Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain (2013)

index.aspxIn this fascinating and well-researched novel, Diane Chamberlain tackles many social issues, including the controversial, but real, subject of state-mandated sterilizations, known as the “Eugenics Sterilization Program” in North Carolina that took place from 1929 to 1974.

Necessary Lies starts out briefly in present day, then flashes back to 1960, where we meet Jane, an idealistic young college graduate just starting out as a social worker for the NC Department of Public Welfare. The story and characters are made richer by the alternating narration between Jane, and Ivy, a 15-year old client of Jane’s from rural NC who lives and works on a tobacco farm.

The author vividly transports the reader into the 1960s through many well-developed and true-to-life characters and their heartrending stories and situations. I was so invested in each of the characters that I couldn’t put this book down, anxious to read how their lives would evolve.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I just want to say that I loved how the story ends by returning us to present day.

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (2014)

index.aspx1930 was the year of New York Justice Joseph Crater’s infamous disappearance (his body was never found). This novel tells the story as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best: his wife Stella, his mistress Ritzi, and the maid Maria. Their story, expertly woven around these events, comes from the author’s imagination and she builds a fascinating tale of what may have happened.

Author Ariel Lawhon saves the why of Judge Crater disappearance until a twist in the very last pages. The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress will transport readers to a bygone era of chorus girls, speakeasies, bootleggers, Tammany Hall corruption, gangsters, and irritating rich people.

Transhuman by Ben Bova (2014)

index.aspxLuke Abramson, a research biologist, takes his ten-year-old granddaughter Angela out of the hospital without her parent’s knowledge after specialists agree there is nothing more to be done for her brain tumor. Angela’s doctor agrees to go along to protect her patient. Luke begins an experimental therapy that he believes will kill Angela’s tumor as the three go on a cross country adventure dodging the FBI and a greedy entrepreneur determined to control the new technology. Luke also finds ways to reverse his own fatigue and aging process with the new medical techniques. Surprisingly, Luke awakens to a romantic interest in his much younger medical companion.

This story is highly recommended for septuagenarian grandfathers who love their granddaughters and can fantasize about increased vitality when blessed with the company of younger women. Ben Bova’s Transhuman touches on intellectual property policy and corruption of the powerful, but mostly is an exciting adventure for those not annoyed by some unlikely events.

 

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (2012)

index.aspxHaving grown up in New York City, Astrid is feeling suffocated by her new home in a too-small town where most of her family just can’t seem to fit in. Her mother works from home and rarely leaves the house, lest she hear the whispers of the neighbors, and Astrid’s father has chosen to manage his stress by smoking pot instead. Astrid’s younger sister embraces her new surroundings, but Astrid herself can’t stand them.

Small towns are full of secrets and rumors, and this one is no exception. Astrid’s been keeping secrets for her best friends, Kristina and Justin, the town’s golden couple, who are more than they appear. But Astrid has her own secret even Kristina doesn’t know: she’s been dating a girl for a few months. Surrounded by closed-minded people and pressured by her girlfriend to just “come out already,” Astrid is struggling with her identity and which label she feels fits her best—if any labels fit at all. Astrid plays out these questions in make-believe conversations with Socrates and by imagining the lives of the passengers in the planes flying overhead. Unfortunately, secrets can’t be kept for too long, and Astrid is running out of time.

Ask the Passengers is very enjoyable and full of memorable and vibrant characters. Astrid’s fears and questions are real and valid and treated as such, which is not always the case in the usual questioning and coming out stories. There are a lot of connections to philosophy and Socrates that allow the reader to wonder about the truths of the universe as well. The interludes with the passengers are very creative and help keep the story fresh and moving, while still connecting to Astrid’s life. There are a lot of strong emotions in this book, which shine through thanks to A. S. King’s strong writing and the narration by Devon Sorvari in the audiobook edition.

 

An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James (2013)

index.aspxWhen Jillian Leigh hears of the death of her eccentric ghost hunting Uncle Toby, she must put her Oxford studies aside and travel to seaside village Rothewell. There she learns of local Blood Moon Bay, haunted by a notorious ship wrecker. But more than a two hundred year old ghost is haunting the Bay. Local WWI veterans are haunted by the war and Jillian herself seems stalked by a local spirit. Set in the early 1920s, this romantic Gothic tale is a satisfying ghost story.

Check out a copy of Simone St. James’ An Inquiry into Love and Death.

The Innocent Sleep by Karen Perry (2014)

index.aspxHarry and his wife Robin lost their young son Dillon in an earthquake when they lived and worked as artists in Tangier, Morocco. Or did they? Harry believes that Dillon is still alive, even though everyone, including Robin, insists that Dillon is dead. Dillon’s body was never found, which fuels Harry’s belief that Dillon is still alive somewhere. Robin has tried to move on with their new life in Ireland, and to not blame Harry for some mistakes he made prior to the earthquake.

When Harry spots Dillon on the streets of Dublin, he renews his search. His search unravels secrets that he and Robin have kept from each other. The flawed, complex characters combined with images of Tangier, and an intricate plot that keeps the reader guessing, made this psychological thriller hard to put down.

Check out Karen Perry’s The Innocent Sleep today.

The Invisible City by Julia Dahl (2014)

index.aspxRebekah Roberts is a stringer reporter for the New York Tribune. Growing up in Florida and raised by her father, she is scarred by the absence of her Hasidic mother, who left when Rebekah was a baby. Her parents never married and met while Rebekah’s mother was questioning her faith. When Rebekah is at the scene where an ultra-Orthodox woman is found dead at a scrap yard, she finds herself trying to understand a faith she doesn’t know that well. She is also working on the case with a policeman named Saul who knew both her parents all those years ago. Saul wants justice for the murdered woman, Rivka Mendelssohn, but believes that the police are not investigating thoroughly and leaving it to the Hasidic community to dictate what’s done, such as not performing an autopsy on Rivka. Will Rebekah be able to put her personal issues aside and put her journalist skills to good use?

Julia Dahl’s Invisible City is the first book in the Rebekah Roberts series and features an intriguing main character along with interesting story. It would appeal to readers who enjoy the Kate Burkholder books by Linda Castillo.

 

Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time by Rachel Bertsche (2014)

index.aspxI thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Bertsche’s quest to emulate a different celebrity each month (Jennifer Aniston’s workout regimen, Gwyneth Paltrow’s cooking, etc.) in order to improve her happiness, well-being, etc. In Jennifer, Gwyneth, & Me, the planning and execution of the journey is balanced with her personal struggle with infertility. The author’s engaging voice is humorous and relatable. She includes interesting perspectives on celebrity culture and how it has changed… whether you’re a regular People or have a love-hate relationship with the current obsession with celebrities, Bertsche’s voice will draw you in.

 

 

Wool by Hugh Howey (2013)

index.aspxThe outside is toxic and deadly. For generations, humankind has been confined to a massive underground silo. Everyone must serve a purpose and are tightly regulated to make sure nothing goes to waste. Step outside of the law, and you are sentenced to death by “cleaning” – sent outside with a suit designed to keep you alive only long enough to clean the exterior landscape cameras. Why all those sentenced actually go through with the cleaning is a mystery to those in the silo….

Juliette, a young woman from the mechanical division, is handpicked to become the next sheriff after the last one volunteered to clean. As she becomes acclimated to her new position, Juliette starts piecing together information that makes her question the purpose and motives of the Silo’s leaders – information that could get her sentenced to clean in a heartbeat. Hugh Howey’s suspenseful post-apocalyptic novel pulls the reader into the world of the Silo and precariously holds them right at the tip between order and chaos. The first in a trilogy, Wool will leave you scrambling for the next installment.