Current Picks: Book Reviews

City of Girls

This racy read begins in 1940 when 19-year-old Vivian Morris is thrown out of Vassar College. Her parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a crumbling theater. Vivian meets the charismatic and sensual theater players, embarking on a wild adventure.

Elizabeth Gilbert captures the fictitious Vivian's life from her wild-child teenage years through her 80s. The story covers WWII, family tragedy, unexpected friendships, and self-discovery. City of Girls (2019) has a strong sense of place, with New York City featured as a character. This lively, sensuous, and interesting novel showcases one life in the 1940s and 50s.


Someone Knows

Allie Garvey was only 15 years old when she, and four other teenagers, played a prank in the woods that went horribly wrong. The teens never tell anyone. For twenty years, the dark and horrible secret eats away at Allie, both physically and in her relationships with others. Now, Allie wishes to uncover the truth about what really happened that night—and hopefully be released from her own self-inflicted life sentence.

Someone Knows (2019) is greatly entertaining and told from several points of view. You might lose a couple of nights' sleep, as this book is quite hard to put down. Lisa Scottoline really knows how to get into the heads of characters.



The Race

Considering The Race was published in 2007, many concepts and issues are surprisingly timely in today's political environment. Some of the topics covered are abortion rights, racism, immigration, Christian fundamentalism, and gay rights. If you have the least bit of interest in politics, you'll really enjoy this quick, entertaining, and possibly eye-opening look into a fictional presidential primary race.

Richard North Patterson portrays the dark, cutthroat side of American politics, where some (but not all, in this case) candidates will stop at nothing to destroy their opponents and bolster their own ranking. Well-drawn characters and personal storylines add interesting dimensions to this novel. There are twists and turns that kept me turning the pages and eager to see how it ended.


The Night Tiger

Set in 1930s colonial Malaysia, The Night Tiger follows the adventures of several local children amidst a spate of mysterious deaths, which some people are attributing to the mythical weretiger.

Ren, an 11-year-old house boy, is on a mission to find the severed finger of his recently deceased master, an old British doctor. He needs to bury the finger with the doctor's body before the 49th day after death to ensure the doctor's soul will be at peace.

His story merges with that of Ji Lin, a young girl working at a dance hall to earn extra money to pay off her mother's debts. One night while dancing with a salesman, she ends up with a mysterious item from his pocket, a preserved human finger. Her subsequent search for the owner of the finger leads her and her brother, Shin, into intrigue and danger.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (2019) interweaves the supernatural and Malaysian folklore with themes of colonialism and class and gender divides, all mixed together in an intriguing murder mystery.



The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

Lucy does NOT want to go to middle school. She's been home-schooled since she was struck by lightning and became a math genius, but now her Nana insists that she try middle school for one year. Will she be able to keep the numbers in her head quiet and make at least one friend? Read The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (2018) to find out how a dog named Pi helps three middle school misfits succeed!



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How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper (2019)

Andrew works for the local council determining if those who have died have a next of kin. He's also perpetuating a big lie with his coworkers. Years ago, he told them that he was married and has two children, even though he's single. When Andrew takes a new employee named Peggy under his wing, it becomes harder to keep the truth of his life a secret as they become friends—and possibly something more. What has caused Andrew to shut himself away socially? Will his relationship with Peggy change his life for the better? How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper is a quirky, sometimes humorous novel. Give to readers who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Keeper of Lost Things.
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A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (2018)

In this lyrical and leisurely novel, debut author Fatima Farheen Mirza introduces us to a Muslim Indian family gathering for a wedding. The story is nonlinear, jumping forward and backward, giving us glimpses of the siblings' childhood, their parents' initial meetings, and their post-wedding relationships.

A Place for Us is a moving story shared from multiple perspectives. This interesting narrative structure might sound challenging, but the story is not difficult to follow. Read this book when you have a chance to delve deep into a story and emotionally invest in characters.

A great pick for book clubs: discuss familial relationships and expectations, cultural heritage and traditions, and characters and their choices. 


Then She Was Gone

Ellie Mack was a golden girl, beloved by all, especially her family. When she was fifteen years old, she disappeared on her way to the library. Ten years later, her grieving mother Laurel becomes involved with a very charming man who has two daughters. His 9-year-old Poppy happens to have a very strong resemblance to Ellie.

Then She Was Gone is a captivating, heartbreaking, and bizarre novel that will keep you turning the pages, with great interest, until the very last page. Check out this psychological suspense novel from Lisa Jewell.

Series Spotlight: You Choose Stories—Justice League

In order to enjoy this series, the reader should be a fan of the Justice League stories. There are seven Super characters in the Justice League, and they work together to protect the Universe! Many books and movies feature the Justice League.

The You Choose Stories—Justice League series engages the reader by requiring them to make decisions. The reader will notice as they start reading the book that…there, on the lower right corner of the right side page…in red…are choices to make:

If Batman goes after Black Manta, turn to page 23.

If Batman stays to help save the island, turn to page 29.

Throughout the book, the reader will make choices to continue the story.

Although this sounds complicated – and it will be too complicated for some readers – for those children who enjoy the "game" with the story – this will be an enjoyable book. Choose from Cosmic Conquest, The League of Laughs, The Portal of Doom, and The Ultimate Weapon.

Each book has 105 pages, and there are several full-page color, cartoon-style illustrations throughout the book. At the end, there is a glossary with pronunciations and definitions. There are four titles in the series – so far. The Lexile is 640-710.


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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (2017)

Lazlo Strange is earnest in his quest for knowledge. He's someone who could be your best friend. Even his enemies can't completely hate him; they just don't understand him.

The story begins when he's young, when suddenly the name of a city he's read about disappears forever. Books, spoken tales, even memories weren't safe. It no longer has a name. It's just...gone. Lazlo is convinced something happened and is determined to learn everything about this city, and somehow, travel to it. Cooped up in the library, assisting researchers going to-and-fro, it seems that day may never come—but he believes. He never stops dreaming, until a day he may finally have a chance to see this nameless city for himself.

And what he finds there is unbelievable.

Filled with adventure, exciting new locations and love, Strange the Dreamer will entrance you with its beauty and otherworldly feel. In Laini Taylor's epic fantasy, Lazlo's strange journey will not disappoint.


The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019)

Wow! I just finished The Silent Patient, and my mind is reeling. I did not see the end coming at all. It's an amazing psychological thriller that takes you into the mind of, not only the title character, but also that of the psychotherapist. The narrator is Theo, a psychotherapist determined to get Alicia to speak. Alicia is a patient locked up in a psychiatric​ facility who hasn't spoken in about six years, ever since she was accused of murdering her husband. The multi-layered storyline involves well-drawn, complex characters and intriguing twists and turns. A must-read page-turner for any psychological thriller fan! This is Alex Michaelides' first novel. I certainly hope it's not his last.

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber (2019)

In the 1880s, Deborah lives an unusual life in a small town in the Utah territory. Her husband Samuel, who travels as a wheelwright repairperson, is long overdue. She is part of a community of eight families who live apart from other Mormons because they do not carry the same beliefs.

When a stranger arrives on her doorstep looking for shelter from a federal marshal, it sets in motion a series of events that threatens not only her future, but that of her entire town. Fear and mistrust feature prominently among the community and of outsiders. The Glovemaker provides an interesting look at early pioneers, Mormon settlers, and survival in the 19th century.

Try this Ann Weisgarber novel if you enjoyed News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Both compelling, descriptive novels feature the early West and people overcoming challenging circumstances.



Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (2018)

Renee Ballard, first introduced in Michael Connelly's Late Show, joins forces with longtime detective Harry Bosch to work on the unsolved murder of a 15-year-old runaway girl on the sad streets of Los Angeles. The two officers from different police forces work on the case only when their other duties allow.

Renee is surprised to find the mother of the murdered girl living in Harry's home. Then the mother disappears, adding to the mysteries the officers want to solve. Harry's regular duties crash down on him and he is suspended and then kidnapped.

In Dark Sacred Night, you'll find a compelling police procedural featuring the beginning of a strong partnership. 


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2019)

One of my favorite books of the past year: the writing is beautiful; the characters are superbly drawn; the storyline takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions; and the atmospheric descriptions of nature and wildlife in the marsh, as well as Kya's interactions with them, are extraordinary.

The main character, Kya, known as "Marsh Girl" to the townspeople, is haunting and unforgettable. Her life story is relayed from age 5 through her twenties, as she grows up alone in a shack in the marsh after being abandoned by her family at age 8. Her strength, courage, intelligence, and resiliency are captivating. The mystery of the young man found dead at the bottom of a tower in the nearby town provides an additional element of intrigue.

It's impossible to capture the true essence of this amazing story in a review. You must read Where the Crawdads Sing to understand. I can't wait to read more books by Delia Owens


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The Huntress by Kate Quinn (2019)

Nina dreams of flying to escape her dreary life. When Germany invades the Soviet Union, she joins the Night Witches, an all-female night bomber squadron that wreaks havoc on the German invasion. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, she becomes the prey of the Nazi murderer known as the Huntress. She survives because of her bravery and fierce cunning.

A correspondent during WWII, Ian Graham becomes a Nazi hunter after the war. The target that has eluded him is the Huntress. He joins forces with bold, brazen Nina to track her down.

17-year-old Jordan McBride wants to be a photographer and leave Boston to travel the world. She is happy when her widowed father meets a woman, but something about his soft-spoken German fiancé bothers her. As Jordan becomes closer to her stepmother, the search for the Huntress intensifies.

This compelling story of a Russian pilot, a Nazi hunter, and a young Bostonian woman leaves the reader completely spellbound, hoping for good to triumph over evil. The Huntress is an exciting, suspenseful tale that is hard to put down. It is Kate Quinn's sophomore novel, following The Alice Network.

For more WWII fiction, check out our lists of Novels of World War II and Women in the Resistance.