Wednesday, July 23, 2014

California by Edan Lepucki

Twentysomethings Cal and Frida have been living alone in the forest following the collapse of American society. After leaving their home in Los Angeles, they spend their days tending to their vegetables and foraging for food with only each other for company. When Frida discovers that she's pregnant, she and Cal realize that they must travel to the Spikes, a local collective that might let them join and help ensure that their baby is born safely. Instead they find that it provides them with more questions than answers and a level of uneasiness and distrust.  Have Cal and Frida made the right decision leaving the home they made for themselves?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Owen's Daughter by Jo-Ann Mapson

Skye Elliot is just out of rehab, determined to reunite with her four-year-old daughter, Gracie.  Skye's father, Owen, picks her up after she's completed her treatment and, even though she's thrilled to see him, he hasn't been in her life for over ten years. Owen is also starting a new life--recently released from prison and hoping to be a good father to Skye. He also still holds very dear the memory of his relationship with Margaret (the subject of Mapson's Blue Rodeo) in Blue Dog, New Mexico. Margaret, meanwhile, is living in Santa Fe, painting and learning to cope with a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. In Owen's Daughter, Mapson lets us in on the lives and innermost thoughts and feelings of Skye, Owen, and Margaret, as well as the family and friends that surround them.  With the southwest setting and Mapson's wonderful characterizations, Owen's Daughter is a pure pleasure to read.

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell

In this short novel, Kurt Wallander is debating whether to move to the country from his home in Ystad. When he goes to look at a home that he really likes, he finds a skeletal hand in the garden, which, of course, sours him on the property. Wallander then finds himself leading the investigation into who was possibly buried in the garden years ago. An Event in Autumn takes place in between Before the Frost and The Troubled Man. I thoroughly enjoyed another adventure with Wallander and hold out hope that maybe Mankell will someday continue the series with Wallander's daughter, Linda, as the main character.  It will be published next month.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton

In the English village of Winter Parva, baker Bert Simple is murdered during a pantomime performance. Private detective Agatha Raisin is hired by Gareth Craven, whom the press have fingered as the killer. He wants Agatha to help clear his name by finding the real culprit. Will the fact that Agatha is sidetracked by her quest to find love and companionship mean that the guilty person goes free? The Blood of an Englishman will be published in September.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Living alone, Maud is descending into dementia. Despite having her daughter, Helen, nearby, and a caregiver that looks in on her every day, Maud is a danger to herself and others. She spends her time thinking about her older sister, Sukey, who disappeared over fifty years ago, and her current good friend, Elizabeth, whom she believes something bad has happened to. In her first novel, Healey writes a novel that is more about living with dementia than psychological suspense (which is what I was expecting). A read-alike for Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

That Summer by Lauren Willig

Julia Conley left England as a child after her mother was killed in a car accident. Growing up in the United States, she and her father never spoke about what happened. When Julia is left an old home by her just-deceased great aunt, she decides to travel to Herne Hill outside London. With the house overgrown and in need of repairs, Julia slowly goes through its contents. When she discovers a hidden painting that looks to be by one of the Pre-Raphaelites, Julia finds herself deep in a mystery of love, secrets, and betrayal. Helping her with the project is Nick, one of her cousin's friends. Are his motives honest or is he hoping to come away with some riches himself?  That Summer, with its past and present story lines, is an enjoyable summer read.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

When Lydia, a teenager, disappears and is found drowned in a lake, her family wonders about the circumstances of her death.  It's 1977 in Ohio and her parents have suffered prejudice since they married.  Mom Marilyn--blond and Caucasian--gave up her dreams of being a doctor when she married Chinese-American James Lee. James was denied his aspirations of being an American history professor at Harvard because of his race. Lydia was the favored middle child, the one that both Marilyn and James pinned their success on. Marilyn wanted Lydia to become a doctor, while James wanted her to be popular and have all the friends that he never had. Eldest son Nath and younger daughter, Hannah, are left with their own complicated emotions as their sister's passing causes their parents to confront the choices that they've made in their lives. Everything I Never Told You is a beautifully written debut novel that explores the issues of prejudice, individuality and family ties. It would be a great novel for a book discussion.