The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner, is a lovely story that reads much like an Austen novel. A group of very different people, each dealing with loss and disappointment in post-WWII Chawton, England, are drawn together by their common love of Jane Austen’s books. They form the society to preserve the author’s final home and to provide a place for fans to visit. Through working together to overcome legal obstacles, they begin to learn about themselves and to see that there is hope after tragedy. These are characters you will grow to care for and wish to see succeed.
— Laura B.
The perfect beach read for at home: funny, sexy, heart-warming, suspenseful, and a twist-ending I didn't see coming! From NYC to the mansions of Cape Cod and the color of Provincetown; this is a quick and engaging story of friendships, families, murder, and revenge. Relatable and strong characters you will be cheering on, as I did.
A Long Petal of the Sea is the first Allende novel I have had the pleasure of reading, and will certainly not be the last. This novel effortlessly merges history and fiction with believable, honest characters and an impressive coverage of the Spanish Civil War. While reaching back into history, the novel withstands time and is as relevant today as it would have been in the mid-19th century. This is a love story, an immigration story, and a homecoming story. I hope you become as captivated by this novel as I am!
It's funny how in families, each member perceives the family dynamic differently. In All Adults Here, Emma Straub depicts this perfectly. When Astrid, the widowed mother of three adult children, witnesses the sudden death of a woman she has known for years, she begins to reflect on her own life, her parenting, and the adults her children have become. Each of her children is questioning the events of their own lives. Their successes, failures, and how they feel they were affected by their parents and siblings while growing up in a small town. The reader will likely see themselves in at least one of the characters and perhaps have some questions of their own. An enjoyable page turner.
— Laura B.
Comedy, tragically, is hit or miss. Pratfalls fall flat and foibles merely flummox, but Moore’s ribald style and returning Fool Pocket’s effusive vulgarity nail it. Pocket, a stranger in a strange land, abandoned and alone, brandishes his wit and kit against witless players, kitless guards and pucking faeries. This parody of A Midsummer Night’s Dream would have Shakespeare rolling in his grave.
Another terrific thriller from the sisters who write as Liv Constantine! Piper, a mysterious and alluring newcomer to Westport, CT, has her very determined sights set on handsome lawyer Leo Draper. Joanna, devoted to Leo, refuses to let him go. Told in alternate chapters from each woman’s point of view, this novel of psychological suspense will keep you guessing until the last sentence.
Welcome to Catherine House, a highly selective, secretive university; an eerie, crumbling castle, full of secrets, hidden from prying eyes. The curriculum is experimental and challenging, the social life, highly unconventional. If accepted, you must completely remove yourself from the outside world. In return, you will be given a free education and a promise that the world will be yours for the taking. Catherine House is a dark and atmospheric novel, a true gothic page turner.
When their eccentric Holocaust survivor grandmother passes away, the estranged Miller family must spend three uncomfortable days together sitting Shiva. After discussing the will, anger, jealousy, secrets, and resentments surface for siblings Ashley, Jake, and Beck and their flaky mother, Deborah. The biggest secret is the truth behind the mysterious brooch left behind for Beck, it’s value and to whom it really belongs. What follows is a story taking the reader from WWI Vienna to present day Pennsylvania with enough motion and mystery to keep one wanting more.
— Laura B.
Fans of The Nightingale and All the Light we Cannot See will be intrigued by Fein’s novel, based on some of the personal experience her father endured in 30’s Germany. Love, betrayal, loss, courage, and fear; yet hope helps Hetty and Walter, a German and a Jew, survive, but not in ways you could imagine.
When Lizzie agrees to represent her former law school classmate Zach, accused of murdering his wife, she has no idea of the dark secrets simmering beneath the surface of what appear to be perfect marriages in their affluent Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope. If you are a fan of legal thrillers, murder mysteries, and psychological suspense, Kimberly McCreight’s latest novel is the book for you!
Riveting. Immersive. Spellbinding. Get the picture? There is NO resisting this tension-filled novel. Based on real-life characters, I was introduced to an overlooked hero of WWII—Nancy Wake. Because of her iron will, her grit, her bravery, she lived with the Resistance in the countryside of France and led them on many successful missions leading up to and beyond D-Day. Superb writing. I’m just so glad I picked up this book!
It isn't often that the reader gets to peel back the curtain and discover what was going on behind the scenes of an author's debut—Stray presents fans of Sweetbitter that opportunity. Stephanie Danler has given us a memoir that is raw and real, grappling with parental addiction and her own complicated romantic entanglements. This has to be one of the most honest books I've ever read.
I loved this story! It's more than a coming-of-age novel....it's relatable, full of surprises, funny, and sad. Nicholls, author of One Day, has written a new page turner about "first love" with all it's vulnerabilities and passion; and complicated by a very dysfunctional family. Like when finishing a book by Fredrik Backman, you will be thinking of these characters long after the last page.
I felt drawn to this different view of WWII, and I was unable to put down Orly's story. As a Jewish ten-year-old in 1938, her world is torn apart as the Germans invade Vienna. Orly and her parents, who are professional musicians, struggle to obtain visas to La Paz, Bolivia. How the family survives refugee status, the severe altitude, and emotional distress with courage, creativity, and love is truly amazing and inspiring!
This engrossing, layered novel was exactly the book I needed to capture my attention at this moment. Traversing different locales and story lines, Emily St. John Mandel has woven an impressive tale of perception, class, and humanity. I devoured each new turn of fate as the well-written characters moved toward their ever-changing futures.
What a joy to read! Shaun Bythell took me through a fascinating year of the highs and lows of owning a second-hand bookshop with humor, wit and grace. Each day started with how many online orders and ended with the till total as well as the number of customers. And in between, I met the many characters of Wigtown: Sandy the tattooed pagan, Granny, and Bum-bag Dave, to name a few. This bookshop is on my list to visit and I hope it will be soon!
The exquisitely talented Sebastian Barry does not disappoint in this post-Civil War narrative told in the remarkable voice of Winona, a young Lakota girl. Orphaned and taken in by an unusual couple, she is still vulnerable as a low social status female. She must take brave steps to protect herself and seek justice for a wrongdoing. A harrowing coming of age from a very different time and place. The heartrending yet hopeful ending will stay with me for a very long time.
Frances Cha’s debut is a fascinating, at times unflinching, look at the lives of four young women living in an office-tel in contemporary Seoul. Narrated in point-of-view chapters, each woman tells a compelling story as they make their way in a competitive society with exacting standards of beauty and notions of a woman’s place, and their stories will pull you in. I look forward to more from this new voice in fiction.
Alexis and CeCe have a mother/daughter relationship that is best described as “prickly.” Thankfully, they have Tommy to keep them on track until his tragic cancer diagnosis plunges this family into chaos and despair. Written alternately from both Mother’s and daughter’s point of view, misunderstandings, secrets, and resentment threaten to destroy what time the family has left and the future they’ll need to build together. Emotions are all over the place with this novel and you’ll be reminded to let your friends and family know how important they are to you. Definitely worth the tears.
— Laura B.
I read this a while back, but, like all wonderful stories, it has stayed with me and I am reminded of it often. An island off the Norwegian coast, inhabited by the original founding family, now with vague, unsure dreams of a future on the mainland. Like so many fine scandinavian stories - Babette's Feast, Bergman films, the suspense novels of Camilla Lackberg and Henning Mankell- these people are honed by the quiet and demands of their lives - and are remarkable. I do not want to visit for fear of disturbing the serenity that covers the deferred hope. This is not a sad, unhappy story - just some truths of being alive. A lovely translation and so very worth reading.
Here are 24 essays - but these could be called short tales - of places and the stuff of the world. Birds can 'see' magnetism, flowers reach out with an electrical charge to passing bees, the 'free electrons' in a candle flame can be bent by a magnetic field, some of those nasty things in 'dust bunnies' make the liquid they need through their own metabolism. And then the author takes us to Mars, that has shared it's redness with the Colorado Plateau, and on to the rings of Saturn and we join him on an ice mountain ploughing a way of separation between the rings. If you had asked me I would have said I had no interest in Sunfish, wouldn't know a Fireweed from any other weed, but now.... I want many more of these - science for all of us, with lovely writing and surprises.
This unforgettable debut is told through the eyes of Miss May Belle and her daughter Rue, powerful conjure women with the ability to heal or curse. These strong, resilient women bring to life the horrors of slavery on a southern plantation, the Civil War years, and finally, freedom. A violent, superstitious world? Yes, but one also filled with the beauty of nature and the power of the human spirit.
For fans of News of the World, this is a moving story of a young man, his music, and his pursuit of love - all while dodging the 'conscription people.' 1865 Texas, as the Civil War is winding down, is still fraught with tension and chaos. Jiles beautifully captures the spirit of this place and time!
A captivating and harrowing account of a real midcentury American family, and their struggles as six of their twelve children develop schizophrenia. As good as any narrative nonfiction that you'll find, Robert Kolker has chronicled the journey of the Galvin family with insight and humanity, while contextualizing their challenges in the larger social and scientific landscape of the time. Phenomenal.
In 1617, a sudden storm broke off the coast of the tiny Norwegian island of Vardøs. The men, all of whom were out fishing, drowned. Left to fend for themselves, the women find the strength to take charge and survive. But that is not their traditional role in this society and a zealous commissioner, a witch hunter, is sent to the island to enforce the religious beliefs of the King. Based on a true story, this is a riveting, unforgettable tale.
I was wary about a return to war-time Paris, but knowing I was in Cara Black’s capable hands compelled me to take a chance - an excellant decision! Kate Rees is an American ranch woman with skills sharpened by intelligence training and a personal vendetta. With hints of Eye of the Needle and 11/22/63, Black combines suspense, betrayal and “what if” masterfully. I couldn’t put this book down.
I'm always looking for more ways to put vegetables on the table, but only if they are delicious, filling, and accessible. Jamie Oliver delivers! Besides tasty, healthy remakes of old favorites, like a green mac and cheese, I am learning creative techniques that I will be able to use on other dishes, including a brilliant upside-down pizza. I am still diving deeply into this user-friendly cookbook.
Taking place in the 1980’s and 90s, this book belongs to the mothers. The housewives with too much to do who relax at their book club – where they exclusively read true crime and related novels. Grady Hendrix has such a delightful, twisted writing style. He really sets the mood perfectly and captures the time period with a sharp eye. Fun, funny, horrific at times in all the best ways, I highly recommend this one! Though a completely separate, unrelated book, I love thinking about this as a perfect companion piece to My Best Friend’s Exorcism; if you haven’t read it, I recommend that one too!
Hilary Mantel’s completion of her bestselling, award-winning trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell is well worth the nearly eight year wait! While much of the historical fiction written about Henry VIII and his court has been told from the perspective of the King or one of his six wives, Mantel’s wise decision to tell the story from the point of view of Cromwell, the King’s chief minister and an extraordinarily powerful man, gives us a different view of the Tudor court.
Based on the WWII French Resistance spy Nancy Wake, this is an incredibly moving story that's impossible to put down. Code Name Hélène is a passionate love story that will have you longing for France; and, although there are a few harsh war scenes, the persevering spirit of this amazing woman makes this a must read!
You’ll never read anything else that is similar to a N. K. Jemisin book. Unsurpassed in creativity, present day New York is intricately folded in and upon itself resulting in a stunning monument to the city and all its boroughs.
As a newborn city, New York is in danger of invasion by another city from an alternate universe. Together, the avatars of The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island must work together to eradicate the possible extinction, and eventual disappearance of the city from the face of this earth and history. A thrilling “stay up all night to finish” book by an author who is in a league of her own!
Steinhauer is the finest spy novelist writing today; I happily devoured this latest on vacation. Current global issues and political controversies are expertly woven into this tale of Milo Weaver, a rogue ex-spy. Characters, working with and against Weaver, collected from around the globe, became so real I found myself looking over my shoulder in the airport. Not to be missed!
The Herd positively brims with fascinating female characters--and even better, because it's a thriller, each woman is hiding her own delicious secret. Bartz fingers the pulse of a very distinct and recognizable moment in contemporary feminism--all the language, behaviors, and accompanying dangers. I loved sinking deeper past the classy cosmopolitan exterior of the elite co-working space where this mystery unfolds. The Herd feels like a real place--one you'd walk past on the street and speculate about what might happen behind its doors. Now, thanks to Andrea Bartz, you can find out.
If you thought you knew the events leading to the American Revolution, think again. You will feel personal connection with the Hancock, Quincy, and Adams families as you learn of their individual trials and heartaches. A work so well researched, everyone should read about the rebels from Boston. Did you know Washington, to save Boston, fooled the British by erecting a wall of hay that resembled a fort? Did you know the Boston Massacre was five years before the war started? Did you know of the illnesses that tormented these people and in many cases took their lives too soon? Read and learn how these key people used their wealth, intelligence, friendships and most of all God to lead us all to liberty.
I don't know why I so enjoyed this, but maybe that's what happiness is about. A simple, charming story of 'the electric' coming to a tiny town in the west of Ireland. A young man come to stay with his relations and finding out about love, humanity, regret, and happiness. Lovely, peaceful, and real - it made me happy.
This book is absolutely DELIGHTFUL! There wasn't one page without something to make me laugh or smile or tear up, or all three. Linus Baker is a rule follower working for Extreme Upper Management by investigating orphanages to be sure the magical children who live there are being taken care of properly. He truly cares about the children and because of that believes his job is important. But he is a lonely man who wishes for more. When he is sent on a secret mission and meets a family of even more unique, wonderful people, he begins to look beyond the rules and see the world as it truly is ... and what it could truly be. A sweet love story, a tale of family and transformation, I loved every second. The House in the Cerulean Sea is also an important book for our times that shows how fear and prejudice can affect the lives of both adults and children.
When young ER doctor Alexis and her boyfriend Austin head off on a romantic bike tour of Vietnam, she has no idea what the charming young man is concealing. From the grimy alleys of New York City to the lush Vietnamese countryside, Bohjalian’s latest is a gripping, fast-paced story of two sides of a devastating biological weapon. The race to create it, and the race to destroy it.
I finished this book in a day- it was that compelling! A Good Neighborhood is a modern day Greek tragedy. Narrated in third person by “the Neighborhood” it is a gripping story of a small suburban town forever changed by the heartbreaking and inevitable issues of our times. Forbidden love, racism, class, and a cast of unforgettable characters culminate in a stunning conclusion that will stay with you for a long time!
Admittedly, I hesitated picking up this book, thinking Pilgrim and Anglican settlers in early Plymouth Massachusetts might not be for me. I was so wrong! Brought to life is the true historical event of the first murder in Plymouth colony. Told from the perspective of two strong women characters, one on each side of the murder. I love that it was local history, told from female perspectives and that it makes you realize history as we know it-or her-story, is dependent on which side of the story you are receiving. I am left thinking about how everyone has a story and collectively our stories make up history. Every story is important!
Racing over 200 mph with no seat belt, helmet, or safety... this is the true story of Rene' Dreyfus, a Jewish driver and Lucy Shell, the American heiress who financed him. Suspenseful action and a fascinating history of European motorsport during Hitler's rise to power.
If we tell ourselves stories in order to live, Vanessa has been telling herself the same one since she was 15, when she was involved with her predatory English teacher at boarding school. As the story of Vanessa's past unfurls and present-day accusations against this teacher gain momentum, she begins to see the events that shaped her adolescence in a new and different light. My Dark Vanessa is the haunting, relentless, and necessary story we need today. If you read just one book this year, make it this one.