I read Marlena because the author, Julie Buntin, grew up in Petoskey and set her book right here in northern Michigan.
Marlena is the story of two teenaged girls living hardscrabble lives. It is narrated by Cat, whose parents' divorce forced her mother to take Cat out of her private downstate high school and move with Cat and her older brother to a modular home in a resort town on Lake Michigan where the year-round population was generally impoverished.
Cat's first friend there is their neighbor Marlena - a girl a few years older who lived with her meth-cooking father and her often-alone younger brother. Marlena represented everything Cat had never been - an adventurous, daring, rule-breaking girl who was no stranger to drugs and the many ways to procure them. It didn't take long for the younger, angry-at-the-world Cat to fall under charismatic Marlena's spell and adopt her risk-taking ways.
The reader knows from the outset that there is no happy ending here - Cat, the narrator, still seems profoundly damaged in her 30s and Marlena has died.
This book reminded me of Mulhauser's Sweetgirl in its look behind the curtain at the way families in our own community struggle every day. With a setting so close to home, the message that the choices we make or let our children make can have profound consequences hits particularly hard.
This is a tough book to read, but precisely because it feels so very real - a great accomplishment for a debut novelist.
It seems as if there are a lot of books with a woman protagonist who has been sheltered and lived an unremarkable life until the "big thing" happens and then life is turned on its end.
Daniel Wallace turns that part on its end by introducing us to Edsel Bronfman - a 34-year-old man who is astonishingly inexperienced and living out the life he's decided someone named Bronfman should - with an unremarkable job in a slightly seedy apartment complex and all alone. But then a phone call changes everything. He has the chance to spend two free nights in a condo in Florida - all he has to do is listen to a timeshare presentation, and bring a companion. Wow! So now Bronfman has a deadline - by June 26th - in which to meet a companion.
And this begins the charmingly normal, extraordinary adventure of becoming the Edsel Bronfman he was meant to be all along.
Wow - this is a serial killer thriller for real fans of the genre (I'm not sure what it says about me that I'm one of those readers, but there you have it!)
For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized Chicago, torturing his victims in a 'hear no evil', 'see no evil', 'speak no evil' way.
The police have been stymied until the killer is killed by a bus on his way to deliver yet another gruesome clue - one that might mean a victim could be out there, alive, somewhere.
Detectives race through the novel, piecing together clues from the scene and a diary found on the body, trying to find the victim before they run out of time.
This is a graphic story, so if you are squeamish, this one's not for you. But if you like authors like Cody McFadyen, Chelsea Cain, or Richard Montanari, The Fourth Monkey should definitely be on your list!
Viola Shipman is, of course, our good friend Wade Rouse writing fiction under his grandmother's name.
The Hope Chest carries on in the tradition of his bestseller, The Charm Bracelet, but with an entirely new storyline with new characters.
Here timid single mother Rose is hired to help take care of fiercely independent and spirited Mattie, who is battling ALS. Don, Mattie's husband of 50 years, is devastated, but the presence of Rose and her daughter Teri give the older couple reasons for hope.
Told once again in "heirloom" chapters, The Hope Chest tells Mattie's tale through the keepsakes she's tucked away in her hope chest all these years.
Full of love, inspiration, and grace, The Hope Chest is a sweet story and a two-box-of-Kleenex read.
Wade Rouse will be here on July 31st, and most of you know his visits are always a great time. Get in here to pick up your $5 tickets for his event, or click here to read more and purchase tickets online.
When an old house in London goes under the wrecking ball, a tiny set of bones is discovered in the garden.
Angela, whose baby was snatched from the maternity ward 40 years ago, just has a feeling.
Kate, a veteran newspaper journalist, sees a snippet about the bones and decides to investigate.
Emma, battling her inner demons, knows there is no way those bones belong to Angela's baby, because she knows they belong to hers.
Fiona Barton's first novel was the bestseller The Widow, and her second mystery cements her place in the world of bestselling authors whose books folks will automatically read.
She's crafted a page-turner that will keep you in it's grip to the very end.
Two thumb's up!
Kate Eastman is a golden girl - she's the beautiful princess at Carlisle College whose last name is on all the buildings and whose friendship will "make" any other freshman's social life.
So when Jenny and Aubrey find themselves Kate's suitemates, they know they've hit the jackpot.
The problem, of course, is that Kate is all kinds of screwed up. She's already a big partier and cavalierly blows through the undergrad boys with no thought to anyone's feelings but her own.
Flash forward a few months and a boy Kate was seeing is dead - apparently he fell from a bridge into the raging river below. Somehow, all three girls are complicit and life will never be the same.
Flash forward again and Kate's body has washed up in the same river just after her 40th birthday.
Author Campbell will keep you guessing right up until the very end as different characters' stories are told. And, one by one, you suspect each in turn.
The problem is that, as I read, I pretty much hated them all, so I didn't so much care who actually killed the loathsome Kate. For me, the last two sentences were by far the best in the entire book, and keep this from being merely an "eh", and let me say I'd read Michele Campbell again.
He Said/She Said is such an apt title for British novelist Erin Kelly's new psychological thriller.
Told through the voices of Laura and her eventual husband, Kit, the novel is a twisting tale of deception, excuses and cover-ups.
When the couple stumble upon a woman being assaulted while at an eclipse-watching festival, little do they know that the fallout from that weekend will affect every day for the rest of their lives.
As the book unfolds, the reader follows first one path and then another as the full truth of the players and their actions slowly unspools. This one twists until the very last paragraph. A great novel and a must-read for genre fans. He Said/She Said satisfies on every level.
Mr. Rochester - Charlotte Bronte's dashing, cruel, changeable romantic hero in Jane Eyre, is finally given his own voice through the pen of Sarah Shoemaker.
Edward is just eight years old when this story begins, and cast away to school by his distant father. From a strangely eclectic school for boys to work in a woolen mill to a university education, Edward goes where his father orders him, all the time believing there is a plan to get him back to his beloved Thornfield Hall.
But Edward's father's plan proves even more heartless than his rejected second son can imagine, and Edward Rochester's life, it turns out, was never his own.
The book seemed very faithful to Bronte's Jane Eyre even as it spins its own plausible tale of Edward's early life and the motivations for the actions that have forever mystified Bronte readers.
Mr. Rochester has the feel of a classic story that readers could proudly display alongside the original.
Whether or not you've read the Bronte novel, you are sure to be captivated by Sarah Shoemaker's take on Edward Fairfax Rochester. Sarah was here last week to discuss her writing process and the inspiration for Mr. Rochester. Get In Here for autographed copies!
I read The Sellout because it was a buzz book - one everybody was talking about - it won the National Book Critics Circle Award, was a New York Times "One of the 10 Best", and it was about to hit the New York Times bestseller list in paperback.
It's social satire about race relations by African American author Paul Beatty. Beatty has written a book that's poking fun at his own race and it's place in America's screwed up social system.
The narrator is a black farmer living in an LA hood so dangerous it has lost its designation as its own town. Furious and wanting to get his neighborhood's identity back, even if it's as a racially segregated gang war zone, our hero paints the perimeter of the whole town on the ground and puts up posters for a new, all-white school. Weirdly, it kind of works. Civic pride is being restored. Now if only he can win his Supreme Court case and not be imprisoned for owning his neighbor, who insists he's a slave...
This novel is profane and outrageous, but a serious nudge to think about the state of our states all the same. Is Paul Beatty a genius? Read The Sellout for yourself and tell me what you think.
Paula Hawkins is the New York Times #1 bestselling author of The Girl on the Train, so the pressure is on to deliver a great read this time, and I think she's done it.
The river in town creates a pool with steep cliff sides where many women over the years have met their deaths. At first it was women suspected of witchcraft. More recently the deaths have been ruled suicides. But Nel Abbott knows differently. She knows that these women were all troublesome women - women who were blamed for tempting men and thus responsible for the ways men were forced to act. And Nel was documenting the histories in a book. A book many in town had reason to hope never saw the light of day.
But then Nel herself seems to have jumped, leaving behind her 15 year old daughter Lena who was already grieving over the loss of her best friend. Nel's estranged sister Jules has to come forward to take care of Lena, and she has her own reasons to never want to return home.
This is a novel of the petty jealousies and human frailties that combine in tragic ways. Hawkins has a keen eye for the psychology that makes us human - and a deft touch at exploiting that for a creepy good read.