Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke

Darren Mathews grew up in rural East Texas on land his family had owned for generations.  He became a Texas Ranger like his uncle.  When the book begins, he is a little down on his luck.  He and his wife are spending some time apart, and he has been suspended at work.  An old friend asks him to investigate a double murder in the tiny town of Lark, Texas that may be racially motivated.  The body of a black lawyer from Chicago was pulled from the bayou.  A few days later a younger white woman’s body was found.  Darren goes to Lark and finds a mystery with many layers.  He is able to have his suspension lifted and makes certain the local police look at the deaths from every angle.  The characters in this novel are varying mixtures of rich, poor, black, and white.  They are an interesting group.  The mystery is eventually solved, but the book ends rather abruptly and leaves a whole new issue between Darren and his mother.  Hopefully this is the beginning of a new series. 

Reviewed by Fiona Swift, Hoyt Library

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Gather the Daughters is the haunting debut novel of author Jennie Melamed. It explores the lives of women both young and old in a fictional patriarchal island society in a postapocolyptic America. The island society was founded by a group of male leaders called the wanderers. The wanderers control all aspects of life on the island, controlling access to technology, education, and resources. Female rights are strictly curtailed and summers are the only time of freedom for young girls of non childbearing age. It is during one summer that the young girls begin to rebel against the system that brutalizes and abuses them. Melamed shines when describing the horrifying rituals that surround dating, intercourse, marriage, and childbirth. Her characters are strongly written and relatable. With the renewed popularity of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Gather the Daughters is both timely and captivating.  

Reviewed by Amy Churchill, Head of Zauel Library

Monday, October 9, 2017

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Mystery author Alan Conway may be horrible to work with, but his bestselling series featuring Detective Atticus Pünd is keeping Susan Ryeland’s publishing company in business. Ryeland is Conway’s book editor and when she receives his latest manuscript, about two murders in a quiet 1950s English village, we read it along with her. We are just as frustrated as she is when the manuscript of the novel-within-the-novel cuts off just as Pünd is set to unmask the killer. Conway’s final chapter is missing.

To make things worse, the author has apparently just committed suicide and no one seems to know where the missing pages could be or how he intended the story to end. Ryeland turns amateur sleuth to uncover his secrets, but the more she looks into things, the more convinced she becomes that Conway himself was murdered. Does his missing chapter expose something his killer needed to stay hidden?

Fans of Agatha Christie and other classic murder mystery writers will love how this novel plays with the genre. The modern-day plot intertwines with the mid-Century detective story in a satisfying and clever way.

Reviewed by Lynn Heitkamp, Hoyt Library

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The Leavers, Lisa Ko’s debut novel, tells two stories: the first belongs to Deming Guo, the young child of an undocumented Chinese immigrant. One day, his mother simply never comes home from work. He is eventually adopted by a well-intended white family, who; try as they might, cannot patch the hurt and loss festering within this young boy. He resents his mom for abandoning him and resents his foster parents for being unable to breach the gulf between his own culture and theirs.

The second story goes back in time to follow his mother Polly, born in a small Chinese village who, barely out of her teens, becomes pregnant and leaves for America. We learn the tragic details of how she was captured by ICE agents and detained at a holding camp for over a year, then deported back to China. There, she rebuilds her life, unable to contact her son and unable to forget him.

As Deming (renamed Daniel) grows into adulthood, he sinks under the weight of his foster parent’s expectations and his own search for identity. He drops out of college to pursue his only passion, music, to the disappointment of foster parents. He becomes a gambling addict. With no one left to disappoint, he decides to find his birth mother.

This is a somber, timely story about immigrant families and identity, loss and forgiveness. In today’s polarized climate regarding immigrants, The Leavers is an essential read.

Reviewed by: Kalum Meyers, Zauel Library

Monday, September 18, 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is a bit of an oddball.  Her sense of socially appropriate behavior is a bit unconventional and seems to stem from something very mysterious and very bad thing that happened in her past. She spends her free time following a rigid routine consisting mainly of eating pizza, drinking vodka alone in her apartment, and taking Mummy’s weekly phone calls; until she happens upon a musician who she’s decided is the perfect man for her.  

Eleanor is ready to transform her practical and boring appearance in order to land this man, but the whole process is complicated by the fact that she’s never actually met him. Enter Raymond, the dorky IT guy who helped Eleanor with her office computer and, for some reason, decided to befriend her.  The two of them witness an unfortunate accident when Sammy has a heart attack and falls on the sidewalk.  This accident brings the three together and provides Eleanor with everything she needs to break through the darkness of her isolation. 

Reviewed by Kim White, Head of Hoyt Library

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

This book takes place in the Tahquamenon River Valley in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  That alone made it a fun read.  The descriptions of plants, animals, and insects is vivid.  Helena and her parents lived in a remote cabin that was surrounded by a marsh.  They didn’t have electricity, running water or a car.  She never went to school and learned how to read from old National Geographic magazines.  Her father taught her all about nature, how to hunt and gather food, and how to survive in her harsh environment.  She never saw anyone other than her parents.  Then, when she was 12, she discovered that her father had kidnapped her mother and was holding them captive.  After a harrowing turn of events, Helena and her mother escape and Helena suddenly finds herself thrown into a world she knows nothing about.  Years pass and the past that Helena fought so hard to leave behind is staring her down. There's only one thing for Helena to do . . .

Reviewed by Fiona Swift

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

The Sleepwalker is the newest release by bestselling author Chris Bohjalian.  Bohjalian is a master at creating tightly written novels that are both haunting and mysterious at the same time, and Sleepwalker is no exception.  The book revolves around the very interesting concept of sleepwalking and its profound effects on both the afflicted and their families.  He weaves a compelling mystery around a New England mother and sleepwalker that goes missing and the heartache her family endures while trying to piece together the events leading up to and surrounding her disappearance.  The scientific and emotional perils of sleepwalking are carefully explored.  As always with Bohjalian’s books, the ending is both surprising and satisfying.  Highly recommended for readers of psychological thrillers, mysteries, and Jodi Picoult fans!

Reviewed by Amy Churchill