Tag Archives: fiction

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.

 

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.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (2017)

In 1938, Marianne von Lingenfels makes a promise to watch over the families of German resistors. As the war comes to an end, she finds herself taking in Benita and her son, Martin, and Ania and her two sons, Anselm and Wolfgang, at the family’s run-down castle. The three women struggle to survive on their own as they come to terms with the enormous toll the war has taken on them. Taking place over almost sixty years, the novel explores the lives of everyday Germans during the war, a view that hasn’t really been explored at length in popular fiction.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is an absorbing read that would be great for discussion. For people who enjoyed Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and other female-centered World War II fiction.

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (2014)

A new author for fans of high-octane thrillers. Don’t be intimated by the size of this book (over 600 pages). I normally avoid books this size, but the description intrigued me enough to try it, and I’m really glad I did! I am Pilgrim is roller coaster ride of constant action; worldwide settings; a variety of complex, flawed, captivating characters; and many unpredictable twists and turns.

The main character, code named “Pilgrim,” a former member of a covert US agency that dealt with terrorism, is pulled into a murder investigation by a friend who’s a top New York City police detective. This, in turn, leads him (and us, the readers) to many places around the globe – Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey as he attempts to take down a terrorist group planning a potentially catastrophic attack on the US. Terry Hayes’ novel is a fun, high-adrenaline, and strangely addictive read.

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood (2013)

In Ann Hood’s novel, a clever storyline follows two women’s lives some fifty years apart against a backdrop of significant events in American history: the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and its aftermath, and the 1960 presidential election and inauguration of JFK. At one point in The Obituary Writer, their two storylines merge into one. Vivien and Claire are not contemporaries, yet they share certain struggles and dreams. Can one woman’s regrets bring closure and happiness to another woman? With the women’s movement and all the changes of the 20th century, did individual women’s lives change that much? Even in the 21st century, do women continue to feel trapped in traditional roles?

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (2016)

When a small charter plane with 11 passengers on board crashes mysteriously shortly after takeoff from Martha’s Vineyard, only two individuals survive: Scott Burroughs, a painter, and JJ, the 4-year-old son of a multimillionaire founder of a network. After the crash, Scott hears JJ’s cries, finds him in the dark night, and manages to get back to land with JJ on his back.

Throughout the novel, author Noah Hawley takes you backward and forward in time to learn about each of the 11 passengers and what brought them together on the doomed plane. The investigation into the crash and commentaries by the network headliner Bill Cunningham, who goes to illegal ends for information, keeps you hooked throughout Before the Fall.

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley (2015)

Political writer Christopher Buckley retreats to the 16th century for this hilarious story as he believed the U.S election of 2016 was sufficiently self-satirizing to demand his attention. In 1517, relic hunting was a good business for Dismas until he conspires with the artist Durer to produce a creditable shroud for sale to an affluent but corrupt noble. The noble was greatly displeased when the fraud was uncovered and Dismas escapes with his life only after agreeing to steal the true shroud for the noble. The reader then journeys with Dismas and Durer to Chambery in hopes of substituting a shroud of equal or better quality (according to Durer) for the true shroud. Many misadventures and missteps occur for the reader to enjoy until the pair of travelers are rewarded for their efforts. The reader should then read again the 2017 news report at the beginning of The Relic Master to see what the author is suggesting.

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova (2015)

In the US, there are 37,000 individuals affected by a neurodegenerative disease called Huntington’s. This number is relatively low compared to the overall population, but make no mistake, it is a death sentence—a diagnosis made worse by it being considered a “family disease” with a high genetic likeliness that more than one generation in a family will be affected.

This is the case with the O’Briens, an Irish Catholic family, comprised of Joe and Rosie and their four children, all in their twenties. Joe is an old school Boston cop who puts a lot into tradition, but his life is changed when he’s diagnosed with Huntington’s and soon can’t control his behavior or keep his body from doing things without his consent. Throughout the novel, we see Joe’s condition worsen, but we also watch each of his children struggle with the choice to be genetically tested to know if they will develop the disease in the future, or remain ignorant.

The book can be heartbreaking at times, but is leavened by clever humor and sweet family moments. Like Lisa Genova’s other novels, Inside the O’Briens puts a very personal face on a relatively unknown or misunderstood neurological disease, educating the reader through a compelling family story.