Isn’t it a classic fantasy to get away from it all, take off to a new place (preferably somewhere beautiful and/or exciting) and start a completely new life?  Especially if your ordinary life is less than you hoped it would be, or even downright painful or difficult, the idea of reinventing yourself in a new location is really attractive.  This is the premise of Nina George’s charming new book, The Little French Bistro, and if this is a fantasy of yours, you should definitely take a look.

Marianne, the main character, has been married to a mean, disapproving man for over forty years, and by the time the two of them go on vacation to Paris at the beginning of this book, she’s lost so much of her sense of who she is and what she wants that the only way she can imagine getting free of the situation is by killing herself. So she jumps off a bridge into the Seine River, only to be rescued by a homeless person living on the shore.  Her oafish husband, proving himself a complete jerk, responds by berating her in the hospital for ruining his vacation.  He takes off for their home in Germany without her, telling her to get psychiatric help and come home.

Marianne doesn’t obey him this time (if she did, this wouldn’t be much of a book). She takes off for the coast of Brittany, the “end of the world,” figuring she’ll end it all there.  Instead, she discovers the people of the area, their warmth and quirkiness, and she begins to return to life herself, learning French (isn’t that part of the fantasy, that even though you don’t even know the language, you’ll still be able to make yourself at home in this new place?), making friends, discovering the talents she’d been stifling all her life, and basically giving herself, with the encouragement of the people in the village, a second chance to live and love.  When her husband comes to track her down and confront her, will she have the inner strength and self-respect to stand up to him?


Full of rich and well-drawn characters and set lovingly in some of the most beautiful country of France, The Little French Bistro is the kind of book to take to the beach or to dive into when you’re in need of a break and reassurance that dreams sometimes do come true. Come and get it at the Field Library!


We all have our favorite thrillers and mystery series characters, and after a while, we have a pretty good sense of what, say, Harry Hole (in Jo Nesbo’s series) is likely to do in particular circumstances, or where V. I. Warshawski (in Sara Paretsky’s series) is likely to find the cases she’s investigating. There’s a certain comfort in that predictability (and I’d argue that’s one of the reasons we like to read series in the first place), but sometimes you just wonder what would happen if these characters were taken out of their comfort zones, matched up with other characters from other series, and made to work together.  If that idea strikes you as intriguing, then you’ll probably want to read the new collection of short stories, edited by Lee Child, entitled Matchup: The Battle of the Sexes Just Got Thrilling.


The idea of the collection is similar to that of FaceOff, which came out in 2014: pair up bestselling authors in the genre and get them to figure out how their characters might end up working together, on what kind of case, and how they would solve the crimes.  The difference here is that the authors paired up are male and female (though their respective characters aren’t necessarily of different genders), with different styles and takes on the world of thrillers.


So, for instance, you have Kathy Reichs bringing her Temperance Brennan character, a forensic anthropologist, together with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher in a story called “Faking a Murderer.”  How would they work together, with their very different styles and approaches?  Or you bring together Lisa Scottoline’s Bennie Rosato, a tough lawyer, and Nelson DeMille’s John Corey, who dislikes lawyers, in a story called “Getaway.”  Or Sandra Brown’s Lee Coburn (last seen touching down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming) meets up with C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett, and, after some initial problems, they work together to keep alive against some bad guys in “Honor & . . .”


You get the idea.  You might not be familiar with all these authors and their characters, but that makes it even better.  You get to see your favorites and meet some new characters, some new authors, in different settings and outside their normal comfort zones.  Even if you’re not a big fan of short stories in general, summer’s a great time to read shorter things (with all the relaxing going on, you don’t have the attention span to give to a long, intricate novel anyway), and Matchup is just the ticket for thriller/mystery fans.



If you’re in the mood for a puzzle mystery, the kind that doesn’t involve excessive violence or the whole noir sense that the world is a mess and all you can do is try to survive in it (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those kinds of mysteries; I read all kinds), but the kind that gives you an intricate setting, numerous clues and red herrings and forces you to try to solve the mystery along with the detective, or if you’re the kind of person who says “They just don’t write ‘em like that anymore,” then you’re going to love Anthony Horowitz’s new book, Magpie Murders, a sort of homage to the golden era of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, but twistier and more complex.

magpie murders

Horowitz is no stranger to the golden age of mysteries; in fact, he’s written a couple of Sherlock Holmes books himself, at least one of which (The House of Silk) was so well-written and so true to the characters set up in Doyle’s universe that I believe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself would have heartily approved of it.


Magpie Murders is actually two mysteries in one (more bang for your buck).  The framing story, which is a mystery itself, features Susan Ryland, an editor at a small publishing house, who’s been working with Alan Conway for years.  Conway is the author of a series of bestselling Agatha-Christie-like novels starring a detective, Atticus Pund (who’s very like Christie’s famous Hercule Poirot) solving crimes in sleepy English villages.  The author is not a particularly nice person, but Susan puts up with his behavior because his books sell so well and the publisher can’t afford to lose the money he brings them.  


When she starts reading his latest manuscript, Susan doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary for him, and at first it does seem like another Pund mystery in an English village.  The manuscript is presented in this book, so we are put in Susan’s shoes, reading it with her, seeing the murder and the various suspects and the clues of various sorts.  Susan begins to suspect that there’s more going on in this particular manuscript than meets the eye, as if there are things below the surface of a seemingly ordinary private detective story. She gets close to the climax of the manuscript, only to discover that the last couple of chapters (where the detective actually solves the crimes) are missing.


Things go from bad to worse when she goes to meet with the author, Alan Conway, and discovers that he’s dead, possibly a suicide, possibly a murder.  Now the details that nagged at Susan while she was reading the manuscript become clues she’s going to pursue in order to find out the truth about Conway’s own death.


It’s not every mystery writer who can interweave two different mysteries in the same novel and keep them both intriguing and suspenseful, but if anyone can, it’s Anthony Horowitz, and Magpie Murders is a twisty, challenging puzzle for real mystery aficionados.


One of the fascinations of thrillers is the way they take us out of our normal lives and throw us into the kinds of situations most of us will never face.  I know that I personally will never be an FBI agent or a top New York City police officer, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to experience the excitements of those jobs vicariously, through a well-written thriller, and that’s great because both Dean Koontz and Don Winslow (both masters of the genre) have just published new thrillers in which the main characters are, respectively, an FBI agent and a high powered New York City Police officer.

the silent corner

Dean Koontz, a bestselling author, is starting a new series with his book, The Silent Corner, featuring Jane Hawk, an FBI agent who’s nobody’s fool, brave and resourceful and stubborn enough to follow clues no matter where they might lead.  At the outset of the book, she’s mourning her brilliant and talented husband who, for no reason anyone could understand, abruptly committed suicide. Whenever someone commits suicide, the survivors spend a lot of time trying to understand the causes, but in this case, Jane’s more confused than most.  Her husband showed no signs of depression, no unusual worries, no behavioral changes. There seemed to be no reason for him to kill himself when and as he did.  Jane discovers something odd: her husband wasn’t the only bright, successful person to commit suicide more or less out of the blue recently.  In fact, the number of suicides has been skyrocketing, and Jane starts digging to find out why.  What links these bizarre deaths?  Could someone or something be orchestrating them?  Jane finds herself on the run, off the grid, trying to find the answers while at the same time dodging the people who want to kill her to keep her from learning the truth, people who will stop at nothing to protect their secret. Their mistake is taking on the wrong person, because Jane is as cold-blooded, as ruthless, and as relentless as they are, and she’s not stopping.

the force

If you read Don Winslow’s previous thriller, The Cartel, then you know he understands the world of police officers and criminals deeply.  His newest book, The Force, shows us New York City through the eyes of Denny Malone, an eighteen year veteran of the police, known as the King of Manhattan North, the leader of an elite special unit waging war on gangs, guns and drugs without any restrictions.  He’s seen it all, been through everything the city could throw at a cop, and he would do whatever it takes to protect his city, whether by legal means or illegal ones. What most people don’t know about Denny is that he’s dirty himself.  After one of the biggest drug busts in the city’s history, Denny and his friends stole millions of dollars in heroin and cash.  Now the FBI is squeezing him, and he’s trying to protect himself, the woman he loves, his brothers and sisters in blue, and somehow survive in the maelstrom he’s partially created for himself, as the city itself totters on the verge of a racial conflagration.  If you’re a fan of Joseph Wambaugh (or am I dating myself?), or the television series, The Wire, or the books of Ed McBain, then you’re going to love The Force.


There are so many classic children’s stories about an ordinary child or two (or three or four) leaving the ordinary world through some extraordinary means (Alice down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass, the Pevensies through the back of an ordinary seeming closet) and entering a strange and wonderful (or strange and frightening) place. Add to that collection Seanan McGuire’s new novella, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which is sort of a prequel to her Nebula Award winning, Every Heart a Doorway.  Don’t worry, though: you don’t need to have read Every Heart a Doorway in order to appreciate and enjoy the story of Jacqueline and Jillian and their sojourn in The Moors in this book.

down among the sticks and bones

It reads like a dark fairy tale, one in which the narrator inserts herself (a little) into the narrative, commenting dryly about the events she’s describing, and while that’s not always a technique that works for me personally, in this case the narrator’s wry observations add depth to the events and the characters.


The fairy tale begins with classic bad fairy tale parents, the sort who don’t deserve any children.  They see their twin daughters as extensions of themselves, accessories to be paraded around before other couples in their social set, but not as human beings with their own needs and desires and thoughts.  They’d originally decided they wanted a boy (for the father) and a girl (for the mother) but when the babies were born identical twin girls, they solved the “problem” by the father’s treating Jillian as a tomboy, making her, as much as he could, like the son he wished he had, and the mother’s turning Jacqueline into the little princess she saw as the ideal daughter. Jacqueline and Jillian managed to reach the age of five without permanent damage because their paternal grandmother, Louise, came to take care of them and give them all the nurturing their cold parents couldn’t or wouldn’t, but then, of course (in classic fairy tale bad parent fashion), the parents sent Louise away in the middle of the night, telling the girls she didn’t love them anymore.


Imprisoned in their rigid roles and not allowed to try any other aspects of their personalities, the twins drift apart, set up as competitors rather than companions, until the rainy day when Jillian entices Jacqueline to go upstairs and explore their grandmother’s former room in the attic, and the two of them (now twelve years old) find themselves going down a stairway inside their grandmother’s trunk, ending up in the strange and dangerous world of the Moors.  There the two of them meet up with the Master, an impressive vampire who runs most of that part of the world, and Dr. Blast, a mad scientist type who’s able to bring the dead back to life, sometimes, and the girls make their choices of which one of them they want to apprentice themselves to for the rest of their time in the Moors (until the door reopens to allow them back into their world).  Their choices are surprising, based on their prior lives and what you think their personalities are, but they come to embrace their new roles, as would-be daughter to the Master and as apprentice to Dr. Blast, to the point where neither one of them really wants to return to the “real world.”  Until they are forced out, and I’m not going to tell you how they’re forced out of the Moors, except to say that it feels perfectly sensible, given what we’ve seen of the two characters and their world.


As a sort of fairy tale, there’s not a lot of in depth character development, but the charm of the book is in the world it creates and the people who populate it and how the fateful decisions and their consequences are depicted.  It’s a dark and sad book in its way, and now I want to read Every Heart a Doorway to see what happened next to Jack and Jill.


Of course, if you’re doing the 2017 Reading Challenge, this (short!) book counts as a fantasy book for one of the categories.  Just in case you couldn’t find another fantasy book (ha!).  It’s well worth reading even if you’re not doing the challenge, of course.


So maybe you can’t quite get time off for a real vacation, or maybe you can’t go to Cape Cod or Nantucket Island in real life.  That doesn’t prevent you from experiencing nearly all the joys and quirks of going to the Cape in the summer (minus the sunburn and sand in your clothes): you can take out Elin Hilderbrand’s new book, The Identicals, and enjoy a virtual trip, complete with all the vivid details that make a good summer read.

the identicals.jpg

People are always fascinated by twins, the notion of two people who are physically identical or nearly so, and when those twins turn out to have very different personalities, that just makes them more fascinating (and there’s a classic trope of the Evil Twin, which has been a fixture of soap operas and speculative fiction on television for ages).  You start wondering about nature or nurture, and how much control we really have over our personalities and the way we deal with the world.


In The Identicals, not only do we have twin sisters, Harper and Tabitha, but we have (sort of) twin islands on which the women live, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (both of which Hilderbrand knows very well and describes in exquisite detail so you feel you can actually smell the salt water and hear the seabirds).  Originally, Harper and Tabitha were best friends, doing everything together, but when their parents divorced, the girls were forced to separate, with Harper joining her father at his home on Martha’s Vineyard, and Tabitha staying with her mother on Nantucket.  The two girls grow up differently: Harper is laid back and unambitious, sleeping around and taking jobs way beneath her education and abilities, whereas Tabitha is following in their fashion-designer mother’s footsteps, trying to keep her mother’s failing fashion boutique running while also dealing with her daughter, Ainsley, who’s every mother’s nightmare of a teenage daughter.  Although the twins live on islands only 11 miles apart, they are estranged from each other until (there’s always an “until” in these kinds of books) their father dies and Harper has to contact her mother and sister (and run into her niece) again.  And then over the course of the summer, Harper and Tabitha do what many sets of identical twins have done in the past (at least in books): they trade places, with Harper helping at their mother’s store and dealing with the rebellious Ainsley and Tabitha going to Martha’s Vineyard to deal with their father’s falling apart house and Harper’s falling apart reputation.


Family secrets, people who really do love each other even if they’re not always aware of it (and don’t always act as if they do), two separate and equally wonderful vacation spots, major and minor characters with minds and lives of their own, and Elin Hilderbrand’s bestselling knack for dialogue and description: come away to the islands off the Cape and start your summer right.

the identicals.jpg


If you’re in the mood for suspense, for being kept on the edge of your seat, for reading a book you can’t put down, that will keep you up late in the night because you just have to find out what’s going to happen next, then we have some new books for you at The Field Library!


You may be familiar with Laurie King’s series of books featuring Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Mary Russell, so you might be surprised to see her name on a contemporary thriller, but she has written other mysteries and thrillers set in the present, and she’s no slouch when it comes to ratcheting up suspense in the contemporary world. Her newest book, Lockdown, takes place in a middle school on career day, a career day nobody who attends will ever forget.  From the beginning of the book, when you see that the statement of the school superintendent is being given to the police, you know something terrible is going to happen at that school that day, but King keeps you on tenterhooks for most of the book, getting to know the characters and their secrets and problems, before she finally sets up the explosion that’s been hovering over the characters from the outset. Horrible lockdown situations in schools are becoming more and more frequent, unfortunately, but Laurie King puts you in the middle of one such confrontation and makes you fear for the people involved, and what more can you ask for from a thriller?

the switch

Joseph Finder, in his newest book, The Switch, sets up a situation worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. Michael Tanner, an ordinary man, accidentally takes the wrong MacBook at airport security on his way home from a trip.  Curious, he opens it and discovers that this computer belongs to a U.S. Senator, AND that there are confidential files on that computer. When the Senator in question discovers that her computer is missing, she’s in a panic: taking those files was a violation of the law, and if this is discovered, her career is over. She sends her assistant to get the computer back from Tanner, and when gentle means don’t work, the assistant calls in a fixer whose methods are much less restrained.  The Senator’s not the only one out to get that computer; the agency from whom the files were stolen wants them back and has even darker methods of getting what it wants.  Tanner is on the run, a wanted man, with no idea of whom to trust, if anyone, his life in danger.

the ultimatum

If you don’t need your protagonist to be an innocent person, then Karen Robards’ new book, The Ultimatum, should be right up your alley. Bianca St. Ives, the protagonist of this book, is a thief, a grifter, a con artist, and very good at it. She is, at the beginning of the novel, running a multinational company with her father, swindling con men out of their ill-gotten gains, when things go wrong.  And by “wrong”, I mean she seems to have lost some critical government documents and two hundred million dollars.  Also her father got killed in connection with the job, so that’s definitely a bit of a problem.  Bianca’s father had been on the “Most Wanted” lists all over the world for years, and the U.S. Government doesn’t believe he’s dead even now,  and they’re out to get him, using Bianca as bait.  As all hell breaks loose, Bianca only has a fellow criminal to back her up, and it’s going to take all her skills to keep herself alive.


When you’re in the middle of the dynamics of a dysfunctional family, and you’re dealing with the overwrought drama of family members, you probably think there’s nothing entertaining about it at all. However, when none of those people is related to you and you’re not responsible for any of the fallout, and when the misbehavings of horrible people are told by an author with a sense of the ridiculous and an eye for the inherent humor of people’s bad behavior, dysfunctional families can be quite entertaining.  If you’re in the mood for some schadenfreude, try The People We Hate at the Wedding, by Grant Ginder.

the people we hate at the wedding

Actually, putting a dysfunctional family into the high stress environment of a fancy wedding is a brilliant idea.  Many people go a little nuts in the stages leading up to a wedding, especially if it’s a big or fancy one, and if you’re a little off to begin with, the extra stress will bring out all the flaws and bad behaviors you try to hide.


In this case, the family consists of a mother, Donna, her son and daughter, Paul and Alice, and their half sister, the perfect Eloise.  Neither Donna nor Paul nor Alice is anywhere near perfect.  Donna, the widowed mother of the clan, likes to drink, smoke the occasional joint, and watch trashy television with her best friend.  Alice, in her thirties and still single, is working in a dead end job and having an affair with her boss.  Her brother, Paul, is living with his professor boyfriend who’s talking down the whole concept of monogamy as a heterosexual institution while flirting with undergraduates.  

Eloise, their perfect half sister, has spent her life insulated by a cushy trust fund, going to expensive boarding schools, holidaying in Europe, and through it all has remained kind and decent (in spite of her upbringing).  Now she’s going to marry a rich Englishman, and the wedding will be in London, all high class and expensive, and her less than perfect family is invited.  They sort of have to attend, whether they want to or not, but this is a recipe for disaster, and the author gives us different viewpoints as the whole horror show unfolds.


After reading The People We Hate at the Wedding, your own family’s messes will seem so much more manageable.  


Maybe it’s because the days are getting longer and people are starting to go on vacation, take breaks from the usual routine of work and home, but, whatever the reason, a number of bestselling authors are releasing their latest books in June, so if you’re a fan, or you’re looking for a spectacular beach read, take a look at these new books coming to The Field Library this June.

indecent exposure

Stuart Woods brings back his favorite character, Stone Barrington, in his latest, Indecent Exposure (is it just me or does it seem as if Woods is deliberately trying to come up with risque titles for his books?  Fast and Loose, Sex, Lies and Serious Money,  and now this one?).  This time Barrington, a successful lawyer and former police officer, finds himself thrust into the limelight, mostly against his will.  There are all sorts of complications to being known and watched, both personal and professional, which Barrington has to figure out, but the biggest problem he faces is one particular woman who’s stalking him with a tenacity that’s starting to get frightening, and makes Barrington fear not just for his reputation and his nearly-nonexistent privacy, but for his very life.

camino island

Another heavy hitter, John Grisham, has a somewhat different kind of book in his Camino Island. Instead of writing about lawyers involved in various kinds of trouble, he turns his sights onto the world of books, of writing and selling, twisting together some pretty complicated threads, including a heist of some priceless books from a secret part of Princeton’s library (books which Princeton insured for twenty five million dollars), a bookseller who’s known publicly for his dealings in rare books, and known in more confidential circles for his ability to acquire stolen books and manuscripts for the black market, and a young, blocked writer who’s approached by a mysterious stranger to go undercover and find out more about that bookseller, worm her way into his life and learn his secrets.  Naturally, there’s more going on than the young author is aware of, and she soon finds herself in over her head, and that’s where the fun really begins.

murder games

Not to be left out, James Patterson enters the scene with a standalone book called Murder Games, in which an expert on criminal behavior discovers that his textbook on the subject was left at the scene of a grisly murder, along with a playing card that seems to be a clue pointing to the next victim.  The police detective in charge of the case persuades the expert to join her in the investigation as another victim is found with a playing card by the body.  It’s a serial killer and he or she seems to be playing a deadly game with the police and with the expert. Can a man who’s an academic expert in the criminal mind actually think enough like a criminal to catch a murderer?  Or will he discover his own criminal side in the process?

the duchess

Later in the month, Danielle Steel comes out with The Duchess, a historical novel set in 19th century England.  Angelique is lovingly brought up by her aristocratic father in the wonderful Belgrave Castle, learning how to take over the running of the estate someday.  When her father dies, however, her half brothers run her off the estate and practically deny her very existence.  Despite her desperate circumstances, Angelique is smart and beautiful, and she is determined to regain her rightful place in the world. In Paris, she founds and runs a very special house of pleasure, catering to the most aristocratic men and employing the most sophisticated and beautiful women.  Even though it seems the whole world is against her, Angelique is determined to survive, and even thrive.


Here’s the premise: every morning you wake up in a different body. You have no way of knowing who this person is, or what their circumstances are, until you access the person’s memories. The only common factor is that the person is the same age you are. Your gender, race, economic status, language, could change from one day to the next. For one day, you live in this person’s body, experiencing all the person’s ups and downs. You have some agency, limited by your sense of fairness and responsibility to the person whose body you’re using. You can even give your involuntary host memories of what you did while in the host’s body.  What you can’t do is build a continuous life.

every day cover

A, the main character of Every Day by David Levithan, is sixteen years old and has been living this way as long as A can remember. Pronouns are difficult for A, who has no real gender but lives sometimes as a boy and sometimes as a girl, so for the remainder of the review I’ll use the third person plural to refer to A.


A has, as a result of their strange life, experienced all kinds of lives, with families and without, with loving and indifferent and hostile parents and siblings, with friends or without friends, with all kinds of handicaps and abilities. A has no idea why they are living this life, but, knowing no other, they accept it as the norm and are reasonably adjusted to it.


Until one week, when everything changes.


Two things happen, either of which alone could make A’s life, already complicated, much more difficult.


First, A meets Rhiannon.  A is in the body of her boyfriend, Justin, and A falls in love with her as Justin seems incapable of doing. A woos her in Justin’s body, not telling her that A isn’t really Justin (and how would she know anything different?), knowing that the next day A will be someone else and will never see Rhiannon again, if all goes as it usually goes. A doesn’t want it to go as it usually goes. A wants to see Rhiannon again.  A wants to build a relationship with Rhiannon, despite A’s daily change of body.


Second, A uses the body of one Nathan Daldry to go to a party where A, as Nathan, can see and talk to Rhiannon. A cuts it a little close and ends up abandoning Nathan’s body by the side of the road.  Nathan, found by the police, reports that he was possessed, and the story hits the local news and then gets wider and wider publicity.  Worse, A didn’t clear A’s cache in Nathan’s computer, so now Nathan can communicate with A, which he does, in increasingly angry and demanding.  Nathan finds himself a minister who uses Nathan’s story to talk about Satanic possession, and A starts hearing more and more about this minister.


As A tries to balance their desire to be with Rhiannon, and to deal with Rhiannon’s decidedly mixed emotions about A’s continued efforts to be part of her life, and their fear of what Nathan and his preacher might do to A’s life, things get incredibly complicated, and I am not going to give more details because part of the fun of this book is seeing who A is going to be, and how A is going to encounter Rhiannon (and other significant people) over the course of the book.


A is a fascinating character, and you as a reader find yourself wondering how you would cope with a life like that.  There is no explanation given for why A is in this situation, or how or whether it could be changed, but if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and run with the concept, you’ll be swept up.  For the last half of the book, I kept wondering how, or even whether, the author was going to be able to resolve the story (there are few things that drive me crazier than a book that works well until you get to the end and then the climax is a total letdown), and I have to say that while I didn’t expect the ending to this book to be the one Levithan chose, it was satisfying and brought the book to a conclusion that worked.


For anyone who’s doing the 2017 Reading Challenge, Every Day qualifies for the category “Read a YA or Middle Grade Novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.”  Not that you need that incentive to read this quirky but wonderful book, but it is always fun to read something great and get credit for it as well.