The It Girl

it girl jacketThe It Girl by Ruth Ware

Dark academia meets psychological suspense in Ruth Ware’s latest hit, The It Girl.

Hannah seems to have it all; a loving husband, a cozy job, and a baby on the way. Despite that, she is still haunted by the murder of her roommate April Clarke-Cliveden, ten years prior, as she was the one to discover April’s lifeless body in their dormitory at Oxford University, and immediately pointed her finger at the creepy and seemingly predatory staff member she had seen exiting the stairwell to their room. The staff member in question, John Neville, was ultimately charged and convicted in the death of the university student as a result of Hannah’s testimony, and spent the rest of his life in prison. Upon his passing in jail, interest in the case is instigated again and a member of the press isn’t completely convinced that John was actually guilty. Hannah is racked with worry and guilt when presented with clues that may prove the convicted man’s innocence. While stirring up decade old issues and rivalries amongst her friends from university, she proceeds on a mission to uncover what really happened that fateful evening, to the reluctance of those surrounding her. The drama doesn’t cease there though, as Hannah’s husband, Will, was dating the beautiful and poised Miss Clarke-Cliveden at the time of her strangulation.

Ware blends complex and well-developed characters as well as an engrossing setting to create a compelling read. By featuring dual timelines that are delineated as “Before” and “After,” readers are taken on a suspenseful journey to figure out who the real culprit is, alongside the story’s protagonist. While written with intensifying pace, “The It Girl’” is quite lengthy (at 420 pages) due to the amount of detail that Ware provides.

Readlikes include The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn and The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, with readalike authors being Paula Hawkins and B.A. Paris.


January 2023 Book Discussion

mystery of mrs. christie jacketPlease join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7 pm on January 24 for our discussion of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict in the 2nd floor Meeting Room. This is a historical mystery, based on the real-life disappearance of young English mystery writer Agatha Christie in December 1926, after an argument with her husband Archie. Agatha never revealed what happened while she was gone; this is one writer’s take on what might have happened and why. Here’s my earlier review. Copies of the book are available for checkout at the Circulation Desk, and eBook copies are available from Media on Demand/Libby, Hoopla Digital, and eRead Illinois. Please register online here, or at the Computer Help Desk.


The Light We Carry

light we carry jacket

The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama

In this engaging memoir, the former first lady shares inspiring and funny stories, and explores her toolbox of techniques and strategies she uses to cope and thrive during challenging times. While Michelle is very accomplished as well as famous, in other ways she’s just like many of us. She’s a worrier, is not naturally self-assured, and occasionally says things she wishes she hadn’t, and dislikes change.

Full of anecdotes about herself and her family, I especially enjoyed reading about Marian Robinson, Michelle’s mother. Marian is best known for moving to the White House with the Obamas to be there for young Malia and Sasha. Practical and down-to-earth, she encouraged Michelle and her brother Craig to become self-sufficient as soon as they started school, but she was also an active listener whenever her children needed to talk, and told them (especially when having issues with teachers or other kids) that they would always be liked at home, and calms Michelle when she frets too much, even today.

Michelle shared that Barack is still not punctual and tends to work too hard. She often encourages him to take time to relax. Their two girls are now grown and sharing an apartment in Los Angeles, where they have finally learned to use coasters under cold drinks. Barack sent them information about earthquakes, and offered to have a government official give Malia and Sasha a briefing on earthquake preparedness (that they politely declined), which I thought was charming.

I suspect that Michelle is a champion list maker; how else could she accomplish so much? She shares that she still has two staffers to help her with her schedule and travel, and thanks those she has worked with in the White House and at the Obama Foundation. During the early part of the pandemic, Michelle taught herself to knit in order to relax, and has already learned to knit sweaters.

Part of the toolbox that she shares includes how to be comfortably afraid, and why being well prepared comes in handy when you’re giving a convention speech and two of the three screens aren’t working. She plans ahead, organizing get-togethers with her friends, old and new. Michelle also talks about coping with feeling “other” or different. For her, it wasn’t being a smart black girl that was so hard when she was growing up; it was being tall. Later, it was being a woman, and then being a famous black woman. Resilience and perseverance were helpful.

I haven’t read her 2018 memoir, Becoming, but if you did, you’ll most likely enjoy reading this book. Throughout The Light We Carry, Michelle is encouraging, inspiring, surprisingly relatable, full of hope and frequently funny.


The Measure

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The Measure by Nikki Erlick

This compelling first novel asks a challenging, life-changing question. What if every adult could learn the length of their life? How would our priorities change? In the opening pages, all adults receive a box containing information that can measure their lifespan. There are no instruction, no proof, just the boxes. Suddenly, nothing else seems to matter.

Do we want to know? What if our partner will have a longer or shorter life than ours? Support groups are formed for those with shorter measures, and the story follows the eight members of one group, along with their family members. While the effects on society are not dystopian, they are significant, though everyday life continues. Can scientists or doctors have any effect on the measure? What if someone lies about their measure? Some people, predictably, leave their jobs to travel. Others consider whether or not to marry, or to have children. While this is definitely a thought-provoking novel, it’s also an engaging, and occasionally heartwarming read.

Readalikes include In Five Years by Rebecca Serle, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.


Daisy Darker

daisy darker jacketDaisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Fans of Agatha Christie’s  And Then There Were None, rejoice! Alice Feeney takes readers on a tense and tumultuous journey with this modern twist on a murder mystery classic.

Daisy Darker tells the twisted tale of the Darker family, who gather on a tidal island in Cornwall, United Kingdom, to celebrate the birthday of their beloved, if not eccentric matriarch. The party, which falls on Halloween and Nana’s eightieth birthday, proceeds as smoothly as can be expected for this dysfunctional clan until they begin to be murdered, one by one every hour, starting at midnight with the aforementioned matriarch and birthday girl. Adding to the suspense and unease is a raging storm that leaves the family stranded at Nana’s sprawling seaside mansion until morning. Seemingly no one in this deceitful crew is safe, as everyone from Daisy Darker herself to the pianist prodigy father has secrets to hide, even from those they are supposed to love the most.

Feeney expertly concocts an immersive and atmospheric setting by featuring a unique landscape and utilizing descriptive language. Said captivating language contributes to the visceral feeling of unease that readers are likely to endure, while turning page after page, as alluring settings are an Alice Feeney staple. This title is one of her more memorable works, and is chock-full of complex characters that are well-developed, snarky, and unreliable, which make the mystery all that more intriguing and onerous to solve. Told from the perspective of the title’s namesake, Daisy Darker combines short chapters, dramatic flashbacks, and an intricately crafted storyline, to leave readers feeling haunted and eager to discover who the most dangerous Darker really is.

Readalike titles include One by One by Ruth Ware,  An Unwanted Guest by Shari LaPena, and They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall.



The Matchmaker’s Gift

matchmaker's gift jacket

The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I thoroughly enjoyed this charming dual timeline novel of a matchmaking grandmother and her granddaughter, a divorce lawyer. Happily, both stories make for compelling reading. At 10, Sara Glickman and her family emigrate from Eastern Europe to New York City’s Lower East Side, where she makes her first match. As a teen, Sara needs to keep her talent for matching soulmates hidden from the traditional male shadchanim and can only make introductions and hope for the best. One supportive rabbi encourages her work, and later Sara becomes a noted Jewish matchmaker. In 1994, her granddaughter Abby, a lawyer in Manhattan, inherits Sara’s notebooks. Abby’s work as a junior divorce lawyer is interesting but stressful; then she meets a client who doesn’t want the divorce she’s seeking, and another who’s reluctant to sign a prenuptial agreement before his third marriage. Abby learns she may have inherited her grandmother’s talent. New York City during the 1910s and 1920s and in 1994 are given just the right amount of detail, while Sara, Abby and their friends and family make for excellent company in this heartwarming read.