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What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age by Renee Rosen (2014)

whattheladywantsIn this historical novel (and great Chicago book), Renee Rosen tells a fictionalized story about Marshall Field from the perspective of his mistress Delia Spencer. What the Lady Wants includes some history of the late nineteenth century, including the Great Chicago Fire and the World’s Fair, plus shows how people lived at that time.

Do you enjoy fictionalized history? Check out other Novels Based on Real People.

Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? by Stephen Dobyns (2015)

fatbobI've read other suspense novels by Stephen Dobyns, but Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? was quite a surprise. This is a comic caper novel with a good deal in common with Elmore Leonard or even a Coen Brothers movie. Connor Raposo, a young man at loose ends, finds himself involved in a shady phone scam in New London, Connecticut. A motorcycle gang, bumbling detectives, and Elvis lookalike in witness protection combine for a funny romp.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer (2016)

girlinredcoatA mother and daughter are separated at a crowded fair and suddenly 8-year-old Carmel vanishes.  Kate Hamer’s book alternates perspectives between Carmel and her mother, Beth. The Girl in the Red Coat captures the heart wrenching effects of such a tragedy from both Carmel and Beth's perspectives.  This book is suspenseful, deeply emotional, and very engrossing – twists and turns in the plot kept me riveted until the end.  If you have anything else to do, don't start this book as you won't be able to put it down until it is finished.

Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance (2015)

hellorhighballThis book hits all the right notes of humor, setting, and character. In 1923, Lola Woodby, a New York society matron in her early 30s, is now a penniless widow with a dog, a Swedish cook, and a serious addiction to cinnamon buns and highballs. Talking like George Raft, if George Raft were actually talking in 1923, Lola and cook Berta go about wheedling their way into high society weekends, speakeasies, and shady businesses in order to retrieve a missing reel of film, and make the dough to pay the rent on their seedy apartment. I look forward to Lola's next adventure.

Check out Maia Chance’s Come Hell or Highball today.

Endangered by C. J. Box (2015)

endangeredAre men what their mothers make them? C. J. Box’s Endangered may make you think so. Here is a family living remotely, but none would want them as neighbors. Except Joe Pickett’s daughter, April, takes up with Dallas, the rodeo star son of the family, until she is found badly beaten and unconscious in a road-side ditch. Joe (local game warden) is determined to see that justice is done even if it must be western style. Joe's friend, Nate, has just been released from prison on a deal with the feds about catching a bad guy of great importance. It’s not clear why Nate was in prison, but he does say, “I never did kill anyone who didn’t need killing.” Brenda, mother of Dallas and two other sons, goes all out to make sure her son is cleared of any suspicion involving April. Brenda’s sons say “she covers all the bases.” The ending is a surprise and somewhat incredible, but Joe is satisfied that justice is done.

It's. Nice. Outside. by Jim Kokoris (2015)

itsniceoutsideJohn Nichols is on a road trip from Chicago to South Carolina to attend his oldest daughter Karen's wedding. Accompanying him is his nineteen-year-old son, Ethan, who has autism. Travelling with Ethan is so difficult that John feels they can only drive several hours each day. In fact, living with Ethan has put a strain on everyone in the family, and John and his wife, Mary, divorced after he had an affair. John also has a secret agenda for this trip: a spot has opened up at a group home in Maine for Ethan to live full time. Mary and John agreed a while ago that the place is perfect for Ethan. They just didn't expect an opening so soon. How will the family let Ethan go after he has been such a huge part of their lives for so many years? In It's. Nice. Outside., Jim Kokoris has written a realistic, at times humorous, look at how each member of a family is affected by living with a special needs child.
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The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)

martianMark Watney is an astronaut accidentally stranded on Mars with too little food, no way to communicate with Earth, and no way home. Plus, everyone thinks he’s already dead. So, this is what he does…

Did you know? The Martian by Andy Weir took a not-quite-typical journey to getting published. Read about it here. For another take on The Martian, check out Jennifer's review.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012)

bernadetteSomething snapped in Bernadette a long time ago. No one knows for sure. She quit her job at the peak of her architectural career. She had several miscarriages. Now she is a recluse who tries to hold it together for the sake of her brilliant daughter Bee. She thinks she has found the answer with the help of a virtual assistant, but everything goes wrong when the family is about to embark on a trip to Antarctica.

Check out Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette along with other stories told through letters, emails, diaries, etc. in our list of Epistolary Novels.

The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard (2015)

waysworld"Max" Maxted is a WWI veteran and former POW who plans to open a flight school on the family property. When his father dies under mysterious circumstances in Paris at the peace talks, Max is determined to get to the bottom of it. Although by the end of the book many questions are answered, more have arisen to make us early anticipate book two of this trilogy. What was Max's father really raising money for? What is the secret of Max's birth? Will his pill of a brother and sister-in-law get their comeuppance?

The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard is a throwback to those 1930s and early forties movies, often, but not always by Hitchcock, where an innocent man gets pulled into a web of espionage and hidden societies. Think The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, or Ministry of Fear.

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (2015)

darkforestCixin Liu’s The Dark Forest (Vol II) indeed is dark and is best understood if The Three-Body Problem (Vol I) is read first. This sequel allows the reader to look at the strategies and attitudes of earth inhabitants when astronomers confirm aliens from Trisolaris are in route and will arrive in a few hundred years. Nations work together for the defense of earth, some with great confidence, but some groups believe all hope is lost (defeatists) and others that a remnant must escape (escapists) into space.

As was seen in Vol. I, the Trisolarians somehow have access to most human technology (sophons?), but lately it was discovered secrets could be hidden in the human mind. In some early and infrequent communications, the Trisolarians expressed confusion that humans needed different words for thought and speech because with them all thought was public and a principal means of communication. Could this be important for earth defense or in negotiations?

Towards the end of this volume, an advance probe from the Trisolarian fleet enters our solar system and is found to be of beautiful raindrop shape and mirror-like exterior. In a most stressful attempt to capture and examine the probe, one described it as a tear from the Mother of God and all approached it with much apprehension.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)

giverMany of the recent popular dystopian series like Divergent, The Hunger Games, and Legend (by Marie Lu) can trace their storylines back to The Giver, the book which started it all. In a distant future, people live in a utopian society where everything is controlled—what people say, and think, and do. At age 12, Jonas will go through “the ceremony” to find out what he will do for the rest of his life, but what he soon learns about the past will change his whole world.

Check out the classic by Lois Lowry today.

Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme (2014)

missingreelsCeinwen Reilly is a transplant to the Big Apple where her minimum wage job at a vintage clothing shop funds her classic movie habit and her propensity for dressing like a 1920s film star. When she gets wind of a long missing silent movie directed by a mysterious, long forgotten German director and starring her elderly downstairs neighbor, Ceinwin becomes determined to track down the missing reels.

If you love old movies and romances with Englishmen named Matthew, this is the book for you. If not, many of the allusions to old movies might leave you bewildered. Interested? Find a copy of Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme today.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (2014)

3bodyproblemCixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem begins with a top secret Chinese project just after the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and on into the future, Earth tries to (and perhaps does) make contact with the civilizations of Trisolaris, a planet several light years away. Trisolaris, dominated by three suns, has eons of stable, then chaotic seasons in which culture flourishes then crashes with disastrous results. Inhabitants dehydrate their bodies to survive. Scientific efforts to predict gravitational motion in a three body system have perplexed physicists on Trisolaris (and Earth) for ages. Only a few on Earth know of these extra-terrestrial efforts begun by the Chinese and later appearing in strange video games.

If the Trisolarians migrate to our solar system to escape the certain destruction of their planet, should Earth welcome them as superior beings or fight an invading enemy?

Check back in a few weeks to check out my review of the second book in the series: The Dark Forest.

Sit! Stay! Speak! by Annie England Noblin (2015)

sitstayspeakNeeding a change, Addie decides to move from Chicago to the small town of Eunice, Arkansas, after inheriting her Aunt Tilda's house. Addie used to spend time each summer as a child with Tilda, but it's been many years since she visited. Addie's plan is to stay a few months to fix her aunt's house up so she can sell it.

However, after rescuing an abandoned dog she names Felix, becoming friends with Wanda Carter (who is the queen of sassy southern sayings), and falling for lawyer/farmer Jasper Floyd, she just might find it too hard to leave. Despite all this, Addie finds herself in trouble after she refuses ignore the fact that someone in Eunice is abusing dogs. Sit! Stay! Speak! by Annie England Noblin is a cozy first novel full of charm, romance and quirky characters.

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith (2014)

starmrsblakeIn April Smith’s latest novel, Mrs. Blake takes advantage of a Canadian program to send mothers who had lost their sons in the recent war to go to France and see their son’s graves. A Star for Mrs. Blake is a quietly effective novel about a mother coming to terms with the loss of her son in WWI, her own past, and re-thinking all the patriotic trappings that come with any war.