Starless by Jacqueline Carey
I really enjoyed reading this lush, compelling, standalone fantasy. Richly detailed with a strikingly unusual narrator, this story definitely exceeded my expectations. Khai has been raised in the desert by the Brotherhood of Parkhun, chosen to be the shadow or protector of a royal princess born the same day. Khai is trained by warriors and a thief, as well as an unlikely seer, facing his first opponent at age 9. Khai’s gender is non-binary, but that’s not a spoiler to anyone but Khai. The princess Zariya, youngest child of a very long lived king, has some physical problems from a childhood illness, but is brilliant, beautiful, and strong-willed. Later the pair journey across their starless, island-filled world in search of answers to a prophecy and companions to help in their quest. One reviewer compared their quest to Tolkien, but it reminded me more of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. The gods are creatively depicted, and include a giant octopus who’s an oracle. Giant sea worms tow their ship, and not all their companions are human. This is the first book I’ve read by Jacqueline Carey; I may try her Kushiel series next.
Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee
I enjoyed reading about how small, joyful moments can lift our mood and make our day. The author describes how seemingly ordinary objects or experiences like balloons, confetti, rainbows, circles, flowers, and vibrant yet harmonious decor can spark joy while sharp edges, minimalist decor and clutter can make us edgy and uncomfortable. It’s certainly pleasant reading that may make me take an extra moment to enjoy a sunset or a butterfly.
Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman
Isobel is riding with her mentor Gabriel, exploring the hot, humid southern portion of the Devil’s West, in the third book of the trilogy which began with Silver on the Road. Isobel is the young Left Hand of the territory; arbitrator and sometimes enforcer in this magical land. As Isobel and Gabriel approach the Mudwater River (aka the Mississippi), everyone they meet seems increasingly uneasy. Gabriel is feeling the call of the River while Isobel may be too closely connected to the land of the territory. In the city of Red Stick they may be facing a riot, or another flood. An imaginative, well-drawn book set in an alternate 19th century North America, which leaves room for more stories in the Devil’s West.
On September 18 at 10 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will meet to discuss Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart. This is a mystery set in southwest China in 1708, during a festival to celebrate a solar eclipse predicted by the emperor. Here’s my earlier review.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on September 25 to discuss How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig. Tom Hazard ages very, very slowly and his memories go back to Elizabethan England. My review is here.
The Crime Readers will meet at 7 p.m. at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien on September 20 to discuss The Force, by Don Winslow, a novel of intrigue and corruption in the New York Police Department. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m.
Copies of the books will be available four weeks in advance at the Circulation Desk in the lobby.
The Reluctant Fortune-Teller by Keziah Frost
Norbert, 73, lives a quiet and happy life with his Chihuahua, Ivy. He is surprised when his art teacher Carlotta comes to visit, along with her friends Birdie and Margaret. They have observed that he might be having financial difficulties, and propose training him to read cards so that he can tell fortunes at a local cafe. When he has some vet bills to pay off, he tucks Ivy into a carrier, and charms the locals and tourists with his readings. He is naturally observant and has a wealth of knowledge from reading Reader’s Digest, and enjoys helping people. Carlotta is worried that he’ll be too successful, but the only real suspense is whether Norbert will be able to help Carlotta’s troubled granddaughter Summer. Gibbon Corner, a tourist town on Lake Ontario, is a fitting setting for this witty, heartwarming novel. If you like cozy mysteries or gentle reads, you’ll probably enjoy spending time with Norbert and Ivy.
Need to Know by Karen Cleveland
With three children in daycare and one in elementary school, Vivian Miller is already stressed, with her life revolving around her work as a CIA analyst and juggling childcare with her husband Matt. Matt calls to say that Ella’s sick and needs to be picked up within an hour, just before his photo shows up in the files of a Russian agent Vivian is tracking. This all happens in the first chapter, with the pace and suspense hardly letting up throughout the story. Can Vivian trust Matt? Will Omar, her colleague at the FBI, be able to help? What should Vivian tell her parents? Flashbacks to Vivian and Matt’s past, including a memorable first meeting, a surprise trip to Hawaii, then life as young parents, have her doubting their whole life together. Vivian would really like to stay home with the kids, but Matt logically urges her to keep her job, and to try for a promotion. I thought Vivian was rather easy to manipulate, but the author, a former CIA analyst, never gives her any easy choices. There’s not a lot of depth here, in either the characters or the plot, but this hard to put down thriller is a good readalike for The Expats by Chris Pavone. Movie rights have been sold, and Charlize Theron may produce and star in the film.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Hilarious, touching, and wistful, this novel unexpectedly won the Pulitzer Prize. Arthur Less, almost 50, is a minor novelist, occasional teacher, and very appealing company. Avoiding both his birthday and the wedding of his younger lover Freddy, Arthur accepts invitations to travel for an interview, an award ceremony, a retreat, a teaching assignment, and as a food critic in order to get away. With his beautifully tailored blue suit, Arthur visits New York City, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Paris, Morocco, southern India, and Kyoto, Japan. There are some funny travel mishaps, and he’s far from being as fluent in German as he believes. Arthur thinks that most of these invitations come from his association with an older, award-winning poet, and has a humble opinion of his own talents, especially as his current manuscript needs major revisions. A truly charming story, this novel is an enjoyable, rewarding read.