Current Picks: Book Reviews

The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)

martianDid I understand all of the science? No. But it didn't matter. I challenge you not to get drawn into Mark Watney's epic quest for survival after he is accidentally left behind on Mars. A thrilling adventure, The Martian is largely told through the log entries of this snarky astronaut with glimpses of NASA personnel on Earth and in space. You may have seen the Matt Damon-led movie adaptation (or at least the previews), but I encourage you to pick up Andy Weir's novel!

Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

emmaJuliet Stevenson's delightful rendition of this classic was the perfect way to experience Jane Austen. Her command of the many characters and their quirks brought out the humor and heart in Austen's words.

Check out the audio version of Emma in Hoopla, or read a print copy. And if you already know (and love) Emma, check out Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy. I think you’ll see a few endearing similarities between Emma and Sophy.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean (2015)

roguenottakenSophie Talbot doesn't suffer fools...which backfires when her impulsive action involving her degenerate brother-in-law (a duke) and a fish pond is witnessed by all of society. Thwarting her escape is the rakish Kingscote, Marquess of Eversley, who thinks she's trying to trap him into marriage. What follows is a crazy adventure across England with witty repartee and unexpected discoveries. Plus, (truly) dark secrets are revealed in The Rogue Not Taken. Prepare to fall in love with Sarah MacLean in this series starter.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016)

saltseaTitanic. Lusitania. Wilhelm Gustloff. All major maritime disasters, yet the latter is virtually unknown. Ruta Sepetys changes that in her latest gripping historical novel. Told in short snippets, Salt to the Sea rotates between four narrators attempting to escape various tragedies in 1945 Europe. Powerful and haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful, a must-read for adults and teens.

As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Sepetys sheds light on a little known slice of history, drawing you into the story through the eyes of unforgettable characters.

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson (2016)

befrank9-year-old Frank is quirky, lovable, and exasperating. He has trouble relating to other kids, he dresses like a 1930s movie star, and he’s full of random facts. His mother Mimi (better known as M. M. Banning) wrote an incomparable novel at 19. She’s published nothing since (think Harper Lee).

When 50ish Mimi promises to write a second novel if she has an assistant, her publisher sends Alice. A New Yorker thrust into the eccentricities of Hollywood, Alice must decipher the craziness that is now her life.

An endearing and clever novel, Be Frank with Me is easily a one-sitting read. You’ll be turning the pages of Julia Claiborne Johnson’s debut to find out just what will happen next.
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Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (2016)

missbridgertonWith her trademark humor and snappy dialogue, Julia Quinn introduces readers to a new generation of Bridgertons--and launches a new series with Because of Miss Bridgerton. Neighbors Billie Bridgerton and George Rokesby have bickered their entire lives. But when Billie needs rescuing after her impulsive actions land her on the roof of an abandoned farmhouse, something changes... You'll relish the journey in this sparkling, delightful historical romance.

Curious about those other Bridgertons? We own (in print and ebook) the witty novels featuring each of the eight siblings.

Lock In by John Scalzi (2014)

lockinRequired: a willingness to suspend disbelief and go along for the gripping ride. In this near futuristic thriller, newly minted FBI Agent Chris Shane gets thrust into a complicated case on his first day.

NPR summarizes the premise best: in this world, Haden's Syndrome is “a global, meningitis-like pandemic that, in addition to killing lots of people, also left a certain percentage of them completely paralyzed. This paralysis is called ‘lock in.’” Shane is a Haden and uses a personal transport device to navigate the world (hence the futuristic technology part).

Science fiction isn’t my go-to genre, and it may not be yours, but if you enjoy fast-paced adventures with a mystery to solve, give this one a shot. In John Scalzi’s Lock In, the world is grounded in enough reality that theoretically it could happen. And Will Wheaton does a fantastic job narrating the novel. Highly recommended.

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (2011)

leftneglectedYou might recognize Lisa Genova from her blockbuster book (and movie) Still Alice. But you’d be remiss to skip Left Neglected, a fascinating and compelling story about a woman forced to reexamine her life following a car accident. 38-year-old Sarah leads a high octane life, juggling an 80 hour workweek with her family (husband and three kids). When a traumatic brain injury makes her unaware of everything on the left side, Sarah must rehabilitate her brain and body while reassessing her priorities.

A thought-provoking read and a great choice for your next book club.
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The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger (2016)

singlesgameAfter a devastating injury at Wimbledon, 24-year-old Charlotte "Charlie" Silver questions her coach and her sedate lifestyle, but not her future in the sport of tennis. How far is she willing to go to make it to the top? In this delightfully snarky fast-paced coming of age tale, Lauren Weisberger provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of competitive tennis. Perfect for the beach!

The Singles Game is the latest novel from the author of The Devil Wears Prada.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen (2016)

9womenIn this charming romantic comedy, the central character is this season’s hottest little black dress. Told from various points of view, Nine Women, One Dress shares the stories of an ensemble of New Yorkers whose lives are touched by the “it” dress. Despite jumping from character to character (men and women), the engaging story flows smoothly and keeps you invested in all of the lives we visit. Jane L. Rosen’s debut is a delightfully lighthearted read.

Spotlight: Recent Foodie Fiction

Each of these novels has an enticing blend of food, relationships, and quirky women coming of age, no matter their age. And just a warning: you’ll be hungry after you finish reading!

citybakerThe City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (2016)

After her fancy dessert goes up in flames (as does her fancy workplace), Olivia escapes to Vermont to bake for a small inn. In the process, she meets a delightful cast of characters and discovers what’s really important in life. Check out Mary P.’s review for more about the story.

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Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (2015)

It’s all about Eva. Told from multiple points of view and through a series of short stories, the novel unfolds to share different parts of the renowned chef’s personality.

 
deliciousDelicious! by Ruth Reichl (2014)

After Billie gets a job at a food magazine, she encounters engaging characters, describes mouth-watering food, and explores the foodie side of New York. Read a full review of the book here.

Did you know? We’ve got a whole list of Foodie Fiction!
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The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot (2016)

boyisbackTake one part Meg Cabot’s (of The Princess Diaries fame) brand of romantic comedy and one part modern epistolary novel and you get a delightfully endearing story. Told through phone chats, social media messages, journals, and emails, The Boy is Back follows high school sweethearts Becky and Reed as they reconnect after a decade apart. Mix in a wacky family, small town shenanigans, and a few misunderstandings for a sweet and breezy read.

And if you’re a fan of epistolary novels, check out our list.

The Muse by Jessie Burton (2016)

museAlternating between 1930s Spain and 1960s London, The Muse is a compelling story with its threads tied together by a painting and its artist. In the months leading up to the Spanish Civil War, teenager Olive Schloss struggles with identity, relationships, and artistry. In 1967 England, Trinidadian writer Odelle faces similar challenges. Early on in Jessie Burton's sophomore novel (after The Miniaturist), it's obvious that a mystery in the plots of the parallel narratives will be resolved; the surprise (and joy) is in how Burton accomplishes it.

This novel is for fans of historical fiction and art-related novels such as The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, and That Summer by Lauren Willig. Plus, check out our book list featuring Art & Artists.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992)

doomsdaybookThis book hit all the right notes: likable, interesting characters; gripping story told from multiple perspectives; and historical fiction blended with believable time travel. In 2048 England, students and professors at Oxford have mastered the art of time travel as a means to fill in the gaps in the historical record. Budding historian Kivrin plans to visit 1320 Oxford to learn more about everyday life in the Middle Ages; instead, she ends up in 1348 at the height of the Black Death. A mysterious epidemic in 2048 also creates chaos, preventing Dunworthy (Kivrin’s mentor) from bringing her home.

A compelling narrative, Doomsday Book will propel you forward, frantically turning to pages to discover the fate of those in past and future. My first foray into Connie Willis’ novels—but it won’t be my last!

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (2017)

notsoperfectSophie Kinsella introduces another delightful character in Katie Brenner. In My Not So Perfect Life, country girl Katie is fulfilling her lifelong dream of living and working in London. According to her Instagram account, life is rosy. And yet, reality is quite different.

In this fast-paced witty novel, Kinsella covers workplace culture, social media “truth” vs. reality, and making assumptions/being quick to judge people. A fun yet thought-provoking look at life in the 21st century.