Current Picks: Book Reviews

Jennifer

Meet Cute

Kailyn literally collides with former child star and crush Daxton on their first day of law school. This meet cute seems picture perfect, but nothing materializes other than a betrayal. Fast forward to five years after law school when circumstances bring the pair together again: Kailyn is appointed as guardian to Daxton's 13-year-old sister.

Meet Cute (2019) is full of heart, humor, and family. This witty romantic comedy from Helena Hunting is perfect for fans of Julie James (especially Practice Makes Perfect) and Sally Thorne (The Hating Game).


Lora

Drawing Home

Penny lives with her mother, Emma, in the Hamptons and treasures her time with Henry Wyatt, a famous artist who has made Sag Harbor his home. When Henry dies and leaves his estate, most importantly, his home Windsong, to Penny, Henry's old friend, Bea, is furious. Years ago, she and Henry agreed that when he passed away, Windsong would be turned into a museum. Bea also wonders why Henry would give his estate to a teenage girl. Leaving Manhattan, Bea arrives at Windsong, vowing not to leave until the home is in her hands. Emma is not happy with Bea's appearance, but has her hands full. She is helping Penny manage her OCD, has a job at the American Hotel and must adapt to their newfound wealth.

Drawing Home by Jamie Brenner (2019) is the story of Emma, Penny, and Bea and how Henry's bequest changes their lives. It's a perfect read-alike for the novels of Elin Hilderbrand.

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Catherine T.

How We Disappeared

Set in 1940s Singapore, How We Disappeared grapples with the tragic history of 'comfort women' in World War II. These young local girls were taken from their families at gunpoint and subjected to years of brutal rape by the occupying Japanese forces. If they managed to survive the war and return home, instead of being welcomed back with open arms, they were often shunned by their family and neighbors.

We follow the story of Wang Di, who was taken from her village by the Japanese army in 1942. Almost 60 years later, she is now an old woman, but has kept her painful past a secret for all this time. Her husband has just passed away and she is struggling with her new lonely life and her overwhelming memories. At the same time, Kevin, a 12 year old struggling at school and home, loses his grandmother. In her last delirious hours, she whispers a confession to him, a secret about her son that she has kept since the war. Kevin is determined to unravel this mystery in the hope that it will help with his father's depression.

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee (2019) interweaves several different narratives to create a suspenseful story that also focuses on the beauty of friendship and human relationships.

Jez

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

Alexa has two best friends: Maddie and Theo. The problem? They hate each other. Worse? They're both going to be in Alexa's wedding party. Between the engagement, cake tastings, visits to the bridal shop, and helping with all the planning details, Maddie and Theo are going to be spending a lot of time together. When their animosity turns to a night of unplanned hate sex, the two can't stop thinking about each other and decide they can keep hooking up, so long as they follow two rules: this is a summer fling that will end with the wedding and, most importantly, Alexa must never know.

Picking up during the events at the end of The Wedding Date (book 1) and overlapping with The Proposal (book 2), this third installment of Jasmine Guillory's Wedding series is an enjoyable ride with chapters alternating between the strong-willed fashionista Maddie and Theo, the mayor's fussy, uptight PR manager. The couple's secret rendezvous make for steamy scenes and hilarious situations—exactly what you want from a good rom com.

Check out The Wedding Party (2019) today. And if you love romantic comedies, we've got you covered: check out our list



Mary S.

And Then There Were None

In this classic British standalone mystery by Agatha Christie, eight people are invited to a mansion on an island near the coast of Devon, England. They are greeted by two staff, who tell them that the host has not arrived but has left instructions. One by one, they are murdered like the characters in the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians.

If you are looking for a book that is suspenseful, compelling, and has a baffling, clever plot, check out And Then There Were None.

After reading the 1939 book, check out the excellent 1945 movie of the same name.

Mary P.

This Tender Land

In Minnesota during the Great Depression, the Lincoln School was tasked with "re-educating" Native American children and erasing their culture. Odie and his brother Albert escape the school alongside little Emmy and Mose, all of them orphans. The four children begin their journey in a canoe and set out for St. Louis, where Odie and Albert hope to find their aunt and form a family—but they'll have to put their lives on the line and offer up their souls for salvation first.

Along the way, the kids meet a cast of characters that enrich their travels and strengthen the unifying thread of love and hope throughout the story. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger has touches of Huckleberry Finn and The Grapes of Wrath and would be an ideal read for someone looking for a new book after finishing Where the Crawdads Sing.

Denise

Elevator Pitch

One morning an elevator in a New York skyscraper plunges to the ground, killing four people. The next morning, in a different building, a person dies when the elevator she's riding stops between floors. While attempting to climb out, the elevator jolts to a start, killing her in a gruesome manner. By the third day, when another elevator crashes in a different building, it's clear that these are not accidents, but targeted attacks and no one can figure out how they're happening. With so much of the city only accessible by elevator, New York City comes to a stop. Emergency personnel cannot get to people on upper floors, and many people who live or work on upper floors try to tackle the hundreds of flights of stairs. Many die from heart complications. The mayor's office, NYPD, and a journalist set out to find the terrorist behind these crashes before any more lives can be claimed.

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay is an engaging read for anyone who likes thrillers with interesting twists along the way. Readers looking for political intrigue will also find much to be enjoyed in the conflicts within the mayor's office.

Although not as fast-paced as many thrillers, the compelling cast of characters mixed with a truly terrifying scenario kept me captivated. I found myself being more cautious and a bit uncomfortable riding elevators after reading this. It would make a sensational movie!

Heather

Are You Scared, Darth Vader?

Fellow parents and Star Wars fans, this is sure to please! Adam Rex writes this book in a conversational style, so I highly encourage reading in your best Darth Vader voice for an extra fun experience. Parents (and Star Wars buff kiddos) will appreciate nods to the movies and characters throughout.

All in all, Are You Scared, Darth Vader? (2019) is a hilarious book with a special twist ending. So, are you ready to find out if there is actually something frightening enough to scare Darth Vader?

Check out this book in print or digitally via Hoopla.



Emily

River of Teeth

In an alternate reality set in the early 20th century, the U.S. government has released wild hippos into the marshes of Louisiana as an alternative meat source. To no one's surprise, it is a ludicrous and disastrous idea.

The main character, Winslow Houndstooth, has lost everything and is driven by one thing: revenge. After the government hires Houndstooth, mercenary and part time hippo-wrangler, to clear the ferals from the marshes, he assembles a ragtag team of degenerates to help him out. Each member has their own specialty, hippo they ride on, and serious issues. The group must set aside old grudges and actively avoid being eaten alive to collect their payday.

This novel is as absurd as the summary makes it out to be, and I loved every second of it. From the first page, you can tell the author understands how ridiculous the story is and embraces it. I never knew I needed hippo-riding cowboy mercenaries in my life until River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (2017) was put in my hands. It's a fantastic mix of classic western tropes with science fiction elements. It's a short novel, only about 175 pages, but it's long enough to fall in love with the characters and keep you laughing.


Jez

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Therapist Lori Gottlieb invites us into her office in her engaging memoir, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (2019). She balances the book with snapshots of her journey to becoming a therapist (making many career pit stops along the way), sessions with her clients, and the very personal interactions she has with her own therapist. Among the patients who left the strongest impression on Gottlieb are a high-powered TV writer, an elderly woman battling her past mistakes, a 20-something who constantly chooses the wrong men, and a newlywed just diagnosed with a deadly cancer, all of whose stories are at turns heartbreaking and hopeful.

What I found most interesting was the author's experience of being a therapist who is also in therapy, which allows the reader to see the interactions from both sides of the couch, noting that even when someone spends their whole career discussing emotional issues, they can be blind to some of their own struggles. This beautiful memoir is highly recommended for both those looking for an uplifting story and those who want a good cry.


Catherine T.

Boy Swallows Universe

A coming of age story set in the gritty, drug-ridden streets of suburban Brisbane, Australia in the 1980s. Despite the ugly background of criminals, violence, and poverty, this is a beautiful story of a boy finding his voice and destiny.

Twelve-year-old Eli Bell is surrounded by drug addicts and dealers. His brother, August, is selectively mute, his babysitter is an ex-con renowned for multiple jailbreaks and his stepfather Lyle is involved with the local heroin dealing business. Eli has a big dream to become a journalist on the crime beat. He's honing his writing skills by exchanging letters with a criminal in jail and practicing being observant while accompanying Lyle on his drug deals. When everything starts to go wrong, Eli will rely on his skills and contacts to survive.

With secret rooms, heroin deals, a jail break-in and missing people, this book doesn't lack for action. It also shines a light on the strength of parental and sibling relationships. A tough upbringing can result in unbreakable bonds.

Boy Swallows Universe (2019) is an entertaining debut from Trent Dalton, loosely based on some of his real life experiences.



Lora

The Flatshare

After Tiffy breaks up with her boyfriend, she is finding it hard to locate somewhere to live in London on her limited budget. She decides her best option is to share a flat with a man named Leon. Leon, with his job as a palliative care nurse, only needs the apartment from 9am-6pm weekdays, since he spends weekends at his girlfriend's house. This arrangement suits Tiffy perfectly with her job as an assistant book editor at a small publishing house. Even though they are never at the flat at the same time, their lives begin to intermingle as they learn about each other through their possessions and notes to each other, which are at first pithy and humorous, then turn caring as they get involved in their respective lives. Soon, both Tiffy and Leon realize they have feelings for each other. Will they end up as more than just flatmates?

Beth O'Leary's The Flatshare (2019) is a light, fun debut novel similar to Jojo Moyes and Jenny Colgan.



Jennifer

The Radium Girls

Be prepared: this book is heartbreaking and infuriating. But it is so worth the read. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women (2017) tells the true story of a tragic time in American history. In the early 20th century, advertisements touted radium as a miracle cure. During World War I, factories in the U.S. were employing women to paint watch faces. Their method? Lip, dip, paint.

The constant exposure to radium eventually led to workers' horrific pain and suffering—and the companies denied any wrongdoing. Author Kate Moore shares the personal stories of these women, their fight for justice, and the impact their perseverance had on workers' rights and labor laws.

There is a local thread about a radium plant in Ottowa, Illinois. Check out the NPR Illinois article for more details.

If you enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or The Girls of Atomic City, try this book. It has a mix of hidden history and compelling characters—and it's great for book clubs.



Heather

The Montessori Toddler

Are you already a follower of Montessori principles, or are you curious to find out what it's all about? In The Montessori Toddler: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being (2019), Simone Davies, a parent and Montessori teacher, gives background on the Montessori philosophies that you can apply at home. Even if you aren't ready to adopt the whole lifestyle and education, you'll find great information about toddlers and their development, as well as activity guides and resources to encourage creativity, cooperation, and responsibility.




Hugh

The Murder Pit

Arrowood and Barnett investigate cases in the shadow of Holmes and Watson but never seem to live up to their high standards—and certainly do not attract the high-level clients of the latter pair.

In The Murder Pit, the former pair represent an untruthful couple who say they want to rescue their recently married, mentally deficient daughter from her aggressive in-laws. A murder occurs and the victim's body is not easily found, but the A & B pair sleuth on through covert and sometimes violent occurrences to resolve the matter.

The Murder Pit (2019) is the second book by Mick Finlay to feature Arrowood and Barnett. Check out Arrowood for the pair's first mystery.