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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.

 

The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill (2009)

This is the story of a crime, not a mystery in the whodunit style, but a mystery nonetheless as to why and how it happened. In addition, Susan Hill allows new characters to walk onto the scene and the reader wonders who is this person and how do they fit into the story. As the title suggests, this is a dark tale of child abduction and crazed grief with the thought patterns of those involved clearly laid out by the author. As Ruth Rendell said, The Risk of Darkness is “a stunning tale.” Old friends of Detective Simon Serrailler and his triplet sister Doctor Cat will welcome their interplay throughout the story. Book 3 of this series (set in England).

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.

The Whistler by John Grisham (2016)

In The Whistler (that is whistleblower), John Grisham introduces us to the Florida Board of Judicial Conduct’s investigation of the most corrupt judge in Florida’s history. An elusive character named Mix or Myers or maybe something else lodges a complaint with the board in hopes of an award for himself and his undisclosed client. Thus Lacy Stoltz and her colleague Hugo become involved in the most dangerous and compelling investigation of their board career. Their adventures cross paths with the coastal mafia and corruption at the casino run by the Tappacola Native American tribe. Lacy persists with the investigation even after Hugo is killed and she is terribly injured in an unlikely accident that suggests murder. With the FBI’s help, Lacy unravels this corrupt maze of hidden wealth, obscure identities and a convict on death row who should not be there.

Check out a review from The New York Times.

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.

The Red Box by Rex Stout (1937)

This story, published in the year of my birth, is still available as an eBook through IPPL. I enjoyed visiting with Nero Wolf and Archie again as they investigate the death of several persons, one by poison in Wolf’s office. This victim first asks Wolf to be his executor and notes the importance of the red box among the items in his estate but dies before he can reveal its whereabouts. The search for the box brings forth adventures for Archie and the police, but in the end, Wolf produces what appears to be the box and solves the mystery. The Red Box by Rex Stout is a good read about the eccentric Wolf in which he actually leaves his office on one unusual occasion.

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 Fox was Ever the Hunter by Herta Muller (2016)

Herta Muller’s words form images assembled as a collage and story for the reader to follow. The Fox was Ever the Hunter is rich in images and symbols to lead one along the path of fear and frustration caused by the totalitarian regime the author grew up with in Romania. The secret service lurks ever present and for Adina, they threaten with notes and gradual dissection of her fox fur bought years ago with her mother. Clara finds that her special friend with whom she shares the evening rest is not just a lawyer but an agent of that dreaded service. All are suspicious of others and fearful of what may come, but hope for a brighter day.

For more about the book and the author, check out The New York Times review.

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.