This debut novel is one of my favorites so far this year. Set on the Natchez Trace in the 1920s, the book tells the tale of Matilda, whose family are sharecroppers in a very segregated Mississippi, and Ada, who grew up in an impoverished white family on the edge of the swamp. The landscape itself is a character in the book - its forbidding atmosphere and challenging topography shaping the lives of the people who live there.
When Ada, who returns from an ill-fated attempt to escape her mean-spirited father after the death of her mother, finds the house on stilts at the swamp's edge empty, she hopes her father is gone for good. Unfortunately, that's not to be and his return bodes a terrible price to pay for her disobedience.
Matilda, who also longs for a different kind of life in the North, is looking for a way to get out and send her family enough money to escape the dispiriting cycle of sharecropping for amoral white men.
When both girls' dreams are crushed, they are unexpectedly thrown together. The book is the story of their fragile connection amidst a harsh landscape and harsher realities. It's amazing that this surefooted novel is Mustian's debut. Read it now!
What a fun surprise to read a new book and discover that it takes place in Boyne City, of all places.
The author, who now lives in Maryland, is a former resident of London, The Hague...and Boyne City, where her protagonist Jane is the new second grade teacher who promptly falls for the town Lothario. Jane sees Duncan's ex-girlfriends everywhere, and realizes that his ex-wife, Aggie, still has Duncan go over to mow her grass.
Jimmy Duncan's co-worker, Frieda, is a mandolin-playing music instructor, Gary is Aggie's unusual current husband. And together they and the other quirky characters shop at Glen's, get ice cream at Kilwins, go to the beach to watch the sunset and make Boyne City come to life on the pages.
By turns funny and poignant, Early Morning Riser is already a hit. Head on in for your copy.
You've gotta hand it to Chris Bohjalian - he's a versatile guy. Set in Boston in 1662, Hour of the Witch tells the story of Mary Deerfield, wife of a prominent mill owner. Thomas, her husband, physically and emotionally abuses her until she gets to the end of her rope and goes to the Court of Assistants looking for a divorce.
But two three-tined forks, symbols of the Devil, have been found in Mary's dooryard, and events soon spiral out of control.
Bohjalian, author of The Flight Attendant, a book recently turned into a popular HBO Max limited series, delves into the collective madness that was the American witch hunt.
If you are a fan of Puritan-era tales, stories of witch burnings, or just a good story with very likeable and unlikeable characters, you'll find yourself grimacing at some of the choices young Mary makes in her quest to escape her brutal husband, and cheering her along the entire way.
I don't know much about the lives of Black communities in the 1930s in Georgia, but I do know that Angela Jackson-Brown has written an interesting story with characters I grew to love who lived and loved and suffered at the hands of white people in the Colored Town section of Parsons, outside of Atlanta.
Opal Pruitt and her granny work for Miss Peggy at her big house, cooking and cleaning. Miss Birdie, Opal's grandma, grew up with Miss Peggy, and Opal herself grew up with Peggy's grandson Jimmy Earl. But no matter how close those friendships might be, there is no forgetting that Miss Peggy and Jimmy Earl are white, and Opal and her grandmother are not.
Replete with a visit from the KKK, a local hoodoo woman and a budding romance, When Stars Rain Down is both a good story and a reminder that, while much has changed, much has remained the same in the last eight or nine decades in rural America.
This book ends on an emotional, two-tissue note, further driving home that people everywhere are more alike than different.
Our man Peter Ash is back, but now he's a wanted man from his last book's adventure in Iceland, so he needs to hang low.
Hard to do when a grinning assassin named Edgar appears to be in single-minded pursuit of Jane, Peter's girlfriend.
The Breaker is replete with technology theft, covert government action, rebel geniuses and several nasty bad guys.
We have so many Nick Petrie fans at Saturn. If you love your thrillers - books by folks like Lee Child, David Baldacci or Vince Flynn, do yourself a favor and start with Petrie's first, The Drifter.
Peter Ash fans - he's baaaaaack!
Sarah Langan's novel skewers the dark hearts of neighbors in an affluent pocket of Long Island.
The Wildes have recently moved to Maple Street, and everyone looks askance at them. Do they really belong?
The Rat Pack of neighborhood kids, who'd accepted Julia Wilde and just tolerated her odd brother Larry, see the adults begin to turn on each other and mimic their behavior.
And then a sink hole appears in the neighboring park - swallowing a dog and symbolizing the dark undercurrent of the whole novel.
There is some abuse. There is some craziness. There are attacks. There is murder. And there is the mob mentality that thrums beneath the surface of this book.
It's one of those novels in which you know a train-wreck is coming, but you're not sure from which direction and who will survive.
Langan is great with the atmosphere and fellow authors have rushed to praise her work.
Good Neighbors will be one of those novels that sticks with readers for a good, long time.
Rebecca has worked her way up in the FBI to the Russian desk in DC and her husband, Brian, finally landed a job at the NSA. So they were comfortable - just barely - living in DC with their two teenaged children. But their fortunes changed when Brian sold an app he'd written for millions of dollars. Now they could afford a decent house and that trip to Europe they'd always planned.
And all was great until their daughter, Kira, doesn't come back to their rental one night in Barcelona. And their son, Tony, reveals that she'd met a guy in Paris who'd said he'd meet her in Barcelona that evening.
This book is an espionage thriller, but also a story of testing one's limits, and of marriage and all that entails.
I give this one an enthusiastic two thumbs up for firing - and hitting - on all those cylinders.
Abigail was celebrating her upcoming wedding with her bridesmaids at a California winery when she was approached by a charming man with whom she ended up spending the night.
Fast forward a few weeks and she's sure she sees the man - whose real name she doesn't even know - near her home in NYC. When he sends her an email, Abigail realizes he knows just who she is, though, and then he shows up at her wedding. And honeymoon. Think you know where this is going? Think again - it's Peter Swanson - author of my permanent staff pick The Kind Worth Killing. Implausible? Maybe. Unpredictable? Probably. Creepy as all get out? Absolutely.
I had to more than quadruple my order after I read this one because I knew just how many of you are gonna be talking about Every Vow You Break.
Sometimes the setting in a novel is just so vivid that I can feel myself there. Sometimes characters are so well drawn that I feel as if they could be real people I just haven't met. And, rarely, a debut novelist gives me both of those, tied up in a story I loved reading and then...then it becomes a permanent staff pick.
Ada and Matilda's entwined lives on the Trace - the Natchez Trace back in the 1920s - is an unlikely tale in that Ada is the daughter of an awful, racist, dirt-poor man living on the edge of a swamp. Matilda's father is a Black sharecropper hoping to work his way into a better situation for his family. When life throws the girls together and binds them with secrets only one of them really understands, both of their lives are changed irrevocably, for better and for worse. (That's all you get - you just have to read it.)
I loved that the prologue set the stage for the action to come. And I equally loved that the ending of this novel didn't come back around and wrap everything up with a nice, neat bow. I was impressed with Mustian's writing and enthralled with her story. This novel should be on your to be read pile!
If you follow literary awards, you know the name Don DeLillo. He's won the PEN/Faulkner, the PEN Saul Bellow, the Jerusalem Prize, the William Dean Howells Medal, and the Library of Congress Prize for American fiction and is a National Book Award winner - WOW!
So when someone with those chops publishes a new book, folks take notice.
The Silence is a diminutive novel - almost a novella - that takes place in 2022. Something unspecified has disrupted all digital connections and five people, gathered to watch the super Bowl and eat together represent the rest of us as they have disjointed yet oddly profound conversations about what to make of a bewildering new world.
Here's my favorite passage, spoken by Diane in the book:
"We were headed in this direction. No more wonder, no more curiosity. Totally impaired orientation. Too much of everything from too narrow a source code."
It's writing like that that makes Don DeLillo celebrated for his prescience, imagination, and command of the language.
Literature lovers - it's small, but it packs a wallop.