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The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (2016)

Arthur Pepper has lived a simple, routine, lonely life since his wife, Miriam, passed away a year ago. His children are busy with their own lives, and he is grieving the love of his life. While searching through a wardrobe, Arthur finds his wife’s beautiful gold charm bracelet with a collection of charms. His curiosity leads him from York, England, to Bath, London, and Paris tracking the origin of the bracelet and the significance of each of the charms. His journey takes him out of his comfort zone and leads to adventures; new experiences, such as coming face to face with a tiger; and meeting different people. He discovers a side of his wife of forty years that he never knew and learns about himself in the process. Arthur’s interactions with his nosy widowed neighbor, Bernadette, and her teenage son, Nathan, enhance the story.

Phaedra Patrick’s The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a heartwarming, poignant, and amusing story.

 

Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked on a Feline by Kate Leth (2016)

All up-to-date on Marvel Netflix TV shows like Jessica Jones? Want to get into the comics but are too intimidated to dive in? Get your toes wet with Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! Volume 1: Hooked on a Feline. The canon is completely separate from the Netflix shows, but still super enjoyable nonetheless. It’s great to see a different side of Jessica’s bestie, Patsy, as well as meet more super friends!

Kate Leth’s comic is ridiculously newcomer-friendly, lighthearted, and all around a good time. For people who do want to dive in further, when the comic refers to other issues, it provides you with the name and the number of the issue it is referencing! Easy peasy! The entire series is available now: check out volumes 2—Don’t Stop Me-Ow— and 3—Careless Whisker(s)— today. Go grab them, kitty-cat!

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany (2017)

Amy Hatvany has a real talent for truly getting into the minds of her characters and making you feel like you know them. The story is told from two points of view: Amber, a sexual assault victim; and Tyler, the perpetrator. One fateful night involving way too much alcohol changes everyone’s lives forever. If you’ve never tried Amy Hatvany before, start with It Happens All the Time.
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My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith (2017)

Paul Stuart is a food/wine writer with a deadline. His focus is diverted when his live-in girlfriend of four years runs off with her trainer. Escaping to Tuscany sounds like a solution for both problems. The story starts like a madcap adventure in Italy, but develops into a study of humanity with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

Once his transportation issue is resolved, thus the title of the book, Paul is free to explore the beautiful countryside and research local food and wine. His route is definitely not a typical tourist package. Paul has command of the Italian language and quickly makes friends. He serves as a confidant to a few local men and even lends a helping hand in a longtime conflict. During the course of his stay, he entertains three ladies (two from his past and a new love interest). His working vacation may be just what was needed for his personal and professional dilemmas.

Alexander McCall Smith is well known for his long running series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and others, but the standalone novel My Italian Bulldozer stands out as a feel good read.

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf (2017)

Amelia Winn is a well-respected nurse with a wonderful life. However, following a tragic accident, she is left deaf, falls into a deep depression, and turns to alcohol. She ends up losing all that is most important to her: her husband, her stepdaughter, and her job.

Two years later, Amelia is finally getting her life back together with a lot of help from Stitch, her best friend and service dog. One morning, while kayaking on the river, Amelia discovers the body of a former friend and coworker. Amelia becomes part of a very disturbing mystery that threatens to destroy her newly reconstructed life.

Not a Sound is a great thriller by Heather Gudenkauf, who just keeps getting better and better with each novel she writes. Very entertaining!

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (2017)

An interesting fictional memoir of the subject of the famous Andrew Wyeth painting: Christina's World. Christina Olson lived her whole life on her family's ancestral farm in Maine. Determined, hardworking, and stubborn, Christina never gave in to her crippling disease as it progressed throughout her lifetime. Andrew "Andy" Wyeth used the Olson house as his studio for many summers, befriending and immortalizing Christina.

In A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline (who wrote Orphan Train) makes readers wonder if the real Christina Olson was as endearing as this well-developed character. For more behind the scenes information, check out the Museum of Modern Art and Mental Floss.

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane (2017)

What could have led Rachel, a journalist, to shoot her husband? In Since We Fell, the reader learns that Rachel has major trust issues after her mother passed away without revealing who Rachel's father is. Rachel also suffers from post-traumatic stress after witnessing horrible events while reporting in Haiti. When Rachel begins to suspect that her husband has not been entirely truthful to her, her investigative instincts go into overdrive and lead her down a path she couldn't possibly have imagined.

While the Dennis Lehane book begins slowly and is leisurely-paced for at least the first third, soon you are engrossed in Rachel's story and can't put it down. The relationship between Rachel and her husband is very reminiscent of the marriage in Gone Girl and readers of the novels of Peter Swanson will find much to love here.

Spotlight: Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs

Do you love vampires, werewolves, and faeries? Then Patricia Briggs’ New York Times best-selling Mercy Thompson series is for you! It revolves around character Mercy Thompson, a mechanic who can shapeshift into a coyote at will. All she wants to do is fix Volkswagons in peace, but unfortunately, trouble has other plans. Start with Moon Called to dive into her exploits today!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)

Angie Thomas’ novel is about two childhood friends who were at a party. They hadn’t seen each other for a long time, as they had grown apart and gone their separate ways. Then, they hear gunshots. They leave the party to go home, only to be stopped by a police officer. This stop had tragic consequences for them both. The aftermath is about the surviving friend and how she deals with the death of her friend and the repercussions for not only herself, but her friends, family, and the entire community. The Hate U Give looks at the perception of how people see you versus what you believe about yourself, as well as the difference between right and wrong.
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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012)

Harold Fry has lived a fairly ordinary life. He has managed to avoid conflict, but there are some unresolved terrible secrets in his past. One letter from an old coworker, one conversation with a perfect stranger, and Harold is about to do something extraordinary. Powerful, emotional, showing it’s never too late to change, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a journey the reader will not soon forget. Check out Rachel Joyce’s debut today.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (2017)

In 1863, sixteen-year-old Placidia agrees to marry Gryffth Hockaday after knowing him for a very short time. He is a soldier on leave, so while he goes back to fight for the Confederacy, she travels to his South Carolina farm to look after it and be a mother to his young son, Charles. Being alone and isolated, living with only the slaves and no other family leaves Placidia vulnerable. When Gryffth comes home after the war is over, he finds that she has been accused of having a child while he was gone and then murdering the baby. Placidia finds herself arrested, in jail, without her husband's support. What really happened while Gryffth was gone? The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers is a perfect read for those who enjoy historical fiction (especially Sandra Dallas) that highlights the everyday lives of women.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (2015)

What would you do if three planes crashed in your town within eight weeks? As fifteen-year-old Miri Ammerman, her mother Rusty, her grandmother Irene, and friends prepare for Hanukkah and Christmas in December 1951, an airplane crashes. In the Unlikely Event is an engrossing story told from multiple perspectives, has likable characters, and deals with relationships and romance in the midst of tragedy. Judy Blume has stated that that idea stemmed from real plane crashes that occurred in Elizabeth, New Jersey near where she lived – get the scoop in this Buzzfeed interview.

 

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (2017)

In 1938, Marianne von Lingenfels makes a promise to watch over the families of German resistors. As the war comes to an end, she finds herself taking in Benita and her son, Martin, and Ania and her two sons, Anselm and Wolfgang, at the family's run-down castle. The three women struggle to survive on their own as they come to terms with the enormous toll the war has taken on them. Taking place over almost sixty years, the novel explores the lives of everyday Germans during the war, a view that hasn't really been explored at length in popular fiction.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is an absorbing read that would be great for discussion. For people who enjoyed Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and other female-centered World War II fiction.

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood (2013)

In Ann Hood’s novel, a clever storyline follows two women's lives some fifty years apart against a backdrop of significant events in American history: the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and its aftermath, and the 1960 presidential election and inauguration of JFK. At one point in The Obituary Writer, their two storylines merge into one. Vivien and Claire are not contemporaries, yet they share certain struggles and dreams. Can one woman's regrets bring closure and happiness to another woman? With the women's movement and all the changes of the 20th century, did individual women's lives change that much? Even in the 21st century, do women continue to feel trapped in traditional roles?

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (2009)

As the first in a new series by Alan Bradley, this mystery has promise. Flavia is delightful, charming, intelligent, and an almost too clever eleven-year-old chemist who deftly solves a murder in her English village in the early 1950s. The reader wants to scream at her older sisters, her silent father, and the authorities to get out of the way and let Flavia solve the crime in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.