HOT THRILLERS FOR A COLD DECEMBER

When the weather turns bad and you don’t really want to face the snow and ice outside, what’s better than curling up with a good thriller that will take your mind off the bad weather and everything else?  Luckily for you, we have a group of new thrillers here at The Field Library that will carry you away and keep you feverishly turning those pages. Some are by authors you’ll recognize from earlier thrillers, one you might recognize from another genre, but all of them are experts at creating suspense and keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

Does anyone need to be told who Robin Cook is?  He made his name with his first medical thriller, Coma, back in 1977, and has been writing thrillers (usually bestsellers) ever since.  One of Cook’s strengths is his ability to keep up with new developments in medicine and science and consider how they affect people’s lives.  In his newest book, Genesis, the new development is DNA ancestry testing, which becomes a key point in a murder investigation. A twenty eight year old pregnant woman dies, apparently of a routine drug overdose.  There are, however, some oddities that make the medical examiner and her pathology resident wonder if this is as routine as it seems. The dead woman’s family insists she never used drugs, and the medical establishment is going out of its way to keep the whole matter secret.  And why doesn’t anyone seem interested in the question of who the father of the fetus was and whether he might have known something about the woman’s death? Then one of the dead woman’s friends is murdered, and the medical examiner uses DNA testing to try to find out who the fetus’ male relatives might be.  However, there could well be people who would be willing to kill to keep this information secret, and the more the medical examiner and her resident find out, the more danger they could be putting themselves in.

While Val McDermid might not be as much of a household name as Robin Cook, among mystery fans she’s a rock star. Her newest book, How the Dead Speak, starts in a place where many other series would end, with one of the series characters in jail and the other more or less retired from the police force.  Tony Hill is finding outlets for his talents in jail, and Carol Jordan is working with an informal group investigating past miscarriages of justice. And then the process of construction on a former orphanage stops when a number of small skeletons are unearthed, probably dating from the period when the orphanage was in full swing.  Bad enough, but still more disturbingly, more skeletons turn up in another part of the property, dating from much more recently, one of them identified as the body of someone who’s alive and well and in prison, and involved in Carol’s innocence project. The two characters are brought together as the plot twists and turns in the hands of a master.

For those like me who have ambivalent feelings about Dexter, both the books and the television series, the sight of Jeff Lindsay’s name as author on a new book brings anticipation, tinged with a touch of dread.  I adored Linsday’s first two Dexter novels, and some of the middle ones were well-written, but I felt deeply disappointed by the way he ended the series (to the point where I didn’t even read the last book, Dexter Is Dead, and you know, if you’ve read me at all, that I like to finish series).  He has a lot of talent, and Dexter always had a vivid, entertaining voice (not to mention being a character you felt bad about liking and rooting for, based on the things you saw him doing), so I’m probably more intrigued than worried about his newest book, Just Watch Me. Riley Wolfe, the protagonist of Just Watch Me, isn’t a serial killer, but he is a bad person, a thief, a master of disguise and someone who will resort to violence if he thinks it necessary. He ameliorates some of this antisocial aspects by focusing all his efforts on the top .1%, stealing from the ultra-rich whom he despises.  In this book, he chooses to steal the Crown Jewels of Iran, which are not only (obviously) incredibly valuable, but legendarily impossible to steal, with up to the minute (and beyond) electronic security. He likes a challenge, but in addition to the known difficulties of dealing with the security system, he has a brilliant police officer (a modern day Inspector Javert) who’s chasing him down and is way too close behind him all the way.  If you’re into heist stories, this should be all but irresistible.

Nalini Singh may not be a name we associate with mysteries or thrillers; she’s much better known for her paranormal romance series and her other romances, but all the skills she’s honed in decades of romantic suspense come to the fore in her new thriller, A Madness of Sunshine.  Set in New Zealand (Singh’s home but pretty exotic in the world of mysteries and thrillers), in a particular town where people were, or thought they were, more than just neighbors and schoolmates, until an incident involving several vanished bodies shattered the community. In the aftermath, the people of the town resolved never to talk about what happened, and to pretend, as much as possible, that nothing happened.  You don’t have to be a reader of thrillers to know that pretending something never happened isn’t going to work; thriller readers are rubbing their hands together at the notion, sure that sooner or later that “nothing” is going to resurface with devastating results. Eight years after that first incident, a young woman vanishes in Golden Cove, and the past begins to collide with the present, and ignored dangers return to wreak havoc.  

 

 

 

HAPPY ENDING BOOKS FOR STRESSFUL TIMES

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, if the holiday season is stressing you out, and you want something to read to escape, something that will take you away from all this and put a smile on your face, then you’re in luck.  We have a couple of new books at The Field Library which are just the ticket for cheering you up and taking you away from the stresses of everyday life.

How’s this for a premise: a man discovers that his wife of many years has been faking it in bed all that time, and asks for a divorce.  Reeling with shock and hurt pride, the man turns to a group of alpha men who are all part of a secret book group, in which they’re reading romance novels to learn how to be better to the women in their lives.  Sounds like fun? Check out The Bromance Book Club, a new book by Lyssa Kay Adams, and find out whether the hero, Gavin, manages to save his marriage with the help of a Regency romance entitled Courting the Countess.

Or perhaps if you’re feeling your life in general is kind of blah and not going anywhere, you might enjoy taking a look at Get a Life, Chloe Brown, by Talia Hibbert.  Our protagonist, Chloe, is chronically ill and, after a near death experience, looks at her life and realizes she has to change a lot of things.  She makes a list of things she needs to do to get a life, starting with moving out of her family’s house. She’s going to need some help with the other things on her list, and, fortunately for her, the handyman (and secret artist) next door is available to teach her how to loosen up, stop being such a goody goody (gee, I can relate there), and really live her life.

Take a brief break from it all and give yourself a happy escape with these new books at The Field. 

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNERS HERE AT THE FIELD LIBRARY

This is the time of year when all the Best Of lists come out, and also a number of the most prestigious awards in the book world, and, lucky you, you can take out the National Book Award Winners in both Nonfiction and Fiction categories right here at The Field Library!

You might not think a novel about a young couple falling in love while they’re both attending a prestigious performing arts high school would be the kind of book to win top awards, but Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi, is the National Book Award winner for 2019, and that’s where the book starts, if not where it ends up. Two freshmen, David and Sarah, both attending a highly competitive performing arts school in 1980’s suburbs, fall passionately in love, their relationship noticed and sometimes interfered with by their friends and their charismatic teacher, Mr. Kingsley.  Things happen, the real world breaks into the rarefied atmosphere of the school, and then we are abruptly dropped into a different situation, years later, with some of the same characters still dealing with the fallout from their time at the school. The perspective shifts in a way that reminds many reviewers of Fates and Furies, and then, just when you think you have an idea of what’s going on, there’s a coda that whiplashes you into yet a third way of looking at events you’ve already seen. The book is about memory, about perspective, about consent and relationships, and power imbalances, and it’s probably the audacious structure of the book that most impressed the National Book Foundation this year.  It’s a bestseller and quite popular, so if it’s not on the shelf when you come in, put it on hold.

The National Book Award for Nonfiction this year goes to The Yellow House, a memoir by Sarah M. Broom of her family and her family’s home in New Orleans. Sarah’s mother bought a shotgun house in New Orleans East in 1961, as the space race was building up and optimism about the future seemed a reasonable response.  Instead, as the family grew to twelve children, the house became more and more dilapidated and the neighborhood around it fell into neglect. While Sarah considered herself the prodigal daughter and left New Orleans, she’d reckoned without the pull of home and family, and even the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, which wiped the Yellow House off the map altogether, couldn’t quench Sarah’s connection to her family’s home.  The book is more than just a story of Sarah’s life and times. It’s also a biography of a hundred years of her family’s history, of one neighborhood in one of America’s most famous cities, and of the effects of class, race and inequality on people trying to get by and survive.  

Check out the National Book Foundation’s choices for the best of the year here at The Field Library. 

2019 FANTASY AWARD WINNER AT THE FIELD LIBRARY

The World Fantasy Awards have just been given for books published in 2018 (well, they couldn’t give awards for books in 2019 yet, could they?  The year isn’t over and there might be a true masterpiece still to be published in the next two months), and The Field Library is proud to have the winner of Best Novel on its shelves, ready for you to take out and enjoy.

Witchmark, by C. L. Polk, attracted a lot of attention when it came out last summer, finding its way to “best of” lists, becoming a finalist for the Locus Best First Novel Prize, being a finalist for the Nebula award for best novel, so its elevation as best fantasy novel of the year comes as little surprise (though I confess I’m a little disappointed that The Mere Wife didn’t win — what a book that is!).  

Aeeland, the setting of the book, is sort of like Edwardian England, but with magic. Our protagonist, Miles SInger, was born into an aristocratic magical family, but his fate was to be a sort of magical battery for his more talented sister, enslaved to her use, or else to be locked away in an asylum for the rest of his life.  Miles rebelled, ran off to join the war between Aeeland and its neighbor, Laneer, and, when the war was over, returned to Aeeland under a different name and a different identity, hoping to hide all connection with his powerful family and all evidence of his own magical abilities. However, when one of his patients was murdered, and others of his patients began showing supernatural signs of post traumatic stress disorder, Miles found himself drawn into a far-ranging conspiracy that implicated even the most powerful members of society, and even brought him back to face his dangerous family again.  

The book is a fantasy (people have raved about the world building), a mystery, and even, in a subdued way, a romance, and now it’s been named the best fantasy novel of the year, so you have even more reason to check it out here at the Field.

 

MYSTERIOUS WORLDS JUST BESIDE OUR OWN

There’s something tempting about the idea of an alternate world, a place just a short way from our own where everything is different and you can escape from your identity and your ordinary cares. It’s a trope that’s been around for a long time. Think of Alice in Wonderland, or The Chroncles of Narnia, or the Wayward Children series (a personal favorite, as readers of this blog will recognize).  Two new fantasy novels here at The Field Library bring us to very different ideas of the other world lurking just on the other side of a gate, or a book, or the surface of the ocean.

The Starless Sea is the new book by Erin Morgenstern, the author of the wonderful book, The Night Circus (and if you haven’t read that book, by all means hurry to get your hands on a copy and devour it; not that you’ll need it to read this one, since they’re not related at all, but simply because it’s such an absorbing, excellent read).  It’s the kind of book I would want to read not just because it’s written by Morgenstern (one good book and I’m at least going to read your next one, though I may or may not become your fan for life if the next book isn’t as good as the first), but because a library, and books, feature heavily in the plot. A graduate student in Vermont is perusing the shelves of his library when he finds a mysterious book. He starts reading it, enchanted by the stories of prisoners and key keepers and strange acolytes, and then he’s startled to discover a very different story in it: a story from his own childhood, which he’s certainly never shared with the author of this book.  Through clues in this book, he travels to a masquerade in New York, a secret club and then into a very special library beneath the surface of the earth, where there are guardians of the mysterious books and others who are intent on the destruction of the archives altogether. He meets up with companions, the pink-haired protector of the library and its world and a good looking man whose alliances seem to change without warning, and together they explore this weird, alluring and dangerous world as our protagonist uncovers his purpose in the book and in his life.  

A very different world comes to life in The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, author of The Unkindness of Ghosts. The Wajinru are underwater living people, descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slavers. There’s only one among the Wajinru who remembers anything of the people’s past, because it is too brutal and terrible for the rest of them to bear.  The rest have no long term memories at all, and live in the present except once a year, when the historian shares all the rememberings with them and they are able, for a short time, to get a sense of where they came from and why they are here. Yelu is the historian, but she’s too sensitive, too fragile, to be able to hold all the terrible memories, to share them with her people. She hasn’t even been able to find someone who could follow her in the role after she dies, so if something were to happen to her, all those memories she carries would be lost forever.  She breaks, fleeing to the surface and discovering a whole different world that connects to the world her ancestors remember. And now she has to return to her people and somehow make them reclaim their past, their pain, so they can have a future. The novella is short but powerfully written, a take on the whole idea of mer-people that you have probably never considered before.

Get away from this world and find yourself in another.  Check out these new fantasy books here at The Field.

NEW HORROR AT THE FIELD

It’s that time of year again, even though the thermometer is not cooperating and is determined to pretend it’s still high summer: October, when leaves change and all the Halloween decorations begin to appear and the candy shows up in the supermarkets (if they don’t already have their Christmas decorations up, which is another matter which we will not discuss here).  What better time is there to find a new horror book and dive into the darkest parts of the season? Fortunately, we have two new horror books (if you haven’t already read Stephen King’s newest, The Institute, or if you’ve already finished it) here at The Field for your chills and thrills.

Perhaps you don’t feel you have the time or the stomach for a full novel’s worth of nightmares and creepy stuff.  Perhaps you’re more of a short story fan in general. If so, you’re going to want to check out Full Throttle, a collection of short stories by Joe Hill.  Hill, the author of Heart Shaped Box, Horns and NOS482, would be well known in the horror world even if he didn’t happen to be the son of Stephen King (and just imagine what bedtime stories would have been like in that household!).  In this collection of 13 (of course) short stories, two of which were co-written with King, Hill shows his mastery of the short form and the conventions of horror.  How about an opening to a beautiful, fairy world that leads to an orgy of blood when a group of hunters find their way through? Or what about some kids finding a plesiosaur corpse on the banks of a lake and discovering that isn’t the worst thing lurking there?  Or (the one that appeals most to me) a grief-stricken librarian driving a bookmobile to deliver new reads to the dead? Full Throttle is a must if you’re already a Joe Hill fan, and it might make you one if you aren’t already.

Stephen Chbosky, the author of Imaginary Friend, is known for his young adult books, especially The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but here he proves he can turn up the suspense and the creepiness as well.  The setup is pure horror trope: a single mother with a young child is on the run from an abusive relationship.  She finds her way to what seems to be the perfect hiding place, Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, a small, close-knit town so isolated there’s only one road in or out.  Nobody could possibly find them here, she believes, and the pair begin to settle in, until one day when the little boy, Christopher, disappears. He’s missing for six days, and then emerges from the woods on the edge of town, physically unharmed, but clearly changed.  Now he’s hearing voices in his head, and the voices are telling him he has to build a tree house before Christmas or else. There’s obviously more to this small town (and the woods outside it) than meets the eye. This book clocks in at over 700 pages, so you need to set aside some time to dive into it and really absorb the battle of good vs. evil that takes place in it.

Prepare for the season with our newest horror offerings here at The Field.

 

THE BESTSELLERS ARE COMING, OCTOBER EDITION

Here we are at the end of September, and on the horizon are all the books that are going to be big bestsellers in October.  Put your holds on them now so you’ll get your hands on them as soon as they come out.

In order of publication, the first biggie is John Sandford’s Bloody Genius, the latest in his Virgil Flowers series.  In this installment, Virgil is brought in to investigate the murder of a controversial professor, and he finds himself in the middle of an ideological bloodbath between two departments of the local state university.  He would have thought, prior to this experience, that intelligent, well-educated people of good will could find ways to resolve their intellectual differences without things going to hell, but this case convinces him otherwise.  Dealing with the brilliant, but obsessed, zealots at the college, he has to figure out which of the people is an actual murderer, and which are merely maniacs pursuing their own extreme views.

Naturally James Patterson has a new book coming out as well, this one, The 19th Christmas, in his Women’s Murder Club series.  In a season where everything in San Francisco seems almost too calm and quiet, a criminal mastermind known as Loman shakes things up by threatening some horrible crime for Christmas morning, and enlisting a bunch of his criminal colleagues to provide some chaff to hide his actual plans, in the form of other crimes that need to be investigated and solved. As the crimes and the tension mounts, the members of the Women’s Murder Club have to put aside any hopes they might have had of a pleasant holiday season and devote themselves to trying to deter tragedy instead.

Danielle Steel is becoming almost as prolific as James Patterson.  Her newest book, Child’s Play, turns to a subject dear to her heart and the hearts of her fans: the relationship between a mother and her adult children, the secrets families keep from each other, and the way parents’ expectations and dreams for their children sometimes blind them to the realities of their children’s lives. Single mother Kate seems to have it all: a high paying, high powered job as a partner in a prestigious law firm, three adult children who seem to be doing great with their lives, but there are cracks in the facade, and there are things she doesn’t know but is about to find out about her children that will shake her whole sense of what her life is all about.  

The Giver of Stars, by Jo Jo Moyes, is something of a departure for this bestselling author, a historical novel rather than a contemporary one. Starting with the little-known Depression era program in rural Kentucky, a traveling library run by women on horseback who brought books to the isolated people of the area, Moyes creates a rich and vivid novel.  Alice Wright, an Englishwoman, marries a handsome American man in an attempt to escape her life in England, only to discover that things aren’t much better for her in Kentucky, especially around her obnoxious and overbearing father in law. Naturally she leaps at the prospect of joining the traveling librarians and getting away from her personal issues, and she discovers a purpose for her life in the friendships she builds among the other librarians and the people they serve.  

Not to be left out, John Grisham also releases a new book in October, this one, The Guardians, about a miscarriage of justice (of course) and a man dedicated to fighting for innocent people wrongfully convicted by the criminal justice system.  Two decades ago, a lawyer was murdered in his office in a small town in Florida. There were no witnesses, very little evidence and no one with an obvious motive for the killing, but the police, eager to solve the case, focused their attention on Quincy Miller, a young black man the victim had once represented.  Though Quincy maintained his utter innocence of the crime, he was nonetheless convicted of murder and sent to prison for life. For 22 years, Quincy tried everything he could to have his case reopened, but in vain. Finally when he sends a letter to the Guardian Ministries, a nonprofit run by a lawyer who’s also a minister, someone finally listens to his story and takes on his case.  However, this particular case of an innocent man railroaded becomes something more, because the powerful interests who had the first lawyer killed are more than willing to keep their secrets, even if it means killing another lawyer 22 years later.

Jack Reacher, the iconic main character of Lee Child’s thrillers, is back in the latest book in this series, Blue Moon, and once again he is drawn into a complicated and messy situation through his effort to do a good deed.  In this case, he’s helping an elderly couple he meets more or less by accident. Turns out they’ve gotten in debt to some really nasty and dangerous people, and when Jack tries to help them get out from under their debt, he ends up in the middle of a terrible war between rival gangs, dodging thugs, assassins and loan sharks.  Fortunately for him, that’s the kind of thing he happens to be good at, but it’s going to take some extraordinary efforts and the kind of luck you only come across once in a blue moon.

If any or all of these strike you as something you want to read, hurry to the library (in person or online) and put them on hold.  October’s going to be a boom month for bestsellers, for sure.

OCTOBER FIELD NOTES SELECTION: FATES AND FURIES

Thanks to everybody who came out and discussed the September book for the Field Notes Book Group.  We had an interesting discussion about poverty and bad choices, about equality and culture in connection with Heartland, and we chose Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies for our October selection.

This book, which was a bestseller and a critics’ darling, nominated for the National Book Award and for numerous best of the year lists, is the story of the marriage between Lotto and Mathilde.  Lotto, a golden boy who is certain he’s destined for greatness, sees his marriage to Mathilde as a wonderful roller coaster ride from relative poverty and failure through the heights of fame and fortune, and that would be interesting enough if it were the whole book, but it isn’t.  At the halfway point, the book changes perspectives to Mathilde’s, and we get to see the whole story through her very different, and much darker, vision, and we come to see who really makes things happen in the marriage and who thinks they’re making things happen.

This should be grist for some really fascinating insights about marriages, about perception, about men and women in general.  Copies of the book will be available at the circulation desk, so come in and pick one up and then join us at our next meeting on Saturday, October 26, from 11:00 to 12:30 in the Teen Zone at The Field Library.

THRILLERS THAT GIVE YOU NIGHTMARES

While there’s something to be said for the thriller where the fate of the world hangs on the actions of the main character, for my money the scariest thrillers are the ones that hit a little closer to home, playing on the fears we already have and asking, “What if ?” Two examples of this kind of really scary thriller are new at The Field Library, to give you something to keep you up at night.

Elevator Pitch, by Linwood Barclay, takes a common enough situation, taking an elevator to a higher or lower floor, and turns it into a nightmare.  One Monday morning, four ordinary people get into an ordinary elevator in a Manhattan high rise. They press the button for their floor, as they do every day, but instead of the elevator’s taking them to their respective floors, it rockets to the top of the building, holds there for a minute, and then plummets to the bottom of the elevator shaft. All right, that’s horrible enough and would make anyone jittery, but it isn’t until the NEXT elevator, at another building in another part of the city, on the following day, does the same thing that people start really freaking out (as they should). A third “accident” on Wednesday brings the vertical city to a virtual standstill.  Someone’s behind these horrific acts, and the city’s tallest high rise is going to be open for business on Thursday. Two detectives and a journalist have to race against time to find out who’s responsible and to stop that person (or persons) before the worst disaster of all takes place. Read this book and you’ll take the stairs for the rest of your life.

On a more personal level, there’s What Rose Forgot, by Nevada Barr.  This is a standalone book, not a part of Barr’s Anna Pigeon series, but Barr brings her long experience in mystery and suspense to a different kind of situation.  Rose, our protagonist, wakes up in a hospital gown, her brain foggy, with no knowledge of where she is or how she got there. She discovers to her horror that she’s in an Alzheimer’s Care unit in a nursing home, and that at least someone there thinks she doesn’t have long to live.  This, even without the ominous warning of death, is my own personal nightmare for lots of reasons, and these days, with fears of contracting Alzheimer’s growing, I bet I’m not alone in that fear. Rose pretends to take her meds and escapes the unit, but her troubles are far from over.  How can she persuade people she isn’t actually demented? The papers are in order, her family committed her (so she probably can’t turn to them for help), and she’s beginning to wonder herself about her own grasp on reality. When a would-be killer shows up in her house in the middle of the night, she gets at least a little reassurance that something really is up, but that doesn’t make things a lot better. Can she figure out who’s after her, why they set her up in this position, and stop the person from succeeding before it’s too late?

 

Want nightmare fuel that’s not conventional horror? Check out these two books and say goodbye to sleep for a while.

HISTORICAL NOVELS WHERE WOMEN SHINE

One of my favorite categories of historical fiction is the kind that shows how ordinary people lived in extraordinary times, showcasing what it was really like (as far as fiction can) to face conditions and circumstances very different from our own.  Three new historical novels here at The Field Library bring unique perspectives on the past, for those who want to escape or just learn more about a particular time period.

Where the Light Enters, by Sara Donati, presents us with an unusual protagonist, especially for 1884 Manhattan, where the book is set. Dr. Sophie Savard is an African American woman who’s also an obstetrician.  Sophie is mourning the recent death of her husband and returning to Manhattan to rebuild her life alone. Joining her cousin, Anna, who’s also a doctor, Sophie intends to continue their previous work among the least fortunate women whom society has forgotten.  However, Anna’s husband, a police officer, asks for the women’s help in the case of a society woman who has seemingly disappeared into thin air, and the case of a dead woman whose wounds suggest murder. Neither Sophie nor Anna underestimates the difficulties of what they’re taking on, but neither one of them is willing to turn aside from people in desperate need of their help. 

Moving ahead in time, we turn to another unusual pair of women, the Kopp Sisters, as they face America’s preparation for entry into World War I, in Amy Stewart’s fifth book in the series, The Kopp Sisters on the March.  Constance Kopp (a real person whose adventures form the basis of the series) and her sister are drawn to the military style training camps that are being set up for women who want to serve in World War I (aside: did you know there were such camps? I didn’t), specifically Camp Chevy Chase. After an accident to the matron who was running the camp, Constance reluctantly takes over the position, and has to deal with the skepticism of the War Department, the double standards and scorn of polite society toward women, scandal, betrayal, and the real perils of war, which she does with her usual courage and indomitable will.

Tracy Chevalier needs no introduction to fans of historical fiction; she’s written Girl with a Pearl Earring, Burning Bright, Heavenly Creatures and many other books set in different historical periods.  Her newest book, A Single Thread, takes place in England between the wars, and follows Violet Speedwell, a young woman who is, in the somewhat cruel language of the time, a “surplus woman.”  Her brother and her fiance were both killed in the Great War and she faces a life of sad and lonely spinsterhood, taking care of her grieving, embittered mother, until Violet takes matters into her own hands and moves to Winchester.  There she joins a group of broiderers: women who embroider the kneelers for the worshippers at the cathedral. She finds a place there, friends, and work that feels fulfilling, but when the shadows of the next war start encroaching, Violet has to fight to keep the life she’s built for herself.