The Witness for the Dead

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

This shorter fantasy novel reads like a cozy historical mystery, and is connected to the acclaimed The Goblin Emperor, which was published in 2014. Thara Celehar is a witness for the dead in Amalo, and is a minor religious cleric. His rank is unclear, and he lives modestly; with a daily routine that includes visiting teahouses and feeding stray cats. Thara can sometimes get information from a dead person, and is obligated to investigate any suspicious deaths. An opera singer who dies in the wrong part of town is one plotline, and a forged will that somehow leads to Thara being sent to a mining town with a ghoul problem is another. The aftermath of an explosion at an airship factory and searching local cemeteries for the grave of a missing young woman are the last strands in this intricately plotted yet character-driven story. Thara is an elf, but is unlike any of Tolkien’s elves, and many of his clients are part elf and part goblin. A thoroughly nice and hardworking man, Thara will win hearts of many readers and makes them long for more mysteries for him to solve. Readalikes include books by Natasha Pulley, Zen Cho and the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh.

Brenda

Battle Royal

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker

Four years after judge Dominic De Vere voted Sylvie Fairchild off Operation Cake when her unicorn cake exploded and showered him with edible glitter, the pair are rival business owners in Notting Hill, London. Sylvie has opened Sugar Fair, a bakery straight out of a fairy tale, across the street from the traditional De Vere’s, where delicious cakes are beautifully decorated, mostly in white or perhaps ivory. Sylvie is asked to fill in as a judge on Operation Cake, where she gets to know the stern and prickly judge as a fellow business owner, and they gradually become friends. When Princess Rose announces her engagement to John Marchmont, the pair are finalists to bake the royal wedding cake, and end up doing research on the royal family together, with witty banter, tender moments and irresistible chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed Dominic and Sylvie’s story, and the audiobook narration of Billie Fulford-Brown. A second Palace Insiders is planned, featuring Dominic’s younger sister.

Brenda

Falling

Falling by T. J. Newman

A compelling read, this debut thriller is perfect summer reading; unless you’re on an airplane. Former flight attendant and bookseller Newman had many rejections when trying to find an agent, then ended up with an instant bestseller. Pilot Bill Hoffman of Coastal Airways has just begun a flight from Los Angeles to New York City with copilot Ben when he gets an emailed photo of his family, taken hostage. Expecting a ransom demand, Bill is instead told to crash the plane in order to save his wife Carrie, son Scott, 10, and baby Elise. Bill gets word to head flight attendant Jo, who has a contact with the FBI, and she agrees to try to protect the passengers. Chapters alternate between the points of view of Bill, Carrie, Jo, and the FBI, making the book increasingly difficult to put down. The author’s background makes the airplane setting and responses of the flight crew seem authentic. In a twist, the hostage taker informs Bill that he has a Plan B already on board the plane. Film rights have been sold. Readalikes include Airport by Arthur Hailey, Hostage by Clare Mackintosh and Airframe by Michael Crichton.

 

Brenda

September 2021 Book Discussion

Join the Tuesday Evening Book Group for our first in-person book discussion of 2021. We will be meeting in the 2nd floor Mahlke Meeting Room at 7 pm on Tuesday, September 28 to discuss Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. This is a first novel set in small town Maine, about the unlikely relationship between a young woman who’s lost her husband and a major league pitcher who’s lost his game. My earlier review is here.

Please register online or at the Computer Help Desk. Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk; eBook and eAudiobook copies are available at Media on Demand/Libby and eRead Illinois. Hope to see you here!

Brenda

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

The Pulitzer Prize winning author of All The Light We Cannot See has written another masterpiece. Set in an astonishing variety of settings and time periods, with a story within the larger story to keep the reader enchanted. In a modern day public library in Idaho, Zeno, a Korean War veteran, is helping several children produce a play he translated from the Greek. Young seamstress Anna and Omeir and his oxen are caught up in a siege of Constantinople in 1453. In the future, teenager Konstance is living on a spaceship bound for planet Beta Oph2. Doerr excels at storytelling, plot, and characters, although this is not a happy, upbeat story. Somehow, the storylines converge with the theme of the importance of story to inspire, cheer, and remember. Readalike authors include Elsa Hart, David Mitchell, Natasha Pulley, and Neal Stephenson.

Brenda

The Last Thing He Told Me

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

On their houseboat in Sausalito, California, Hannah receives a cryptic note from her husband Owen. All it says is “Protect her”. Her 16-year-old stepdaughter Bailey gets a longer note and a duffle bag full of money in her locker before Owen vanishes. Owen is a coder for The Shop, a technology firm. On the news, Hannah learns that Owen’s boss has been arrested for financial fraud.

Hannah is a talented and successful woodturner, crafting tables and other furniture, but struggles to connect with Bailey, who lost her mother when she was little. Hannah knows how important Bailey is to Owen, and they travel to Texas to follow up on some clues. The story goes back and forth a couple years in time, to show how Owen and Hannah met and fell in love, before Hannah realizes she knows very few facts about Owen’s past.

This is the fifth novel and first thriller by Laura Dave. I enjoyed Eight Hundred Grapes, so I thought I’d try her new bestseller. This was not the suspense book I was expecting, although it definitely lives up to the hype. The compelling story is intricately plotted, and I guessed wrong on a couple of plot twists, but this is primarily a book about relationships and priorities, focusing on resilient, quick-thinking Hannah and how her relationships with Owen and Bailey develop. Readalikes include The Expats by Chris Pavone, Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell and Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown.

Brenda

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Addie LaRue will likely win your heart, but almost no one she meets in her remarkable long life remembers her. Desperate to avoid marriage to a widowed man with children, Addie prays for “a chance to live and be free”. Unfortunately, the sun has set and a spirit from the dark answers her plea. Luc grants her freedom, but she can’t even say or write her own name. When someone steps through a door, they forget her. Born in a small French village in the late 17th century, Addie struggles to survive, and to thrive. After many decades, she can make friends quickly, learns to read and speak several languages, and influences artists and musicians. It’s an amazing life, but Addie’s often lonely. She may see Luc once a year, if that. One day in New York City in 2014, she steals a book. When she returns it to the bookstore, Henry remembers her. And so her life changes, again, while Henry finds someone who sees him as he really is, but there’s a catch. The audiobook is skillfully narrated by actor Julia Whelan. Readalikes include How to Stop Time by Matt Haig and A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness A wonderfully immersive, character-focused read, Schwab is quite the storyteller and Addie LaRue is unforgettable.

Brenda

The Guide

The Guide by Peter Heller

Lush descriptions of stunning scenery combine with an increasing menace in a novel set at an elite fishing lodge in Colorado. The young guide, Jack, is well acquainted with loss, and finds his solace in fly fishing. Assigned to Allison K., a famous singer, they explore the water and grounds near Kingfisher Lodge, eating marvelous meals that include conversations about favorite Japanese haiku. No fishing experience is needed to enjoy the scenery and the pairs’ love of the sport. But no idyll is perfect, and as they explore too far and uncover a sinister plot just beyond the fence, the story becomes a heart-pounding thriller; changing from a readalike for Ivan Doig or Norman Maclean into a book perfect for readers of Robin Cook or Michael Crichton. Absolutely riveting, both gorgeous and frightening. Readers will also enjoy Heller’s companion novel The River, but this novel stands alone in its near future setting.

Brenda

The Guncle

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Patrick O’Hara, a former sitcom star, leaves Palm Springs for Connecticut when his good friend and sister-in-law dies of cancer. Unexpectedly, Patrick’s brother Greg asks him to look after his kids for the summer. Back in Palm Springs, where the kids are delighted he has a swimming pool, Gay Uncle Patrick, aka GUP or Guncle, makes several rules to help Maisie, 9, and Grant, 6, settle in. With help from part-time housekeeper Rosa, Patrick and kids deal with their grief, have lots of fun, and Patrick gradually figures out what the next chapter in life will look like. Poignant, with some hilarious dialogue, this is a memorable and charming novel. Maisie, Grant, and Patrick just might steal your heart. Readalikes include The Family Man by Elinor Lipman and Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Brenda

Legendborn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Bree Matthews and her friend Alice are accepted into the Early College program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Bree’s mother recently died in a car accident, and she doesn’t always make the best choices. Assigned a peer mentor, Nick, she realizes he can also see magical creatures like hellhounds, and asks to join his secret society at the college as a page. She doesn’t realize he’s connected to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Meanwhile, Bree’s new counselor, who knew her mother, introduces her to her Black Southern magical roots, where she learns that her female ancestors still have stories to tell. While Bree’s classes are barely mentioned and Bree doesn’t share what’s going on with Alice or her father, this is an immersive and suspenseful fantasy novel with numerous plots twists that neither Bree nor the reader will see coming. The well-developed and diverse characters, especially mysterious and menacing Sel, have me looking forward to a sequel expected next year. 

Brenda