Variety is the spice of summer!

Thanks to all who joined us last Friday morning for our quarterly live book-share. I hope you found something to read or look forward to! For those that were unable to attend, the list is below. This round, we brought a variety of genres, to help you complete those Summer Reading BINGO boards, and because summer is a great time to experiment with new stories. We have also included some that we know will be favorites soon, and some favorites that our audience suggested. There are a few set during WWII, (The Lost Vintage, Dear Mrs. Bird, Eagle and Crane) but each tells such an intriguing new story from that era. There are some uplifting stories for warm summer days (The Lido, The Late Bloomers Club), and there are thrillers for stormy afternoons (Rough Animals, Providence, Still Lives, The Darkest Time of Night). There are serious novels to spark interesting conversation at your next cookout (Bad Stories, The Poisoned City). There are novels of speculative fiction (The Suicide Club, Tell the Machine Goodnight) and magic (Spinning Silver, Witchmark), great character-driven fiction (The Ensemble, Unsheltered, What We Were Promised), a novel by an author that seems determined to write a great story based on each famous building in Manhattan (The Masterpiece), and many more. Read through the list – which one will make it into your suitcase or beach bag?

Join us for our next meeting on October 19th!

Happy Reading!

 Bad Stories is an effort to make sense of our historical moment. The book argues that bad outcomes arise directly from the bad stories we tell ourselves. Using literature as a lens, Bad Stories explores entertainment, sports, and political parody, the degeneration of our free press into a for-profit industry, and our enduring pathologies of race, class, immigration, and tribalism. Critics are calling it “the feel bad read of the season!”
 The Darkest Time of Night: Investigative journalist for WSMV-TV in Nashville, Jeremy Finley’s debut thriller explores what happens to people’s lives when our world intersects with the unexplainable.
Dear Mrs. Bird: London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort as a volunteer telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When a job is advertised at the London Evening Chronicle, Emmy’s sees her dream of being a Lady War Correspondent coming true. But she winds up as typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Disappointed, she gamely bucks up and buckles down. Prepare to fall head over heels for Emmy and her best friend Bunty in Pearce’s irresistible debut.
Eagle and Crane: Louis Thorn and Haruto “Harry” Yamada the Eagle and the Crane, are the star attractions of a daredevil aerial stunt team that traverses Depression-era California. The young men have a complicated relationship, thanks to the Thorn family’s belief that the Yamadas, Japanese immigrants, stole land from the Thorn family. This tension is inflamed when Louis and Harry are both drawn to the same woman, Ava. After the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor there are changes and harsh realities to face. And when one of the stunt planes crashes with two charred bodies inside, the ensuing investigation struggles when the details don’t add up and no one seems willing to tell the truth.
The Ensemble: I really got into this one. It’s my favorite kind of character driven, coming of age story, about a group of friends, a family really, that go from their graduation through their early adult lives, changing in multitudes along the way. A Cellist herself, her narrative follows four bright young musicians: Jana, Brit, Daniel, and Henry. Each has their own stories but all come together over the projects of the Van Ness String Quartet.. My heart broke over the individual trials of each player, but rejoiced over the companionship they forged through their musicianship. It’s a wonderful coming of age story, like Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. – Jessica
French Exit: The characters are not necessarily relatable at first, but they grow on you. Suddenly you find yourself looking through their eye, a sort of distorted and disoriented viewpoint.  Forced to give up luxury on the upper east side in NYC for a borrowed apartment in Paris because of overspending in the wake of the patriarch’s death and financial scandal Frances and her son Malcolm must begin a new life. Neither Mother nor son is able to sustain normal society, so their disorientation and required humility provides great comedy to the narrative, and DeWitt is a master at this. Will they come to terms with their new situation  in life, or will they continue on their slow but definite road to ruin? You may be reminded of the shenanigans that populate Wodehouse’s Jeeves series.
From the Corner of the Oval: Against the backdrop of glamour, drama, and intrigue, this is the story of a young woman making unlikely friendships, getting her heart broken, learning what truly matters, and, in the process, discovering her voice
The Last Cruise: Christine, a former journalist turned farmer, Mick, a Hungarian cruise ship chef, and Miriam, an Israeli quartet violinist find themselves thrown together in turmoil as what was supposed to be pleasant retro-cruise turns into a nightmare at sea.
The Late Bloomers Club: A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small town’s efforts to do right by the community, and the power of a lost dog to summon true love.
The Lido: Another one related to civic engagement, but much more tame, The Lido is the story of two women coming together over an unexpected cause. Kate is a young, anxiety ridden reporter in Brixton, outside London, charged with covering the closing of a local community pool, which will be torn down to accommodate more housing development. This is just the latest in a pattern of gentrification for the community. In investigating the history of the pool for the local newspaper she meets the community that greatly values the pool, most especially an 86 year old woman named Rosemary whose relationship with the pool goes back decades. Her life forms the second track of the novel as we learn about how the pool served as a respite for her at different points in her life. Under Rosemary’s influence, Kate changes from a depressed and friendless woman to a person with purpose (to save the pool) and relationships. Similar in storyline to A Man Called Ove, this is a sweet story for an afternoon by the pool.
The Lost Vintage: Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turner about a woman who returns to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy to study for her Master of Wine test, and uncovers a lost diary, a forgotten relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since WWII.
The Masterpiece: Fiona Davis returns with her third historical in 3 years, after 2016’s The Dollhouse and last year’s The Address. In The Masterpiece, Davis once again pairs women across generations in New York City to present the story of famous landmarks and historical periods. The Masterpiece‘s focus is Grand Central Terminal. In 1928, we meet Clara Darden, illustrator and teacher at the art school once housed in the terminal building. In 1974, we meet Virginia Clay, a divorced mother whose lack of skills but ample resourcefulness bring her to an unusual position in the now crumbling train station. Both women exude great strength as their respective cultures aim to push them aside for being women. Davis does a good job with the characters, but an even better job of highlighting some of NYC’s most intriguing stories.
Not Our Kind (Coming in September):  It’s post war Manhattan, and Eleanor Moskowitz is late for a prestigious teaching interview, so she decides to take a cab. When her cab is rear ended and she finds herself simultaneously bloody, desperate for a phone, and ashamed of her appearance, when the perfectly tailored and coiffed Patrica Bellamy, comes to her aid, though second guessing her decision upon learning her passenger’s last name. At Patricia’s Park Avenue Apartment, Eleanor surprisingly befriends Patricia’s  polio-stricken and surly daughter Margeaux. As a result, Eleanor is hired as Margeaux’s tutor, allowing Eleanor access to the world of New York’s 1%. They will simultaneously accept and reject her as a result of the prejudices brewing while America was at war. On the surface, it’s a simple romance, but the defeat of prejudice and the developing relationship between ethnic groups and classes is the real focus of this novel. It’s an important and often overlooked story. – Jessica
The Poisoned City: Through a series of disastrous decisions, the state government had switched the city’s water supply to a source that corroded Flint’s aging lead pipes. Complaints about the foul-smelling water were dismissed: the residents of Flint, mostly poor and African American, were not seen as credible, even in matters of their own lives.
It took eighteen months of activism by city residents and a band of dogged outsiders to force the state to admit that the water was poisonous. By that time, twelve people had died and Flint’s children had suffered irreparable harm. The long battle for accountability and a humane response to this man-made disaster has only just begun.
In the first full account of this American tragedy, The Poisoned City recounts the gripping story of Flint’s poisoned water through the people who caused it, suffered from it, and exposed it. It is a chronicle of one town, but could also be about any American city, all made precarious by the neglect of infrastructure and the erosion of democratic decision making. Places like Flint are set up to fail-and for the people who live and work in them, the consequences can be fatal.
Providence: Providence is known for a few things, but perhaps most notable of all is that it was the final home of the writer H. P. Lovecraft. In her third novel, Caroline Kepnes inserts Lovecraft into a modern day teenage love story to present a captivating and genre-bending page turner. Jon is a quirky kid, loved by no one except Chloe. Their relationship is close, they understand each other in ways others can’t comprehend, and just as Jon is about to suggest a new intensity to their relationship he is kidnapped. Chloe is devastated about his disappearance, but equally about the lack of interest others have for his disappearance. She unravels, but then, as time goes by, picks herself up and assumes the role of a normal teenage girl. Then, 4 years later, Jon reappears, taller, stronger and with a strange intense new power that inadvertently harms and sometimes kills those around him, mysteriously imparted to him by his kidnapper. He must learn to simultaneously keep his physical distance from Chloe and find a way to keep her close. He travels from New Hampshire to Providence, where perfectly healthy people suddenly begin to drop dead and a quirky detective is trying to figure out the pattern. It’s fast-paced, fiercely original and great for adults and young adults, fans of Stranger Things or anyone that loves a good suspenseful mystery. – Jessica
Rough Animals: Breaking Bad meets No Country for Old Men… Ever since their father’s untimely death five years before, Wyatt Smith and his inseparably close twin sister, Lucy, have scraped by alone on their family’s isolated ranch in Box Elder County, Utah. That is until one morning when, just after spotting one of their steers lying dead in the field, Wyatt is hit in the arm by a hail of gunfire that takes four more cattle with it. The shooter: a fever-eyed, fearsome girl-child with a TEC-9 in her left hand and a worn shotgun in her right. They hold the girl captive, but she breaks loose overnight and heads south into the desert. With the dawning realization that the loss of cattle will mean the certain loss of the ranch, Wyatt feels he has no choice but to go after her and somehow find restitution for what’s been lost. Wyatt’s decision sets him on an epic twelve-day odyssey through a nightmarish underworld he only half understands; a world that pitches him not only against the primordial ways of men and the beautiful yet brutally unforgiving landscape, but also against himself. As he winds his way down from the mountains of Box Elder to the mesas of Monument Valley and back, Wyatt is forced to look for the first time at who he is and what he’s capable of, and how those hard truths set him irrevocably apart from the one person he’s ever really known and loved. Steeped in a mythic, wildly alive language of its own, and gripping from the first gunshot to the last, Rough Animals is a tour de force from a powerful new voice.
Spinning Silver: Miryem was brought up in a snowbound village, on the edge of a charmed forest. She comes from a family of moneylenders, but her kind father shirks his work. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, his family faces poverty – until Miryem intercedes. Hardening her heart, she sets out to retrieve what’s owed, and her neighbors soon whisper that she can turn silver into gold. Then an ill-advised boast attracts the cold creatures that haunt the wood. Nothing will be the same again, for words have power. And the challenge she’s issued will change the fate of a kingdom.
Channeling the spirit of the original Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, Naomi Novik has written a rich, multi-layered fantasy about sacrifice, power and love that is a joy to read.
Still Lives: A riveting page-turner and feminist proclamation all in one. Maggie Richter is a copy-editor for the revered, but struggling, modern art museum Rocque in Los Angeles. In an effort to revitalize the museum’s coffers and place back in the center of the LA art scene, they commission the controversial Kim Lord to produce an exhibition of her latest work Still Lives. Lord’s paintings depict the bodies of famous female victims of violent crimes in LA, including The Black Dahlia, Kitty Genovese and Nicole Brown Simpson. Maggie can’t stand them for the way they seem to be exploiting the lives and deaths of these women for publicity. Then, the artist herself fails to appear for her own exhibit’s opening gala, and the artist’s boyfriend, also Maggie’s ex, is the prime suspect. Maggie, and the reader, are then drawn into an investigation that will take them through LA’s glamorous and not-so-glamorous sides. I loved the layers to this book. You have a well-written page turner, a socially conscious set of characters, and a great tour of LA’s history and seedy underworlds. – Jessica
The Suicide Club: A compelling look at a near future world obsessed with the possibility of immortality. Suicide Club specifically addresses our culture’s health obsession by drawing a world in which music and art are discouraged as cortisol inducing behaviors and trading in human organs is the best way to maintain wealth. Lea, at 100 years old, is such a prime product of this culture that she and her well-toned fiance are positioned to be included in the so called 3rd wave, which would extend Lea’s life-expectancy of 300 years to infinity. But someone from her past has resurfaced and is involved in a counter cultural movement. Lea’s connection to this figure and the cause of the underground movement place her under scrutiny from the Ministry and cause her to question her life’s direction. – Jessica
A Terrible Country: When Andrei Kaplan’s older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. Andrei learns to navigate Putin’s Moscow, still the city of his birth, but with more expensive coffee.  A wise, sensitive novel about Russia, exile, family, love, history and fate, A Terrible County asks what you owe the place you were born, and what it owes you. Writing with grace and humor, Keith Gessen gives us a brilliant and mature novel that is sure to mark him as one of the most talented novelists of his generation.
Unsheltered: Barbara Kingsolver has been writing since her debut in 1988 with the Bean Trees. Since then she has had numerous best-sellers, including The Poisonwood bible, a perennial book club favorite about the travails of a baptist missionary and his family in an unstable African Congo in 1959. In her latest novel, she presents a story of a New Jersey neighborhood and the people residing there, joined over time. The first strain tells the story of Willa Knox, a middle aged freelance journalist living in the dawn of Trump, despairing over her crumbling New Jersey house and her growing caretaker responsibilities, which include her ailing and right-wing father in law, her two fledgling adult children and her son’s newborn baby.The second strain tells the story of a teacher in the 1880s, residing in the same but younger neighborhood of Willa. The teacher, Thatcher Greenwood, struggles to teach the new evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin to a local school body, but is met with great resistance from the community and within his own household. Through beautiful writing and expertly drawn characters, Kingsolver tells the story of two characters, joined in their relative struggles at the edge of cultural upheaval.
What We Were Promised: Set in modern Shanghai, a debut by a Chinese-American writer about a prodigal son whose unexpected return forces his newly wealthy family to confront painful secrets and unfulfilled promises.
Witchmark: In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.
Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.
When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.