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A Very Simple Crime by Grant Jerkins (2010)

This first novel from Grant Jerkins grabs you from the very first chapter: Rachel Lee, a mentally ill woman, is brutally murdered; Grant is her grieving husband; and Albert, their mentally handicapped son, has a history of violent outbursts. The police think it is a simple open-and-shut-case.

In A Very Simple Crime, however, things are not always as they appear. Leo Hewitt, a disgraced prosecutor, is determined to keep digging to find out what really happened. If you’re looking for a fun escape, try this great crime thriller.

The Old Man by Thomas Perry (2017)

For thirty-five years, Dan Chase has lived quietly in Vermont, raising a daughter and happily married until his wife died ten years ago. Chase has kept himself mentally and physically sharp waiting for the day when someone discovers who he really is and comes to kill him. That day is now. All those years ago, Chase delivered $20 million for the CIA to a man named Faris Hamzah, who was supposed to give the money to Libyan insurgents. Instead, Hamzah kept the money for himself. Chase stole it back, and when he tried to get in touch with his superiors, they cut him off completely. Chase had no choice but to disappear. Now on the run, trying to outwit and overpower those who are coming after him, it's a cat and mouse game to see who comes out on top. Thomas Perry’s The Old Man is an extremely satisfying fast-paced thriller perfect for a cold winter's day.

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan (2013)

goldenboyHabo is an albino growing up in Tanzania. He is shunned by his community and even his own family, but the horrors do not begin until Habo and his family move from their rural village to Mwanza. He then finds he needs to stay on the run to avoid hunters who wish to kill him for a bounty because of his condition. The most unbelievable part of this story is that this barbarism exists in Tanzania today. In Golden Boy, Tara Sullivan allows readers to feel Habo's pain and go along on his quest for freedom from the superstitious cruelty of Tanzanian albino hunters.
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Cemetery Girl by David Bell (2011)

cemeterygirlTom and Abby Stuart had a wonderful life—until their 12-year-old daughter Caitlin disappeared without a trace. Four years later, the police find their daughter alive. She refuses to discuss anything that happened to her during the time she was gone. Of course, she is a stranger to her parents, who are hanging onto their marriage by a thread.

Cemetery Girl is a good psychological thriller, told from Caitlin’s father’s point of view. When the villain is finally revealed, he is especially repulsive. I will definitely try more novels by David Bell.

Spotlight: Rick Riordan

swordofsummerWhile author Rick Riordan’s focus is currently aimed at children/teenagers, that doesn’t mean they’re off limits for adults. If you’re a fan of action/adventure and different types of mythology, you’re in for a treat! The characters are well developed and have great senses of humor despite the trying circumstances.

If you love Greek or Roman mythology, start with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (first book: The Lightning Thief). For Egyptian, give the Kane Chronicles a shot (first book: The Red Pyramid). Have a fix for Norse? Riordan has recently started on that with Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer!

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly (2016)

wrongsideAs a private investigator, Harry Bosch has been secretly hired by wealthy Whitney Vance to find out before he dies if he has an heir. While in college in 1950, Vance was told by his girlfriend that she was pregnant, but after telling his father about the situation, the girlfriend disappeared and Vance never saw her again. Vance would like his vast fortune to go to his descendants rather than have it in the hands of his company’s board of directors. Bosch is also part of the San Fernando Police Department reserve unit and is partnered with Bella Lourdes to try and discover a serial rapist in the area that they have nicknamed "Screen Cutter." With these two cases, the reader accompanies Bosch as he uses his investigative techniques to find the answers he needs. The Wrong Side of Goodbye is a very satisfying entry in Michael Connelly’s long-running series.

Transatlantic by Colum McCann (2013)

transatlanticI appreciate good historical fiction, especially those stories that connect people and events across time. Colum McCann has done his research and given us some great historical framework before the reader figures out that Transatlantic is really about three generations of women who have left their mark on history, in particular that of Ireland. Great insights into women who carry many personal burdens, yet persevere. Great insights into human nature in general.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman (2016)

leavemeWhen 44-year-old New Yorker Maribeth Klein has a heart attack, she realizes she needs to slow down—but with working full-time and being the mother to preschool-aged twins, she is finding it hard to do. Her husband, Jason, and mother, Evelyn, seem unable to take over most of the tasks of running a household so Maribeth can rest and get better. Fed up, Maribeth, leaves her family and moves to Pittsburgh to recover. Pittsburgh is also the city she was born in, and Maribeth, an adoptee, would like to find her birth mother. Will living there anonymously help her find her way home?

Leave Me is very enjoyable novel full of heart and memorable characters. Gayle Forman’s book is a perfect read-alike for readers of Katherine Center and Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah. O Magazine compared the book to Anne Tyler...a good match.

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds (2015)

boyblacksuitThey always say, "don't judge a book by its cover," but it's hard not to do so sometimes. My eyes were first drawn to The Boy in the Black Suit because of the crinkled look that reminded me of a photo that had been passed around often without protection. All I wanted to do was smooth it out. I was warned that it was kind of a sad book, but I loved it.

I think many of us can relate to Matt who quietly faces the struggle of losing a loved one—that feeling of loneliness when nobody can relate, and they're not sure how to act around you. He ends up working as a pallbearer at the local funeral home. Most people turn to work to keep their mind off the grief, but Matt slowly finds comfort from his job, which allows him to sneak into funerals and listen to people who he can relate to in loss.

The novel also explores his imperfect budding romantic relationship with Lovey, plus his interactions with his boss Mr. Ray and his best friend Chris.

Jason Reynolds did a great job of making Matt a relatable character—he didn't have special powers, he wasn't super attractive or talented, he was just a regular kid living in real life. That's what this book was about: real life with all the ups, downs, and those little moments that make it all worth it.
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The Couple Next Door by Sheri Lapeña (2016)

couplenextdoorAnne and Marco Conti leave their newborn baby at home alone and go to a party at the neighbor’s house. Despite them checking on the baby every half hour, the baby is missing when they get home.

Sheri Lapeña’s The Couple Next Door is a gripping, can’t-put-down tale of deception, betrayal, and unfaithfulness that will keep you in suspense until the final twist.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (2016)

cornerbookshopWhen librarian Nina is made redundant, she decides to follow her dream of owning a bookstore. With a gift for connecting people to the right book, she buys a van, which she christens "Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After." However, making her business work is not an easy task. With limited resources, she moves from where she lives in Birmingham to northern Scotland, because it seems that the people there have a real need for a bookstore and her mobile one is even a better idea, because she can travel to lots of small towns. Soon, she finds herself becoming part of a community--and maybe even finding love.

Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner is a charming novel filled with quirky characters, friendship, and romance.

The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene (2015)

seafrontReaders can relax and forget all their troubles with The Seafront Tearoom – the perfect vacation read any time of year. Make no mistake, the three female protagonists' lives are not trouble free. Charlie (Charlotte), Kat, and Seraphine are all working through major changes in their personal and professional lives. Luckily, their lives converge in a tea room in Scarborough and are never quite the same. Even Letty, the charming owner of The Seafront Tearoom, has secrets from her past that surface during the course of the story.

Vanessa Greene allows readers to meander through the English countryside sipping tea and nibbling on sweet cakes as the characters resolve their conflicts and live happily ever after. Please don't allow that last statement to be a spoiler. The Seafront Tearoom is a relaxing journey complete with the characters' favorite recipes to try with a cup of tea at the end of the book.

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick (2009)

sunflowersThe relationship of the eccentric painter Vincent van Gogh and a young prostitute Rachel begins in the French city of Arles where van Gogh has escaped from Paris to explore a new movement in painting. His never ending search for the perfect model leads him to Rachel and their love for each other grows more intense and tormented as van Gogh struggles with the demons in his soul and mind.

The letters between van Gogh and his brother in Paris reveal many of the known truths of this deeply gifted artist and his life story. A recent trip to the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam was a fascinating comparison of the book, Vincent's artwork, and his love for a young prostitute looking for her own escape.

Check out Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick today.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010)

kitchenhouseSeven-year-old Lavinia, orphaned on her ship bound journey to America, becomes the indentured servant of the Captain and his family. She is to live in the kitchen house of the captain's tobacco plantation under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter.  It is here that she calls home and develops deep relationships with her adopted family. The slaves all take Lavinia under their watch and teach her the ways of the slave quarters, kitchen house, and the big house, but she is treated differently because of her white skin.

As Lavinia matures into a young woman, her role on the plantation changes and she finds herself caring for the mistress of the big house who has fallen to the addictions of opium. Lavinia is trapped between these two different worlds and her loyalties, love and life are all endangered. Kathleen Grissom’s The Kitchen House tugs on your heartstrings as Lavinia makes life choices and her world and its surroundings are forever changed.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)

13thtaleDiane Setterfield masterfully weaves together a gothic tale of suspense, mystery, and loss. The novel follows the story of two women, one a reclusive author, Vida Winter, who has weaved together so many stories about her life no one knows the truth and the other a young biographer, Margaret Lea, who has been chosen by Winter to take down her true story before Winter succumbs to old age and various ailments plaguing her.

Winter’s tale unfolds mainly in flashback, recounting her eccentric upbringing and the tragedy that tore her family apart. The reader is left to figure out which character Winter is in her tale. Meanwhile, Lea is forced to look to her own past, the loss of her twin and the resulting withdrawal from day-to-day life of her mother. She tries to examine how it has shaped who she is and how she can move forward with her own life. Themes explored include identity, loss, reconciliation, death, and twins.

The Thirteenth Tale was originally released in Australia as an adult novel, but subsequently was released in the United States as a novel targeted to young adults. In 2007, it won an Alex Award, which is annually given to ten books written for adults that have a special appeal to young adults.