Current Picks: Book Reviews

Eternal

Eternal is a historical fiction novel based in Rome, Italy during WWII and follows the lives of 3 best friends as they navigate life and love during some horrifying events. Elisabetta is a waitress struggling to make ends meet, Marco finds a job in Mussolini's government, and Sandro is a Jewish mathematician. These 3 find out a lot about romantic love (love triangle), love of country and love and loyalty of friends and family.

I enjoyed this book because I have read a lot in this genre but rarely one based in Italy during Fascism. I also think Lisa Scottoline did a great job of keeping the reader engaged and invested in all the characters, including that of the family members.

Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook on Overdrive.



What Could Be Saved

Laura is a painter living in present-day Washington D.C. when she gets a call that her brother, Philip, missing since 1972, has been found. Philip disappeared when the family was living in Thailand for their father's job in American intelligence. Laura was the youngest child, Philip the middle, and Bea was the eldest at ten years old. After seeing him on a video call, Laura feels that it probably is Philip. Bea, however, is very skeptical. Laura then decides to travel to Bangkok and bring Philip home. A parallel storyline set in 1972 recounts the family's four years in Thailand--the children's everyday lives, mother Genevieve's affair with their father's boss, and the tale of Noi, one of the servants who accompanies the family back to the states.

What Could Be Saved(2021) by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz by is an exploration of family bonds, grief, and forgiveness. For readers who enjoyed Ask Again, Yes, Wilde Lake, and Golden State.

Check out the eBook in Overdrive.



The Hit

Government assassin Jessica Reel has gone rogue. Someone has to stop her, but no one can match her skill and resourcefulness, except maybe Will Robie.

A hitman sent out to stop a fellow hitman is a pretty tired plot. But David Baldacci keeps it interesting and suspenseful in this second book of the Will Robie series

The Hit (2013) has plenty of action and tension as Jessica and Will try to get the upper hand on each other.

In addition to the compelling story, I enjoyed the audiobook for its background music, sound effects, and dual narrators (Ron McCarty and Orlagh Cassidy).

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook today.



Home Before Dark

If you like stories about a haunted house then you will probably enjoy Home Before Dark (2020) by Riley Sager. This is the story of a Victorian estate in Vermont which the Holt family moves into to fix up. Baneberry Hall was built by William Garson in the mid 1800s. He lived there with his family and then a few other generations of the Garson's did also. William's daughter Indigo kills herself in 1889 which begins all the hauntings in the house. Many families and people come and go over the years with a number of murders and suicides that happen in the house. The Holt family is not disturbed by this history and move in . Not much has changed over the years. Over a decade of antiques and personal items are left from previous families. The Holt family suddenly leaves in a panic 3 weeks later to never return. The father Ewan Holt, writes a book about the haunted house and their families' experiences and makes lots of money from the book. 25 years later he dies and his daughter, Maggie inherits the money and the house. She can't remember her personal experiences from when she lived there those 3 weeks when she was a child and goes to the house to fix it up to sell. She always felt that the book was fictional and that her dad made most of the stories up. The past catches up with her and she finally resolves the mysteries of the house.


Check out the ebook or listen to the eaudio on Overdrive.


To Kill a Mockingbird

This classic novel is a page turner from start to finish. The beauty of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) is that it is told from the point of view of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch (nicknamed Scout), whose curiosity and confusion about the racial injustice she sees all around her serve to highlight and call into question these horrible racial biases. The main storyline follows Scout's father, Atticus, a lawyer who has been appointed by the judge to defend a black man accused of rape. The fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the early 1930s serves as the backdrop with a multitude of characters, young and old, each with their own prejudices.

Beyond the major theme, the book is about growing up and parenting in a particular place and time. Harper Lee's novel explores the human condition exposing the flaws of even the protagonists, who have their own biases.

To Kill a Mockingbird is available to borrow via Hoopla (ebook, audio) and Overdrive (ebook, audio).

If you liked this book, check out our list of read-alikes.



The Windsor Knot

When a Russian pianist is murdered at Windsor Castle on the eve of her 90th birthday celebrations, Queen Elizabeth decides to do some investigating of her own, since it seems the authorities are on the wrong track. With help from her assistant private secretary, Rosie Oshodi, the Queen is able to uncover information that she can covertly use to help the police apprehend the killer.

The Windsor Knot (2021) by SJ Bennett is a delightful mystery filled with lots of details about the Queen's everyday life and her relationship with her family. Hoping this becomes a series...

Visit Overdrive to check out the eBook.



The Lemesurier Inheritance

A medieval ancestor of Hugo Lemesurier killed his wife and child. Her dying words put a curse on the family. No first-born son will be allowed to inherit the substantial Lemesurier estate. The curse proves lethal over the centuries.

Fast forward to the twentieth century: Hugo's frantic wife calls in Poirot and Hastings to investigate suspicious accidents happening to eight-year-old Ronald, Hugo's first-born son and next in line for the inheritance. Since this is Agatha Christie, there's a surprise at the end.

This little-known Poirot short story is read by Charles Armstrong. He's the British voice of narrator Hastings. He then switches to the French accent and delivery I've come to expect from Poirot.

The Lemesurier Inheritance (1923) takes twenty-two minutes to hear: perfect for when you need a quick interesting mystery. Visit Hoopla to listen to the audiobook or read the ebook—plus discover the rest of Hercule Poirot's adventures.



The Kindest Lie

Ruth lives with her husband, Xavier, on Chicago's South Side. As an African-American engineer with a degree from Yale, she feels she's made it. However, Xavier is putting pressure on her to start a family, and Ruth cannot stop thinking about the secret she's kept from him--at 17 years old she had a baby, but gave it up. Ruth then finds herself back in her working-class hometown of Ganton, Indiana, wanting answers from her grandmother, who raised her, about the adoption of her baby. While there, Ruth befriends a white boy, Midnight, who is the same age as her son. The Kindest Lie (2021) by Nancy Johnson explores poverty, racism, and family ties. A story with likable characters and situations to ponder, which would also be a good choice for book clubs.

The Kindest Lie is available as an eBook or eAudiobook on Overdrive.

For more book club choices, check out our list of favorites from 2020.



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Big Little Lies

Set in Australia, Big Little Lies (2014) starts with a dead body at trivia night attended by all the parents of the elementary students. Was it murder? Liane Moriarty creates suspense, then goes back in time and skillfully guides the reader full circle to return to this moment. It follows three women, each with a secret, whose lives converge when their children attend the same kindergarten. The book is about fitting in, being a parent, the interpersonal lives of women, and the little lies we live with every day. By the end, you will become attached to these characters.

Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook on Overdrive. After you read the book, check out the TV show adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz. Big Little Lies. Season 1 follows the book, and season 2 goes beyond.



The Grand Design

Physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow bring the latest thinking about the nature of reality to the general, non-scientific public in this interesting and entertaining book. The Grand Design (2010) traces mankind's progress from mythology to science. And do we really have free will? Observer created reality, quantum, string, and M theory are presented. The big bang and multiple universes are discussed.

There is no math in this book, which helps by making the theoretical concepts accessible to those without a masters in physics. The authors have presented much to think about in a very brief book (200 pages or 4.5 hours). In the end, the explanations of our reality in The Grand Design are only theories. And those theories are, so far, unprovable.

Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook via Overdrive today.



The War Widow

It's 1946 and Billie Walker is back home in Sydney running her own private investigation agency. During the war, Billie was a journalist who met her photographer husband, Jack, in Paris. Jack then went missing two years ago, presumed dead. Billie came back to Australia when her father, also a private eye, fell ill. After her father's death, Billie took over his office and has an assistant--war veteran Sam.

Most of Billie's cases involve marital disputes, but client Mrs. Brown hires her to find her son, Adin, who is missing. Billie's investigation leads her through both the upper and lower classes of society along with providing a great sense of place of post-war Sydney for the reader in addition to the fashions of the time.

The War Widow (2020) by Tara Moss is a great new addition to the historical mystery genre. I can't wait for the next book in the series!



My Antonia

Willa Cather's My Antonia (1918) describes growing up in frontier Nebraska during the end of the eighteenth century. It is told from the point of view of ten-year-old orphan Jim Burden, who leaves Virginia to live with his paternal grandparents. He soon befriends Antonia Shimerda, who lives on the next farm, and they go on adventures that are indelibly etched into their memories. They grow up together and become lifelong friends, keeping in touch even after Jim moves east, eventually settling in New York. When he comes to visit later in life, Antonia has aged considerably, but despite her change in appearance, she is still the dear friend he remembers.

My Antonia leaves you with a deep feeling of nostalgia for a person and place you never knew. Visit Hoopla to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.



The Lost Jewels

Bostonian Kate Kirby is asked to write a magazine article about the Cheapside Hoard, a large amount of jewelry from the 16th and 17th centuries which were found in 1912 by workmen excavating a cellar in London. As a jewelry historian, Kate is excited about being able to see some of the collection up close since most of it is off-view. As she views the jewelry, Kate notices that it's similar to some drawings her great-grandmother Essie had in her possession. Kate wonders if there is some connection between the jewels and her family.

In an alternate storyline, it's 1912 and Essie lives in poverty in London with her mother, brother, and three sisters. The family is barely able to make ends meet when her brother, Freddie, happens to be one of the workers on a job site where a large amount of jewels are discovered. The Lost Jewels (2020) by Kirsty Manning follows Kate on her journey of discovery. A great readalike for Jennifer Robson and Fiona Davis.



Zoo 2

In this short story sequel to Zoo, the adventure starts with Jackson Oz narrowly escaping from a polar bear. He and his family have set up housekeeping in the arctic thinking they would be safe from infected animal attacks.

Oz and wife Chloe were considering the dubious safety of Greenland when Oz gets invited to join a new effort to end the pandemic of animal attacks. There is a concern that the infection could spread from animals to microbes. Then the infection begins to be noticed in some humans in remote areas. Oz joins a team of researchers to capture an infected human alive. Infected humans are as savage as their animal counterparts but can speak and know how to use weapons.

This is an exciting standalone story but I recommend reading Zoo first—and check out my review of that title. Jay Snyder's excellent reading won't let you put this audiobook down till the end. Listen to the audiobook via Hoopla or read the ebook via Overdrive. Check out Zoo 2 (2016) by James Patterson and Max DiLallo today.



Chlorine Sky

This #OwnVoices story follows teenager Sky through her journey to self-acceptance. Told in verse, this touching story perfectly displays the often overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and angst that will resonate with teens and adults alike. Poet Mahogany L. Browne's lyrical writing is inspiring without being cliché and will stick with you long after you've finished reading.

Check out Chlorine Sky (2021) and other works by Mahogany L. Browne today.


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