Three cheers for Scalzi’s Plan B! This is not the science fiction novel that the award-winning author meant to write during the pandemic, but it’s one that will entertain and delight his many fans. In this very funny adventure thriller, New Yorker Jamie Gray is unexpectedly fired at the beginning of a very bad year. Demoted to food delivery driver, Jamie renews his acquaintance with Tom, a frequent customer who gives Jamie a job lead with KPS, the Kaiju Preservation Society. Jamie ends up in a warmer parallel earth with a jungle full of flying insects, creatures called tree crabs, and the super colossal kaiju, whose rare visits to our world inspired the Godzilla films. Jamie’s smart, snarky coworkers all seem to have a Ph.D. (unlike Jamie), and are studying the kaiju and trying to encourage a pair to mate and produce offspring. Suddenly Jamie encounters his terrible former boss, a billionaire tourist who almost gets himself kicked off a helicopter. Soon, Jamie and his coworkers have to strategize to protect the kaiju, themselves, and a small Canadian city from danger. Pure escapist reading, sure to be a hit. Readalikes include Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s The Long Earth.
Carpenter, actor, comedian and author Nick Offerman narrates the audio version of his new memoir. In 2019 and 2020 he travels to Glacier National Park to hike with two famous friends and a guide, visits a sheep farm in England where he helps rebuild a stone wall, and buys an Airstream trailer and travels from California to Texas, Oklahoma, and Illinois with his wife Megan Mullally and their dog. During his travels, Offerman shares amusing anecdotes, reflects on nature, public lands and their origin, the pandemic, common sense, and food. This is an entertaining and thought provoking read, with perhaps a bit too much time on his soap box. Excellent armchair travel with plenty of humor to enliven the book. Readalikes include the author’s Paddle Your Own Canoe, A Walk in the Woods and The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks, and The Longest Road by Philip Caputo.
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.
After an eccentric billionaire collapses at a hospital fundraiser, the city of Boston is invited to participate in a treasure hunt for a share of his fortune. Researcher Tuesday Mooney, along with young neighbor Dorry, friend and former coworker Dex, and rich, mysterious Archie, explores train tunnels, an abandoned theater and a haunted house, all while occasionally talking to her first best friend, Abby, who’s been missing for years. Full of adventure and suspense, this love letter to Boston is full of engaging, witty, complex characters, and is a feel-good treasure to read and savor. Readalikes include Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Library, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Ready Player One, and The Westing Game. This will be the library’s February book discussion selection.
Romy Keene works for her uncles in their New York City bookstore, living in an apartment above the shop. When the building is sold and their rent skyrockets, Romy enters a contest to win a huge bonus and a position with a travel company. All Romy needs to do is visit the same landmarks as Phileas Fogg did in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days, without taking a commercial flight. And Romy needs to be faster than Dominic Madison, whose uncle is her new evil landlord. Romy has never been further from New York City than Montreal, and is definitely not an intrepid traveler. Many adventures later, the cargo ship she and Dominic are traveling on rescues a group of Somali refugees, and the pair find a new, mutual goal. This book is perfect armchair travel reading for summer, complete with a little romance (with Dominic, of course!). A good non-fiction readalike is Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World, by Matthew Goodman. This novel really kept my interest, and will be published on August 11.
In this quirky debut romantic comedy, Zoey Caldwell meets grumpy Graham Barnett on her first night in Moose Springs, Alaska. Graham reluctantly serves tourists from a nearby luxury lodge at his diner, The Tourist Trap, but he’d rather be spending time with his dog or making sculptures with a chain saw. Zoey has been saving her tips for years to afford a two-week vacation in Alaska, and is happy to sleep on the sofa in her friend Lana’s suite at the lodge. Determined to see as many Alaskan attractions as she can, Zoey’s day trips are with a budget company and she goes whale watching in heavy seas, and gets an uncooperative horse on a trail ride. Graham is part of a long-running local versus rich tourist feud, but introduces Zoey to his dog, his friends, and takes her to a local favorite bakery for giant cinnamon rolls. Graham is a bit too ready to get into a fight for my tastes, but clearly has a soft spot for Zoey and her friend Lana. Funny and engaging, with a great sense of place, this novel will have readers eager to visit Moose Springs, Alaska, ASAP. Fortunately, the author’s second book, Mistletoe and Mr. Right, will be published this October. Other reviewers suggest books by Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Robyn Carr, and Debbie Macomber as readalikes. The Tourist Attraction will be our virtual book discussion selection on August 25.
The author of Ordinary Grace sets this adventure novel with echoes of Huckleberry Finn and The Odyssey in 1932 Minnesota and Missouri. Four kids head south in a canoe, fleeing loss and harsh treatment at the Lincoln Indian Training School. Odie and his older brother Albert are orphans heading to a barely remembered aunt in St. Louis, while young Emmy clings to Sioux teen Mose after she’s lost everything in a tornado. Mose is mute, and the group share an often secret sign language. They meet a healer with a revival tent show, a madam, traveling families and vagabonds, and find temporary haven in a soup kitchen and friendship in a Hoover town. Odie is a storyteller, Albert can fix most mechanical equipment, Mose goes on a vision quest, and young Emmy reminds an eccentric farmer of his missing daughter. Poignant and lyrically written, this story of an unlikely family on an epic journey has moments of conflict balanced with simple joys, unpredictable adventures, and the possibility of danger around every river bend. This remarkable character-driven novel is a compelling read.
Fifty years after The Andromeda Strain, a mysterious structure appears in the Amazon rain forest. Project Eternal Vigilance is activated, and an international team of scientists is sent to investigate, including an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. Fighter planes are on high alert should their exploration fail. Daniel Wilson was an excellent choice to write this sequel. The scenes in the rain forest are vividly drawn, as are the robotics on the ISS. Fast-paced from the beginning, the pace and tension intensify, and the fate of the expedition (and the planet) is always in doubt. Readers know that all the scientists will not survive, but the plot is far from predictable. This science fiction thriller is sure to be popular. Matthew Reilly’s Jack West series is a good readalike.
I enjoyed listening to Scott Brick narrate this entertaining adventure novel. It really kept my interest on long drives. The first book I’ve read in the Sam & Remi Fargo series, it’s a little more violent than the Dirk Pitt series, but not violent compared to other thrillers. Wealthy treasure hunters Sam & Remi now run a charity but still enjoy a quest for treasure. An ongoing attempt to enjoy a peaceful vacation keeps getting interrupted by new clues or interference by their competitor, a typical villain. Remi is shopping for a rare book in South Carolina when the bookstore is held up. The Fargo’s research staff thinks the rare map in her book may be linked to the lost treasure of King John, who died in 1216. Their search takes them to Brazil, Jamaica, and England. Fast-paced and plot driven, Sam and Remi are good company wherever they go. Readers may also enjoy The Seven Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly or Robert Kurson’s real-life adventure The Pirate Hunters.
Adventure travel writer Levison Wood describes one of his first long journeys, backpacking from France to India at age 22. Some of the countries are described in more detail than others, beginning with Estonia and ending with Pakistan, but overall this is an engaging read. On a shoestring budget, Wood is trying to retrace the 1839 Silk Road journey of Arthur Connolly. Usually staying in a hostel or dorm, occasionally sleeping outside, Wood has adventures and gets his eyes opened by the different cultures and people he encounters, often finding warm hospitality. There are also exciting bus rides, anxious border crossings, and more vodka than he’d like. With dark hair, a tan, and a new beard, Wood could blend in more than the usual British traveler, though he still struggled to find his way. His newest book is An Arabian Journey; my favorite is Walking the Himalayas. Enjoy!