All posts by Current Picks

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (2017)

An interesting fictional memoir of the subject of the famous Andrew Wyeth painting: Christina’s World. Christina Olson lived her whole life on her family’s ancestral farm in Maine. Determined, hardworking, and stubborn, Christina never gave in to her crippling disease as it progressed throughout her lifetime. Andrew “Andy” Wyeth used the Olson house as his studio for many summers, befriending and immortalizing Christina.

In A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline (who wrote Orphan Train) makes readers wonder if the real Christina Olson was as endearing as this well-developed character. For more behind the scenes information, check out the Museum of Modern Art and Mental Floss.

The Red Box by Rex Stout (1937)

This story, published in the year of my birth, is still available as an eBook through IPPL. I enjoyed visiting with Nero Wolf and Archie again as they investigate the death of several persons, one by poison in Wolf’s office. This victim first asks Wolf to be his executor and notes the importance of the red box among the items in his estate but dies before he can reveal its whereabouts. The search for the box brings forth adventures for Archie and the police, but in the end, Wolf produces what appears to be the box and solves the mystery. The Red Box by Rex Stout is a good read about the eccentric Wolf in which he actually leaves his office on one unusual occasion.

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane (2017)

What could have led Rachel, a journalist, to shoot her husband? In Since We Fell, the reader learns that Rachel has major trust issues after her mother passed away without revealing who Rachel’s father is. Rachel also suffers from post-traumatic stress after witnessing horrible events while reporting in Haiti. When Rachel begins to suspect that her husband has not been entirely truthful to her, her investigative instincts go into overdrive and lead her down a path she couldn’t possibly have imagined.

While the Dennis Lehane book begins slowly and is leisurely-paced for at least the first third, soon you are engrossed in Rachel’s story and can’t put it down. The relationship between Rachel and her husband is very reminiscent of the marriage in Gone Girl and readers of the novels of Peter Swanson will find much to love here.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)

I dare you not to fall in love with the delightfully quirky Eleanor Oliphant. She is charming, logical, and socially awkward. In her early 30s, Eleanor struggles with falling in love, making friends, and connecting with colleagues—and it is slowly revealed that Eleanor’s dark childhood may have stunted her social development.

A cross between The Language of Flowers and The Rosie Project, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will tug at your heartstrings. Gail Honeyman’s debut novel is set in Scotland, which will be immediately apparent if you listen to the audiobook (the narration by Scottish actress Cathleen McCarron is spot on). You’ll laugh and cry as Eleanor’s orderly solitary life is turned upside down.

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (2014)

If you like mysteries with engaging characters and storylines that delve into their personal lives, then you’ll enjoy this book. Joe, a college student, is given an assignment to write about the life of an elderly person. He goes to a nursing home where he meets Carl Iverson, a Vietnam War veteran dying of cancer. Iverson was recently moved to the nursing home from prison, where he spent the last 30 years for rape and murder. Iverson reluctantly agrees to be interviewed. As Joe learns about Carl’s life, he questions the validity of Iverson’s conviction. Joe throws himself into uncovering the truth about the 30-year-old crime.

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens is an excellent debut novel that would make a good book club selection.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (2016)

Eighth grade is hard enough for any kid, but at times it feels almost impossible for Lily Jo McGruther, a girl born into a boy’s body. As Lily struggles with her transition, figuring out who she is, and wishing her father would accept her as Lily, not Tim, she also makes a new friend. Dunkin (birth name Norbert) has just moved to Florida from New Jersey and is fighting his own battle, one against himself and his bipolar disorder. Between school bullies, doctors, parents, and grandparents, Lily and Dunkin come together to try to save their favorite tree, which is due to be cut down. Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart is a beautiful coming-of-age story about love and acceptance that’s sure to leave you with a warm heart and a big smile.

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo (2017)

This powerful debut novel is about two American military nurses during WWII.  Jo, who was raised in New York City, is in France trapped behind military lines in a makeshift medical tent refusing to leave her six critical patients as bombs fall around them and the enemy moves closer.   Kay, a small town girl who was raised in Pennsylvania, was at Pearl Harbor and then at Corregidor in the Philippines, where she was taken prisoner and tries to nurse her fellow inmates with no supplies, no food, and sometimes no hope.

I thought their brave, heroic story was told in a compelling straightforward manner. Teresa Messineo’s The Fire by Night highlights a little told role of women in WWII. For more novels set during WWII, check out our book list.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)

Angie Thomas’ novel is about two childhood friends who were at a party. They hadn’t seen each other for a long time, as they had grown apart and gone their separate ways. Then, they hear gunshots. They leave the party to go home, only to be stopped by a police officer. This stop had tragic consequences for them both. The aftermath is about the surviving friend and how she deals with the death of her friend and the repercussions for not only herself, but her friends, family, and the entire community. The Hate U Give looks at the perception of how people see you versus what you believe about yourself, as well as the difference between right and wrong.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012)

Harold Fry has lived a fairly ordinary life. He has managed to avoid conflict, but there are some unresolved terrible secrets in his past. One letter from an old coworker, one conversation with a perfect stranger, and Harold is about to do something extraordinary. Powerful, emotional, showing it’s never too late to change, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a journey the reader will not soon forget. Check out Rachel Joyce’s debut today.