Arena by Holly Jennings (2016)

In the not-so-distant year of 2054, virtual reality games have become the biggest sensation in televised sports. The players on each team must not only be excellent video game players, but in top physical condition, as the RAGE tournament games mimic real-life abilities. In her early career as a RAGE competitor, Kali Ling fights to become the first female team leader in a male-dominated world. But while Kali can prove herself in a fight, this world demands more than she can handle. Her every move is dictated by sponsors and team management; a teammate recently died of a drug overdose; his replacement is difficult to work with; and her own grasp on reality is getting weaker with each trip into the virtual world.

Packed with intense and cinematic action scenes, a love story, and diversity in multiple forms, Arena by Holly Jennings is a must-read for adult and older teen fans of Ready Player One and The Hunger Games.

The Fox was Ever the Hunter by Herta Muller (2016)

Herta Muller’s words form images assembled as a collage and story for the reader to follow. The Fox was Ever the Hunter is rich in images and symbols to lead one along the path of fear and frustration caused by the totalitarian regime the author grew up with in Romania. The secret service lurks ever present and for Adina, they threaten with notes and gradual dissection of her fox fur bought years ago with her mother. Clara finds that her special friend with whom she shares the evening rest is not just a lawyer but an agent of that dreaded service. All are suspicious of others and fearful of what may come, but hope for a brighter day.

For more about the book and the author, check out The New York Times review.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (2017)

In 1863, sixteen-year-old Placidia agrees to marry Gryffth Hockaday after knowing him for a very short time. He is a soldier on leave, so while he goes back to fight for the Confederacy, she travels to his South Carolina farm to look after it and be a mother to his young son, Charles. Being alone and isolated, living with only the slaves and no other family leaves Placidia vulnerable. When Gryffth comes home after the war is over, he finds that she has been accused of having a child while he was gone and then murdering the baby. Placidia finds herself arrested, in jail, without her husband’s support. What really happened while Gryffth was gone? The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers is a perfect read for those who enjoy historical fiction (especially Sandra Dallas) that highlights the everyday lives of women.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)

At turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, Trevor Noah’s candid memoir is a powerful, moving story of his life as a mixed race child growing up during apartheid. Told in vignettes, Born a Crime documents his relationship with his mother, his childhood and teenage antics, and his struggle to fit into a world that considered him a crime (at the time of his birth, interracial relationships were illegal).

Perhaps best known as the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Noah does infuse humor into his stories, but this is not your typical comedian’s memoir. Listen to the audiobook: the author’s command of multiple languages and skill at impersonations shine in his engaging narration.

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain (2015)

Another great book by Diane Chamberlain! She has a remarkable talent for developing complex, relatable characters facing difficult situations and telling thought-provoking stories that make me feel a whole host of emotions. Pretending to Dance centers around Molly who, with her husband, is hoping to adopt a baby. This process brings up painful memories from Molly’s past which she has kept hidden from her husband. The story deftly switches between present day and Molly as a rebellious 14 year old. Her very close relationship to her father, Graham, who is a paraplegic from MS, is handled with sensitivity and humor. Graham was my favorite character, with inspirational wisdom and loving insight into life. There are unexpected twists and turns throughout the storyline, and many issues raised in a compassionate manner.

Find Her by Lisa Gardner (2016)

After surviving 472 days kidnapped by a sexual predator, kept in a coffin-sized box and slowly starved, Flora Dane is rescued. She tells her story only once, to FBI victim advocate Samuel Keynes. When D. D. Warren, a Boston detective, is called to the scene of a brutal murder committed by Flora, she learns that Flora has been involved in three other incidents since her return to society. D. D. Warren wonders if Flora is a victim or a vigilante and whether she can assist in the Stacey Summers case, a college student who has been missing for three months.

Lisa Gardner’s Find Her will give you an awareness of trauma bonding, the effects violent crimes have on the victim and their families, and the psychology of sadistic sexual predators. Discover other titles featuring D. D. Warren.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (2015)

What would you do if three planes crashed in your town within eight weeks? As fifteen-year-old Miri Ammerman, her mother Rusty, her grandmother Irene, and friends prepare for Hanukkah and Christmas in December 1951, an airplane crashes. In the Unlikely Event is an engrossing story told from multiple perspectives, has likable characters, and deals with relationships and romance in the midst of tragedy. Judy Blume has stated that that idea stemmed from real plane crashes that occurred in Elizabeth, New Jersey near where she lived – get the scoop in this Buzzfeed interview.

 

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (2017)

Ranking as the happiest country in the world three years running, the Danish know a thing or two about creating pleasant environments. A Dane himself, there is perhaps no one more qualified to write on this topic than Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. One of the reasons for their happiness is hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), which loosely translates to a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Some of the ways you can achieve hygge are warm blankets, crackling fireplaces, good conversation, homemade sweets, and candles—lots and lots of candles.

This little book’s pages are packed with ideas for nights on your own or with others; recipes; happiness research; history; travel tips; and Danish wisdom. Check out The Little Book of Hygge today.

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (2016)

Retired Chief Inspector Gamache becomes Commander of the Surete Academy in hopes of wiping out the last traces of corruption infecting the Sûreté du Québec. But his choice of professors seems ill advised with two who clearly had been involved in the wrongdoing. Also, the reader is greatly puzzled why Commander Gamache decides to admit a freshman, previously rejected for good reason, just because he recognizes her name.

As expected with Louise Penny’s mysteries, the interesting characters of Three Pines come into play, this time in regards to an old map found in the wall of the Bistro and as hosts to the unlikely freshman and three other cadets for whom Gamache has special interest following the violent death that befalls the Academy. A Great Reckoning brings out hope for redemption, forgiveness, and justice in answer to the misdeeds of the past.

Check out The New York Times list on the “latest and best in crime fiction,” which includes a nod to A Great Reckoning.

Memory Man by David Baldacci (2015)

David Baldacci’s latest hero is quirky and troubled Amos Decker: he can’t forget anything thanks to a head injury in his first (and last) NFL game, and he abandons his career as a police detective following the murder of his wife and daughter. Sixteen months after the tragedy, a man unexpectedly confesses to that crime—but is he guilty?

In Memory Man, an introspective antihero is drawn back into police work by a school shooting. Is it somehow connected to his family’s murder? A gripping story and a memorable character. Intrigued? Check out The Last Mile and The Fix (just released last month) for more Amos Decker action.