Five picks each month from Jess, our fiction selector.
May 2020: New, recommended, and always available on Hoopla!
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez For Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, the rug has been pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her husband suddenly dies. Fiercely intelligent, sharply droll, and disinclined to engage, Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she has loved-lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack. But when, on top of everything else, her bighearted but unstable sister disappears and a pregnant, undocumented migrant teenager appears on Antonia’s doorstep, she finds that the world demands more of her than words.
The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman London 1815. Though newly-widowed Lily Adler is returning to a society that frowns on independent women, she is determined to create a meaningful life for herself even without a husband. At a ball thrown by her oldest friend, Lady Walter, she expects the scandal, gossip, and secrets. What she doesn’t expect is the dead body in Lady Walter’s gardenLily overheard the man just minutes before he was shot: young, desperate, and attempting blackmail. But she’s willing to leave the matter to the local constables--until Lord Walter bribes the investigating magistrate to drop the case. Stunned and confused, Lily realizes she’s the only one with “”the key to catching the killer.
Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang The plan is to leave. As for how, when, to where, and even why-she doesn’t know yet. So begins a journey for the twenty-four-year-old narrator of Days of Distraction. As a staff writer at a prestigious tech publication, she reports on the achievements of smug Silicon Valley billionaires and start-up bros while her own request for a raise gets bumped from manager to manager. And when her longtime boyfriend, J, decides to move to a quiet upstate New York town for grad school, she sees an excuse to cut and run. Moving is supposed to be a grand gesture of her commitment to J and a way to reshape her sense of self. But in the process, she finds herself facing misgivings about her role in an interracial relationship. Captivated by the stories of her ancestors and other Asian Americans in history, she must confront a question at the core of her identity: What does it mean to exist in a society that does not notice or understand you?
The Last Hunt by Deon Meyer
When a cold case dossier lands on Captain Benny Griessel’s desk, he and his partner Vaughn Cupido, fellow member of the Hawks elite police unit in South Africa, reluctantly set to work reviewing the evidence of the disappearance-and possible murder-of ex-cop Johnson on the world’s most luxurious train line. Meanwhile, Daniel Darrethas settled into a new, quiet life in Bordeaux, far from his native South Africa and his revolutionary past. But when a man from that past reappears to commission his unique skills one more time, Daniel is forced to decide whether to remain anonymous or to strike a forceful blow against a corrupt government. The two storylines eventually crash together in an ending as dramatic as it is unexpected, leaving Griessel and Cupido uncertain of their own future.
The Mountains Sing Nguyen Phan Que Mai
The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần DiệuLan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.
April 2020: Let’s Escape From Virus News Today
(all titles available on Hoopla)
Belleweather by Susanna Kearsley
It’s late summer, war is raging, and families are torn apart by divided loyalties and deadly secrets. In this complex and dangerous time, a young French Canadian lieutenant is captured and billeted with a Long Island family, an unwilling and unwelcome guest. As he begins to pitch in with the never-ending household tasks and farm chores, Jean-Philippe de Sabran finds himself drawn to the daughter of the house. Slowly, Lydia Wilde comes to lean on Jean-Philippe, true soldier and gentleman, until their lives become inextricably intertwined. Legend has it that the forbidden love between Jean-Philippe and Lydia ended tragically, but centuries later, the clues they left behind slowly unveil the true story.
Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Here begins a breathtaking series about the resurgence of dragons in a world that both needs and fears them. Too much time has passed since the powerful dragon Tintaglia helped the people of the Trader cities stave off an invasion of their enemies. The Traders have forgotten their promises, weary of the labor and expense of tending earthbound dragons who were hatched weak and deformed by a river turned toxic. If neglected, the creatures will rampage--or die--so it is decreed that they must move farther upriver toward Kelsingra, the mythical homeland whose location is locked deep within the dragons’ uncertain ancestral memories.
The Hating Game by Lucy Thorne
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude. Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head.
Magpie Murders: a Novel by Anthony Horowitz
When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts--The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic. As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchman, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini-the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik-the gentle giant; Inigo-the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen-the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.
March 2020: History Repeats Itself
(Our main book display features historical fiction and non-fiction in March)
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present. When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived.
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
A skillful blend of fact and fiction, In the Time of the Butterflies is inspired by the true story of the three Mirabal sisters who, in 1960, were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Alvarez breathes life into these historical figures--known as "las mariposas," or "the butterflies," in the underground--as she imagines their teenage years, their gradual involvement with the revolution, and their terror as their dissentience is uncovered.
Doc: a Novel by Mary Doria Russell
Dr. John Henry Holliday is given an awful choice at the age of twenty-two: die within months in Atlanta or leave everyone and everything he loves in the hope that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Young, scared, lonely, and sick, he arrives on the Texas frontier just as an economic crash wrecks the dreams of a nation. Soon, with few alternatives open to him, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally. And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really begins.
The Indigo Girl : a Novel by Natasha Boyd
The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything.
Circling the Sun : a Novel by Paula McLain
Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman--Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, about whom Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa. Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.
February 2020: Tales of Friendship
(because it’s not all about romantic love this month!)
Firefly Lane, Kristin Hannah
Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives. For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.
The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline WoodsonRunning into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.
Chances Are, Richard RussoOne beautiful September day, three sixty-six-year-old men convene on Martha’s Vineyard, friends ever since meeting in college circa the sixties. They couldn’t have been more different then, or even today. But each man holds his own secrets, in addition to the monumental mystery that none of them has ever stopped puzzling over since a Memorial Day weekend right here on the Vineyard in 1971.
The Lido, Libby PageAn anxiety–riddled cub reporter for a small London paper is assigned to cover the closing of a local rec center and bonds with an 86–year–old widow who has swum in the community pool every day since childhood.
January 2020: Mountain Stories
(we’re all about ’em this month!)
The Storms of Denali, Nicholas O’ConnellReaching 20,320 feet into and above the clouds, the peak of Denali is the highest and coldest summit in North America. In this novel of adventure, adversity, and ambition by renowned mountaineer and writer Nicholas O’Connell, four men set out to conquer it. In the course of their ascent the group battles avalanches, fierce winds, and mind-numbing cold before their bond begins to splinter, leading inexorably to tragedy.
Paths of Glory, Jeffrey Archer
George Mallory once told an American reporter that he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, "because it’s there." On his third attempt in 1924, at age thirty-seven, he was last seen six hundred feet from the top. His body was found in 1999, and it still remains a mystery whether he ever reached the summit.
Too Close to God, Jeff LongThe best short tales of the New York Times best-selling author Jeff Long. One of the best mountain fiction writers of our time, author of The Wall, The Ascent, and Angels of Light among many others, presents his best stories from the last 30 years.
Lost Horizon, James Hilton
While attempting to escape a civil war, four people are kidnapped and transported to the Tibetan mountains. After their plane crashes, they are found by a mysterious Chinese man. He leads them to a monastery hidden in "the valley of the blue moon" -- a land of mystery and matchless beauty where life is lived in tranquil wonder, beyond the grasp of a doomed world.
When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding.route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization.
December 2019: Best of 2019
(whew, difficult choices!)
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine EvaristoGirl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters.Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean VuongWith stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.
The Nickel Boys by Colson WhiteheadColson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline WoodsonMoving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child. The book most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must often make long term decisions about their lives--even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, aclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades. When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her--freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments,the wait is over. Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.
Want more best of 2019 lists? Here is Lit Hub’s Ultimate Best Books of 2019 list, that compiles dozens of the end of year best lists.
November 2019: Holidays Ahead
(read something light during this busy time!)
Winter Solstice by Elin HilderbrandIt’s been too long since the entire Quinn family has been able to celebrate the holidays under the same roof, but that’s about to change. With Bart back safe and sound from Afghanistan, they are preparing for a holiday more joyous than any they’veexperienced in years. And Bart’s safe return isn’t the family’s only good news: Kevin is enjoying married life with Isabelle; Patrick is getting back on his feet after paying his debt to society; Ava thinks she’s finally found the love of her life; and Kelly is thrilled to see his family reunited at last. But it just wouldn’t be a Quinn family gathering if things went smoothly.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Vivian Forest has been out of the country a grand total of one time, so when she gets the chance to tag along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a royal family member, she can’t refuse. She’s excited to spend the holidays taking in the magnificent British sights, but what she doesn’t expect is to become instantly attracted to a certain Private Secretary and his charming accent and unyielding formality.
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor
August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes--as everyone does--that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris. But as history tells us, it all happened so differently... Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears--and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays... It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter--who is usually off saving the world--will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their agingcountry estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week...and so too should her family.
One Day in December by Josie SilverLaurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic ... and then her bus drives away. Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they "reunite" at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus.
October 2019: Scary Stories (plus 2 bonus classics)
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good. Meet Suzette. She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.
The Fireman by Joe Hill A chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman. The fireman is coming. Stay cool.
Slade House by David Mitchell Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House: a surreal place where visitors see what they want to see, including some things that should be impossible. Every nine years, the house’s residents--an odd brother and sister--extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.
The Passage by Justin Cronin First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear--of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.
The Shining by Stephen King Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers--and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
September 2019: Fall in Love
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
Roomies by Christina Lauren
For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Holland manages to meet her crush, Calvin, and even introduce him to her musical director Uncle.
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar’s daughter takes on a duke in a fiery love story that threatens to upend the British social order.
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life. Then everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment. In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Amanda Quick transports readers to 1930s California, where glamour and seduction spawn a multitude of sins. The exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool. Determined to solve the mystery of the murderr, Irene finds herself forced into a reluctant investigative partnership with Oliver Ward, a former world-class magician and now owner of the hotel.