engaging characters, smart mystery, and a great WWII time/place setting. The second book in the series will be out before the end of the year: Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers! (Historical Mystery)
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Mr. Backman can write a likable, curmudgeonly character like few can but this book is really more of an ensemble journey and each character has their own quirky personality. The beginning is a little dark but quickly becomes an uplifting story of how individuals can build their own supportive community. (General Fiction)
Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown
Just like when you hear about any picture of a perfect wife, husband, or marriage, it becomes clear there is no such thing as perfect. Quiet and thoughtful, suspenseful and satisfying, this book was everything I wanted it to be. (General Fiction)
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
I loved Ready Player One and was a little worried the sequel wouldn’t live up to the original, what a waste of a decent worry! All the pop culture references, interesting future-thinking ideas, and plenty of exciting plot twists, this is *chef’s kiss* a delight! Fun extra -the IRL setting is Columbus, Ohio!(General Fiction/Science Fiction)
Weather by Jenny Offill
Odd, quirky, sometimes uncomfortable, and completely engaging. If you’re looking for a book short on pages and long on impact, this might be the one for you! (Literary Fiction)
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was on my list last year and prompted me to read this older title by the same author. Yep, just as good! It’s a long-game mystery with shades of The Shining suspense. (Mystery)
The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz
The family relationships, the wanting to be a part of something while also needing to be an individual, watching how society’s views on a variety of topics changed with the decades, all made each page of this book a pleasure. If you grew up in a small town, you’ll feel this story that much more deeply. (General Fiction)
Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood
Mix a little Thin Man, Nick and Nora, with a little Mickey Spillane, add a female Sherlock Holmes and Watson, put World War II espionage into the background, and you’ll get close to understanding why you want to read this next. It’s a debut and I’m typing this with my fingers crossed that the second book will be coming soon! (Historical Mystery)
Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman
This author consistently connects her characters and action in smart and surprising ways, with conclusions that are unexpected and satisfying. I’ve only listened to the audio versions of Ms. Steadman’s books, and I don’t plan to change that, it’s like hearing a radio drama with all the sound effects a listener could hope for! (Mystery)
Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson
Charming and insightful, this is the story of a “bot” who has a degree of self-awareness that he needs to seek therapy before going on a journey to fulfill his dreams. It’s not a simple journey as he needs to hide his true nature as our society is prejudiced against AI and are as likely to attack him as help him. You might shed a tear or two along the way, but it’s worth it. (General Fiction)
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
If you like superhero/supervillain movies or you’ve watched The Boys on Amazon Prime, you will love every page of this book. Anna shows some small but special abilities with numbers but she’s tired of being a contract worker for whichever villain needs temporary help. Offered what seemed to be an easy and high paying gig changed everything, just not for the better. With engaging characters, interesting thoughts on how we think of good vs. evil, and some really clever surprises, this book checked all the boxes for me this year. (General or Science Fiction)
Barnstorming Ohio to Understand America by David Giffels
The 2020 General Election may have cost Ohio our “bellwether state” title but if you want a better understanding of how one state can represent so much of the entire USA, this book is the one to read. The author uses his own travels to different locations and conversations with individuals to make each experience engaging for the reader. (Nonfiction)
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
I’m embarrassed to say this is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Gladwell but this book sent me off on a “what else” deep dive, and now I’m a die-hard fan. I learned so much but reading the book felt more like I was reading a series of short, connected, stories. If you pick this one up, we can talk about how crazy it is that our brain defaults to what we want to believe even when the facts show a different reality. Just, so good!
The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Individually, they are funny and the laughs only increase as they tell how they became a couple. I listened to the audio version and highly recommend this option as Megan and Nick are the readers -it starts to feel like you’re in a candid conversation with new friends.
The Darkness Duology: Courting Darkness and Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
The characters and setting are part of the His Fair Assassin series, and it feels like catching up with old friends (who can kick some serious hiney). Sybella must protect her younger sisters from being used as political pawns while also trying to keep the new Queen safe from enemies within the Royal House. The author always provides such strong women as main characters but remembers to give them flaws and quirks so they remain relatable. Ms. LaFevers never disappoints! (Historical Mystery)
Of course, I also think pretty highly of the books I suggested for the RRPL Gift Guide -ya know- and I might be counting those books as part of a bigger list for the year? Anyway… Happy Holidays, with books and snackies, for all!!
If you are looking for a smart and funny mystery, put The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman on your to-read list.
This delightful story takes place in the peaceful town of Kent, England, where four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room at Coopers Chase, their retirement village, to keep their “grey cells” working. Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Joyce and Ron are members of The Thursday Murder Club, a group of septuagenarians who meet not for book club or bridge, but to pore over old cold crime case files to see if they can solve them.
It’s like Christmas for these four when the developer of their very own senior complex is found murdered, and they set out to catch the killer. The club uses their years of experience and diverse backgrounds to start digging for clues, and with their powers of persuasion and perfected coffee cake recipes, they also manage to cleverly rope a new young local policewoman into revealing key facts to them about the ongoing investigation. Will this unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before he or she strikes again? You’ll have to read this complex, intelligent and engaging mystery to find out.
With a cast of diverse characters, tight plotting, and plenty of red herrings, The Thursday Murder Club is a laugh-out-loud cozy mystery that has already made it on my “favorite reads” list this year. Check it out today! -Carol
In case you need an excuse to pick up a new mystery series, I’ll give you two. First of all, Rosalie Knecht’s sleuth Vera Kelly is a smart, cynical New Yorker and CIA-trained sleuth who must navigate life in early to mid-1960s–an interesting time to be a spy and challenging time to be a woman. Secondly, it’s PRIDE month, and Vera is a lesbian, and is also forced by the times (and clauses in her employment contracts) to lead a double personal life in addition to her professional one.
In her first outing, Who is Vera Kelly?, Vera is approached and trained by the CIA. Her surveillance mission to Argentina to infiltrate local student revolutionaries and wiretap government offices for potential coup information comprises most of the novel’s action. Along the way, flashbacks into Vera’s youth show her struggles to get close to others, to fit in, and to build healthy relationships.
Book two, Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery, takes place a year later. Vera is done with the CIA, fired from her latest job because a co-worker outed her, and dumped by her girlfriend Jane. Desperate to make a living and keep her apartment, but without references to get hired, Vera opens her own private detective agency where she struggles to be taken seriously. When a Dominican couple finally hires her to track down a boy, Vera uncovers much more than a missing persons case and ends up, yet again, in another foreign country with a fake passport, reexamining her priorities.
Both books in this series are part spy thriller, part character study, and part historical fiction and will check all the boxes if you like introspective slow-burning mysteries with plenty of international action and a bit of tame romance. What’s truly great about Knecht’s two-fer (and my fingers are crossed that there will be more) is that Vera is vulnerable and unsure of her self–at work, in life and in relationships. Vera has personal problems and regret. She’s not sappy, but it’s hard for her to change. Vera Kelly is just like us.
Will she solve her cases? (Spoiler alert) Yes. Will she find true happiness? I sure hope so. Read her story and I think maybe you will, too. ~Carol
It has been nice to be able to continue with exercise classes online during the quarantine, but it was not so nice when I overdid it a couple days ago during such a class and felt an ouch. Bummer! Nothing serious but my routine is thrown and now my body is insisting that I need a few days off. I’ve been icing the swelling, elevating and resting and feeling a bit better, but it’s hard not to be discouraged– I had a schedule and a plan and life instead told me to slow down.
Pretty sure many of us had to swallow a truth sandwich as a result of the pandemic and the need for sheltering in place. Vacations were cancelled and postponed; graduations are being held remotely; and some of our really big events have turned into intimate ones. None of this is by choice.
But as I was recouping over the weekend with a Downton Abbey marathon, I’m determined to focus for a silver lining. Perhaps though fictionalized, Downton Abbey provides an excellent example of how humans are capable of growth and change. Along with all the scandal and drama that make compelling television, the Crawley family of Downton face the real-life challenges of surviving first World War, the Spanish Flu, and changes to their Aristocratic way of life. Generations before us have learned to play by new rules. It’s not easy but humans are resilient. We rest, evaluate and then, adapt. We’ll get through this–it’s human nature.
And meanwhile, let’s look at the silver lining. For me, today, the windows are open, the birds are singing, Downton is on and a copy of Denise Mina’s latest mystery Conviction is available for me on Overdrive. It’s going to be a fine day. Thanks, Universe!
This week I’ve not only made my way through a whole novel, I loved it! Oh, and I am currently reading and enjoying a second. I don’t want to jinx it, but maybe my “cold” stretch of picking duds of books to read (and/or not having enough staying-with-it-ness to, well, you know) is over…but I sure hope so!
The book I loved was Tuesday Mooney Talks To Ghosts by Kate Racculia. Tuesday is 33-year-old researcher who lives in Boston. To the outside world, Tuesday is an antisocial weirdo who got stuck in her goth chick days, but in her head she has ongoing conversations with the ghost of her best friend Abby, who disappeared when they were 16-year-olds in Salem. Tuesday breaks out from her solitude when a dead eccentric billionaire’s will is made public, inviting the citizens of Boston to participate in a macabre search around the city to compete for his hidden treasure. She can’t resist going in and neither will you. This book has it all: mystery, madcap adventure, Oujia board-wielding teenagers, mistaken identities, witty banter, intelligent writing–not to mention some heart-rending examinations of grief, guilt, friendships and romance.
The book I’m reading now, All Adults Hereby Emma Straub is brand new. I’ll keep you posted, but so far I can’t put down this novel about the flawed family of Astrid Strick and her adult children.
All this book reading has me sitting a bit more recently, much to the delight of our two cats, who I’ve decided are indeed the best of coworkers (no disrespect to my husband who is pretty good at sharing a workspace too). The cats, though, are excellent lap warmers and are the perfect partners in crime for when I’m looking for an excuse to stay seated and read just one more chapter. Thanks furballs!
Have a good week and if you’ve got one, give your own furry coworker a head scratch for me.