Books reviewed by Mark Mindell and Sally Drake
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
I am a member of my alma mater (Union College's) book club and this was the recommended read and as it was also on The NY Times best seller's list, so I thought I'd give it a try. Not my usual genre. But I couldn't put it down. Picture yourself dying and in a library where the books are all about what your life could've been like had you taken some different turns...The Midnight Library offers 35 year old British citizen Nora Seed just this opportunity. The librarian, Mrs. Elm, tells her to look at her book of "Regrets," and there are many... now Nora must choose to see what happens if she took a left at the fork in the road instead of a right. Could she have been an Olympic swimmer like her dad wanted? Or a rock queen following her brother's dreams? How about a Pub owner with Dan, the one she left at the alter or a glaciologist or wine grower? There are many possibilities and Nora must see what's right for her, before....before something bad happens. Really enjoyed this one.
Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner
Mediocre story of an AA woman, Frankie Elkin, who travels around the country trying to find missing teens, mostly from low income or minority backgrounds. She has found 14 previously but none alive. Frankie has a troubled background; alcoholic, and no real family, just a former boyfriend named Paul she constantly refers to. Her latest case brings her to Mattapan, a Haitian community outside of Boston. Fifteen-year-old Angelique (LiLi) Badeau has been missing for eleven months and now her closest friend, Livia is missing too. Frankie takes a job for free rent above a bar (despite being an AA person she enjoys working in a bar and not drinking) at Stoney's and searches for LiLi during the day. Frankie has an uncanny ability to get people to confide in her when they are reluctant to talk to the police. Frankie also befriends the lead investigator on the case, Detective Lotham and the two of them try to find LiLi before she turns up dead.
All Girls by Emily Layde
A sensational debut for author Emily Layden in this novel about a fictional Connecticut all-girls boarding school in the midst of a scandal ~ an alumna has reported she was raped by a faculty member in 1995 and the school not only covered it up but expelled her from school. The story is brilliantly told through the eyes of several different current students ~ freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors~ and combines behind a 'coming of age' setting how the girls try to empower themselves against the adults in charge who seem to try to obscure transparency concerning the conditions at Atwater. While some reviewers didn't like the various points of view of the story, I actually looked at it as a strength of the novel. It reminded me of Britt Bennett's "The Vanishing Half" which is similarly told from various POV's. Here, for instance, we see how junior Chloe Eaton reacts to an Atwater tradition and how others perhaps view it differently, or how senior Olivia Anderson (the 'Richard Cory' of Atwater) feels about herself while everyone else looks up to her. The cast of characters and relationships is almost endless. Layden comes from a family of writers (dad Joe a sports writer and author; uncle Tim a former Sports Illustrated writer; and cousin Kristen a television screen writer) and this first novel makes you yearn for more!
The Brass Verdict (Mickey Haller #2) by John Connelly
It doesn't get any better than Harry Bosch and his half-brother Mickey Haller working together...and it's all here in "Brass Verdict". Haller is recovering from addiction to pain-killers after getting shot and he suddenly inherits the case of a lifetime, defending famous and wealthy Hollywood movie producer, Walter Elliot who is accused of murdering his wife and her lover! Haller gets the case from a lawyer friend who was murdered just as the case is about to go to trial. Harry tells Mickey he may be next on the target list and together they try to solve both murders and prevent another one as Mickey takes the case to trial. As always great criminal law procedural and plenty of twists and turns before we get a final "verdict"!
Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny
A delightful novel about Jane, a young teacher who moves to a small Michigan town and falls in love with a charming and charismatic, but serially unfaithful furniture maker. The romance eventually leads to an unconventional family arrangement involving a cast of quirky, loveable, complicated people. This story is full of heart and soul and while mostly reflecting the joy of love and friendship, it does expose the more nuanced and even slightly darker ways our loving relationships change over time, how our expectations are met and how they are not, and what we sacrifice along the way.
Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian
A bold and inventive coming of age novel about young Indian immigrants in suburban Atlanta. As high school students Neil and Anita face high pressure expectations, they become entangled in making an ancient alchemical potion made from stolen jewelry that harnesses the ambition of the original owner. The potion-making adds a magical mysticism to the story that connects generations and cross-world mythology and cultures
Zorrie by Laird Hunt
A gentle and quiet story about the life of an ordinary mid-western woman born in the early 20th century. Zorrie’s life, struck early by loss and grief that repeats several times over many decades, is impacted by the major upheavals of the century (WWI, the Great Depression, WWII) but through it all, Zorrie responds with a distance and practicality that, over time, reveals the emotional scars of what she lives through. Beautifully written in a way that pays as much attention to the presence of a song-bird as to any one plot change, this novel is a moving and peaceful meditation on life, loss and grief.
Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
An edge-of-your-seat thriller about a tragedy following a climate-change-created sink hole in a Long Island suburb. The story revolves around a seemingly tight-knit neighborhood that falls apart at the seams as friends turn on friends and neighbors are pitted against each other in a race for the truth in what happened to a young girl who disappears. The futuristic, apocalyptic twist adds a particularly brilliant element to this dark story.