In this dark comic novel, widower Felix Pink is an "Exiteer." He, along with a partner, sits with someone who is terminally ill as the client takes their own life. It's all done within the law, but one day it goes horribly wrong as he and his colleague, Amanda, mistakenly aid the wrong person. Felix wonders what exactly went awry and if he'll be charged with murder. Exit (2021) recounts the tale of the police--specifically PC Calvin Bridge--unraveling the crime that was committed and arresting who's responsible. Felix, meanwhile, tries to make amends with the man mistakenly left alive. With its wide cast of characters and interesting puzzle, this book by Belinda Bauer was a real treat.
It's the 22nd century and the Pan American Navy aero-submarine Coldwater is in trouble. Coldwater's antiquated engines, anti-gravity screens, and communications have all failed. The vessel heads for the English coast for repairs. Devastating war has left Europe a forbidden zone for 200 years. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Turck and a few crewmen use a small boat to find food and fresh water ashore. Instead, they find civilization living in primitive camps and wild beasts, descendants of escaped zoo animals, prowling free.
This is classic Edgar Rice Burroughs. What makes this edition special is the narrator. Finn J. D. John teaches New Media Communications at Oregon State University. He begins The Lost Continent (1916, originally titled Beyond Thirty) with a foreword that sets the background for the book and a thumbnail biography of Burroughs. His organization, Pulp-Lit Productions, features annotated editions of Blackwood, Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft, and Seabury Quinn.
In present day England, Emma has been hired to revive the gardens at Highbury House that Venetia Smith designed in 1907 for the Melcourt family. Venetia Smith was quite famous for her garden designs, so Emma is thrilled to be working on the project and hopes that the current lady of the house, Sydney, can unearth some documents that will aid her in restoring the gardens to their former glory. A second storyline tells the story of Venetia and her time working at Highbury and falling in love while there. In addition, the novel recounts life at Highbury House in 1944, when the estate was used as a hospital for soldiers during the war. Specifically, it tells the stories of Beth (a Land Girl), Stella (the cook at Highbury) and Diana (Sydney's great grandmother). The Last Garden in England(2021) by Julia Kelly is an engaging story of several women's lives over a century. An added plus was all the descriptions of the flowers and creating the gardens.
Set in the near future, after an airborne disease has wiped out much of the population of the planet, Station Eleven (2014) follows a troupe of traveling musicians and actors as they migrate from town to town to put on shows. The plot bounces back and forth in time describing the first days of the pandemic then returning to the future, showing the evolution of the characters. Emily St. John Mandel skillfully brings these seemingly disparate storylines together as the main characters converge in the end.
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.
Check out the eBook in Overdrive.
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.
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).
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.
If you liked this book, check out our list of read-alikes.
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.
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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.
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.
For more book club choices, check out our list of favorites from 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.