2016 Late Summer Reading


Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together. Amazon


The Girls by Emma Cline

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged – a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction – and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become. Book Browse

Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi

A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.Book Browse

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko: A Novel by Scott Stambach

The Fault In Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement. Until Polina arrives.

She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her.She is exquisite. Soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live. Amazon


Lily & the Octopus by Steven Rowley

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without. For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all. Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Amazon

The Merman by Carl-Johan Vallgren, translated by Ellen Flynn

Set in a town on the Swedish coast. A Merman transforms the lives of a young brother and sister. The siblings are in a troubled family situation and a school bully. Then they encounter the merman in a friend’s fishing hut and then…. ( New Yorker, April 2016)

Montery Bay by Lindsay Hatton

In 1940, fifteen year-old Margot Fiske arrives on the shores of Monterey Bay with her eccentric entrepreneur father. Margot  has been her father’s apprentice all over the world, until an accident in Monterey’s tide pools drives them apart and plunges  her head-first into the mayhem of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

Steinbeck is hiding out from his burgeoning fame at the raucous lab of Ed Ricketts, the biologist known as Doc in Cannery Row. Ricketts, a charismatic bohemian, quickly becomes the object of Margot’s fascination. Despite Steinbeck’s protests and her father’s misgivings, she wrangles a job as Ricketts’s sketch artist and begins drawing the strange and wonderful sea creatures he pulls from the waters of the bay.

Unbeknownst to Margot, her father is also working with Ricketts. He is soliciting the biologist’s advice on his most ambitious and controversial project to date: the transformation of the Row’s largest cannery into an aquarium. When Margot begins an affair with Ricketts, she sets in motion a chain of events that will affect not just the two of them, but the future of Monterey as well.

Alternating between past and present, Monterey Bay explores histories both imagined and actual to create an unforgettable portrait of an exceptional woman, a world-famous aquarium, and the beloved town they both call home. SF Chronicle, 7/17/16 & Amazon.

Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch

Some choices change everything. Scarlett chose to run. And the consequences will be deadly. Stolen from her family as a young girl, Scarlett was lucky enough to eventually escape her captor. Now a teen, she’s starting a summer job at an amusement park. There are cute boys, new friends, and the chance to finally have a normal life.

Her first day on the job, Scarlett is shocked to discover that a girl from the park has gone missing. Old memories come rushing back. And now as she meets her new coworkers, one of the girls seems strangely familiar. When Scarlett chose to run all those years ago, what did she set into motion? And when push comes to shove, how far will she go to uncover the truth … before it’s too late? Book Browse

Perfect Days : A Novel by Raphael Montes

A twisted young medical student kidnaps the girl of his dreams and embarks on a dark and delirious road trip across Brazil in the English-language debut of Brazil’s most celebrated young crime writer.

Teo Avelar is a loner. He lives with his paraplegic mother and her dog in Rio de Janeiro, he doesn’t have many friends, and the only time he feels honest human emotion is in the presence of his medical school cadaver—that is, until he meets Clarice. She’s almost his exact opposite: exotic, spontaneous, unafraid to speak her mind. An aspiring screenwriter, she’s working on a screenplay called Perfect Days about three friends who go on a road trip across Brazil in search of romance. Teo is obsessed. He begins to stalk her, first following her to her university, then to her home, and when she ultimately rejects him, he kidnaps her and they embark upon their very own twisted odyssey across Brazil, tracing the same route outlined in her screenplay. Through it all, Teo is certain that time is all he needs to prove to Clarice that they are made for each other, that time is all he needs to make her fall in love with him. But as the journey progresses, he digs himself deeper and deeper into a pit that he can’t get out of, stopping at nothing to ensure that no one gets in the way of their life together. Both tense and lurid, and brimming with suspense from the very first page, Perfect Days is a psychological thriller in the vein of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley—a chilling journey in the passenger seat with a psychopath, and the English language debut of one of Brazil’s most deliciously dark young writers. Amazon

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

England. A century ago, give or take a few years. 

An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real.

An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government.  Three young people who learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie – knowledge that could cost them their lives. A grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories. A love triangle. A desperate chase. Revolutionaries and secret police. Religious fanatics and coldhearted scientists. Murder. A London filled with danger and wonder. A tortured relationship between a mother and a daughter, and a mother and a son. Unexpected villains and unexpected heroes. Cool reason versus passion. Rich versus poor. Right versus wrong, though which is which isn’t clear.This is the world of Smoke, a narrative tour de force, a tale of Dickensian intricacy and ferocious imaginative power, richly atmospheric and intensely suspenseful. Book Browse

The Tea Planter’s Wife: A Novel by Dinah Jefferies

In this lush, sexy, atmospheric page-turner, a young Englishwoman, 19-year-old Gwendolyn, marries a rich and seductively mysterious widower, Laurence Hooper, after a whirlwind romance in London. When she joins him at his Ceylon tea plantation, she’s certain she’ll be the perfect wife and, someday, mother. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected. The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbors, and her new sister-in-law, treacherous.

Gwen finds herself drawn to a Singhalese man of questionable intentions and worries about the propriety of her husband’s connection to an American widow. But most troubling are the terrible secrets in Laurence’s past that soon come to light and force Gwen to make a devastating choice. What happened to his first wife? And will the darkness of his past destroy their marriage and Gwen’s chance at happiness? Book Browse

The Trap by Melanie Raabe, Translator Imogen Taylor

For 11 years, the bestselling author Linda Conrads has mystified fans by never setting foot outside her home. Haunted by the unsolved murder of her younger sister–who she discovered in a pool of blood–and the face of the man she saw fleeing the scene, Linda’s hermit existence helps her cope with debilitating anxiety. But the sanctity of her oasis is shattered when she sees her sister’s murderer on television. Hobbled by years of isolation, Linda resolves to use the plot of her next novel to lay an irresistible trap for the man. As the plan is set in motion and the past comes rushing back, Linda’s memories–and her very sanity–are called into question. Is this man a heartless killer or merely a helpless victim? Book Browse/ Amazon

This Must Be the Place: A Novel by Maggie O’Farrell

An irresistible love story, an unforgettable family. Best-selling author Maggie O’Farrell captures an extraordinary marriage with insight and laugh-out-loud humor in what Richard Russo calls “her breakout book.” Perfect for readers of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse. But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children, and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

“O’Farrell’s prose manages to be both intimate and expansive and keenly perceptive in its insights about the complexities of marriage.  Beautiful and bittersweet, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE will make O’Farrell’s longtime fans swoon while prompting new readers to wonder why they’ve only just discovered her.” Amazon & Book Browse


Underground Airlines by Ben Winters

It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it: smartphones, social networking and Happy Meals. Save for one thing: the Civil War never occurred.

A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He’s got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called “the Hard Four.” On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn’t right–with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself.

A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation, and works to infiltrate the local cell of a abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he’s hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won’t reveal the extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw’s case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child who may be Victor’s salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all–though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface.

Victor believes himself to be a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he has worked so hard to earn. But in pursuing Jackdaw, Victor discovers secrets at the core of the country’s arrangement with the Hard Four, secrets the government will preserve at any cost. Underground Airlines is a ground-breaking novel, a wickedly imaginative thriller, and a story of an America that is more like our own than we’d like to believe. Book Browse

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Neurosurgeon Eitan Green has the perfect life–married to a beautiful police officer and father of two young boys. Then, speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he hits someone. Seeing that the man, an African migrant, is beyond help, he flees the scene.

When the victim’s widow knocks at Eitan’s door the next day, holding his wallet and divulging that she knows what happened, Eitan discovers that her price for silence is not money. It is something else entirely, something that will shatter Eitan’s safe existence and take him into a world of secrets and lies he could never have anticipated. WAKING LIONS is a gripping, suspenseful, and morally devastating drama of guilt and survival, shame and desire from a remarkable young author on the rise. Amazon, The Guardian

Non Fiction

Chancers: Addiction, Prison,Recovery, Love, by Susan Stellin and Graham Macindoe

A heartrending dual memoir told from the perspectives of a reporter and photographer whose love story is cut short by heroin addiction only to be given a second chance when one of them is jailed on Rikers Island. Sandy Harris says, “This book will resonate with anyone whose life has been touched by drugs, prison or immigration problems. I highly recommend the stark reality shared on its pages.” Amazon

The Gene : An Intimate History By Siddhartha Mukherjee

“Even before the beginning of human history, people recognized that parents transmit something — call it “likeness” — to their children, and the children to their children, and so on down the generations. But how?

In the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras theorized that male semen conveyed the information into female bodies, which provided nourishment. Two hundred years later, Aristotle, observing that some Greeks resembled their mothers and grandmothers, proposed that women as well as men carry their likeness, in the blood. (We still speak of bloodlines and blood relatives.) Aristotle said, rightly, that creatures must pass along not just material, like wood for a carpenter, but a message: “the shape and the form.”

During the next two millenniums, little more was learned. When Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” in 1859, he was uncomfortably aware that his entire theory of evolution rested atop a foundation that could not be seen. A theory of heredity was yet to come. This missing science we now know as genetics. Its elusive fundamental particle, the essential unit of biological information, we call the gene. First the idea of the gene had to be invented. Then the physical entity, present in each cell of our bodies, in every living thing, had to be discovered. The story of this invention and this discovery has been told, piecemeal, in different ways, but never before with the scope and grandeur that Siddhartha Mukherjee brings to his new history, “The Gene.” He fully justifies the claim that it is “one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in the history of science.”

As he did in his Pulitzer ­Prize-winning history of cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies” (2010), Mukherjee views his subject panoptically, from a great and clarifying height, yet also intimately. Framing his story are pieces of his own family history: His cousin and two of his uncles “suffered from various unravelings of the mind,” and the specter of mental illness, presumably inherited or inheritable, haunts his family and his imagination. The books form a magnificent pair. “The Emperor of All Maladies” is, as Mukherjee notes, the story of the genetic code corrupted, tipping into malignancy. The new book, then, serves as its prequel.” NY Times by James Gleickmay 12, 2016

Grit by Angela Duckworth

In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, students, educators, athletes, and business people—both seasoned and new—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently noted her lack of “genius,” Duckworth, now a celebrated researcher and professor, describes her early eye-opening stints in teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance. In Grit, she takes readers into the field to visit cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, teachers working in some of the toughest schools, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll. Here are some of the topics:

*Why any effort you make ultimately counts twice toward your goal

*How grit can be learned, regardless of I.Q. or circumstances

*How lifelong interest is triggered

*How much of optimal practice is suffering and how much ecstasy

*Which is better for your child—a warm embrace or high standards

*The magic of the Hard Thing Rule

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference. Amazon & Book Passage

Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation by Anne Sebba

Paris in the 1940s was a place of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation, and secrets. During the occupation, the swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower and danger lurked on every corner. While Parisian men were either fighting at the front or captured and forced to work in German factories, the women of Paris were left behind where they would come face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis, as waitresses, shop assistants, or wives and mothers, increasingly desperate to find food to feed their families as hunger became part of everyday life.

When the Nazis and the puppet Vichy regime began rounding up Jews to ship east to concentration camps, the full horror of the war was brought home and the choice between collaboration and resistance became unavoidable. Sebba focuses on the role of women, many of whom faced life and death decisions every day. After the war ended, there would be a fierce settling of accounts between those who made peace with or, worse, helped the occupiers and those who fought the Nazis in any way they could. Book Browse

Look at you now by Liz Pryor

In 1979, Liz Pryor is a seventeen-year-old girl from a good family in the wealthy Chicago suburbs. Halfway through her senior year of high school, she discovers that she is pregnant – a fact her parents are determined to keep a secret from her friends, siblings, and community forever. One snowy January day, after driving across three states, her mother drops her off at what Liz thinks is a Catholic home for unwed mothers – but which is, in truth, a locked government-run facility for delinquent and impoverished pregnant teenage girls.

In the cement-block residence, Liz is alone and terrified, a fish out of water – a girl from a privileged, sheltered background living amid tough, street-savvy girls who come from the foster care system or juvenile detention. But over the next six months, isolated and in involuntary hiding from everyone she knows, Liz develops a surprising bond with the other girls and begins to question everything she once held true. Told with tenderness, humor, and an open heart, Look at You Now is a deeply moving story about the most vulnerable moments in our lives – and how a willingness to trust ourselves can permanently change who we are and how we see the world. Book Browse

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by  Andres Resendez

Between 1670 & 1720 exported more Indians out of Charleston South Carolina than Africans into it. Tens of Thousands of Indians were sold for labor on plantations in Carribean. Indian slavery was illegal but the slavers were able to slip under the law for four centuries. Thorough account of that period in our history. SF Chronicle review by Greg Sarris, April 24-30, 2016

Thank you for looking at my booklist!

All reviews are from Amazon, Book Browse, Book Passage, SF Chronicle Book Review or me.



A Deadly Wandering:A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Matt Richtel


A must read for our times. The story is true, an Utah College student, Reggie Shaw, has a car accident on a morning driving through Montana.. It is about this deadly distraction,”texting while driving” and sadly,the facts are he killed two scientists.

A Deadly Wandering from Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Matt Richtel, a brilliant, narrative-driven exploration of technology’s vast influence on the human mind and society, dramatically-told through the lens of a tragic “texting-while-driving” car crash that claimed the lives of two rocket scientists in 2006.

The story has two levels. It explores the neuroscience of attention and makes a readable, understandable case that we are “addicted” to technology. Richtel explains the scientific findings regarding human attention and the impact of devices like phones and computers on people. But the other level is looking at the families effected by this accident and the investigation, prosecution, and trial that follows. Ultimately, Reggie finds redemption and ends up becoming a leading advocate against “distracted driving”. The narrative written by Richtel is also an interesting commentary on the lawyering up and the silence of the accused which fuels the rage of the families of the deceased who want answers and are stonewalled until the trial and even afterwards.

“It isn’t preachy and it isn’t dry, instead, Richtel combines the story of a Utah boy who killed two rocket scientists while he was driving his car while texting with the scientific research surrounding attention, focus and our modern technology. Richtel delivers the history of cognitive neuroscience, from its origins in World War II, helping pilots and radar operators save lives by not being overwhelmed by the technology in front of them, to later M.R.I. brain studies of multitasking and what came to be called attention science.” The book is unsettling, “The intimacy of smartphones is, if not addictive, then certainly seductive. Not all distractions are created equal: The impairment of drunken driving, for instance, is consistently huge, while the impairment of texting is ­arguably more intense but shorter in duration. The researchers Richtel quotes have found that drivers are impaired for up to 15 seconds after they text — far longer than most drivers would ever think.”NY Times review of Deadly Wandering / Kolker Sept. 25, 2014

Ordinary people do not intentionally set out to do bad things  but the simple tasks of texting while driving can lead to tragic consequences. Reggie’s story  confirms that and more, the healing that comes with admission and taking responsibility. Kolker had the perfect things to say about “A Deadly Wandering” by Richtel so thus my reference to his review. Thank you, and please read “A Deadly Wandering” as it so applies to our times.




The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

The Flawed Watch
This is a compelling account of the Titanic disaster and the ship that did not come to her rescue. As an avid reader of everything about the Titanic, I did not know the story of the SS Californian. Dyer is able to draw us into the story with all the forces that motivated the officers, crew and their flawed actions while serving the Californian on that fateful, cold, dark night.


Dyer brings a solid characterization of this time period. The sensational journalism, the unsinkable shipping industry, the emerging Suffragettes and the British and American inquiries conducted about the sinking of the Titanic are rich and fascinating. Dyer delivers a great read! The Midnight Watch is a story to contemplate and the sad truth of “what if” haunts me…


2016 “Late” Spring Books to Read

This is my “late spring addition”..sorry, life got busy! A late summer addition will come mid summer,

thanks for your patience,



Alice and Oliver: A Novel by Charles Bock

Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Charles Bock earned vast critical acclaim for his debut novel, Beautiful Children. Now, in Alice & Oliver, he has created an unflinching yet deeply humane portrait of a young family’s journey through a medical crisis, laying bare a couple’s love and fears as they fight for everything that’s important to them. New York, 1993. Alice Culvert is a caring wife, a doting new mother, a loyal friend, and a soulful artist – a fashion designer who wears a baby carrier and haute couture with equal aplomb. In their loft in Manhattan’s gritty Meatpacking District, Alice and her husband, Oliver, are raising their infant daughter, Doe, delighting in the wonders of early parenthood.

Their life together feels so vital and full of promise, which makes Alice’s sudden cancer diagnosis especially staggering. In the span of a single day, the couple’s focus narrows to the basic question of her survival. Though they do their best to remain brave, each faces enormous pressure: Oliver tries to navigate a labyrinthine healthcare system and handle their mounting medical bills; Alice tries to be hopeful as her body turns against her. Bracing themselves for the unthinkable, they must confront the new realities of their marriage, their strengths as partners and flaws as people, how to nourish love against all odds, and what it means to truly care for another person. Book Browse

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

The story that you have asked me to tell you does not begin with the pitiful ugliness of Lloyd’s death. It begins on a long-ago day in August when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man.

Memory, the narrator of Petina Gappah’s The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, after being sentenced for murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?

Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between past and present, the 2009 Guardian First Book Award–winning writer Petina Gappah weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate, and the treachery of memory. New Yorker, Amazon, Book Browse

The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner

A fifty-year-old Bridge game provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between a daughter and her mother. Betsy Lerner takes us on a powerfully personal literary journey, where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life.

After a lifetime defining herself in contrast to her mother’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” generation, Lerner finds herself back in her childhood home, not five miles from the mother she spent decades avoiding. When Roz needs help after surgery, it falls to Betsy to take care of her. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got instead were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed by their loyalty, she saw something her generation lacked. Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.

Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular at her mother’s Monday Bridge club. Through her friendships with the ladies, she is finally able to face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy, the Bridge table becoming the common ground she and Roz never had.

By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is the unforgettable story of a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter. Amazon & Oprah/June 2016

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe

A bold, spellbinding novel featuring one of the most fascinating protagonists in recent memory, Dear Fang, With Love tells the story of seventeen-year-old Vera—ravishing, troubled, wildly intelligent—who travels to Europe with her estranged father, hoping that an immersion in history might help them forget his past mistakes and her uncertain future.

Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after a decade of absence, Lucas is a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera’s life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother’s homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel whoescaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth? Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love, and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a breathtakingly intelligent, emotionally enthralling book. Amazon & Oprah/ June2016

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

What would you do if your four-year-old son claimed he had lived another life and that he wants to go back to it? That he wants his other mother? Gorgeously written and fearlessly provocative, Sharon Guskin’s debut explores the lengths we will go for our children. It examines what we regret in the end of our lives and hope for in the beginning, and everything in between. Amazon & Book Browse

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings — the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec — struggle along with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

With his striking emotional precision and lively, inventive language, Adam Haslett has given us something rare: a novel with the power to change how we see the most important people in our lives. Book Browse & Amazon

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith

Amsterdam, 1631: Sara de Vos becomes the first woman to be admitted as a master painter to the city’s Guild of St. Luke. Though women do not paint landscapes (they are generally restricted to indoor subjects), a wintry outdoor scene haunts Sara: She cannot shake the image of a young girl from a nearby village, standing alone beside a silver birch at dusk, staring out at a group of skaters on the frozen river below. Defying the expectations of her time, she decides to paint it.

New York City, 1957: The only known surviving work of Sara de Vos, At the Edge of a Wood, hangs in the bedroom of a wealthy Manhattan lawyer, Marty de Groot, a descendant of the original owner. It is a beautiful but comfortless landscape. The lawyer’s marriage is prominent but comfortless, too. When a struggling art history grad student, Ellie Shipley, agrees to forge the painting for a dubious art dealer, she finds herself entangled with its owner in ways no one could predict.

Sydney, 2000: Now a celebrated art historian and curator, Ellie Shipley is mounting an exhibition in her field of specialization: female painters of the Dutch Golden Age. When it becomes apparent that both the original At the Edge of a Wood and her forgery are en route to her museum, the life she has carefully constructed threatens to unravel entirely and irrevocably. Amazon & Book Browse

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

A flawed watch…This account of the Titanic disaster and the ship that did not come to her rescue was news to me. As an avid reader of everything about the Titanic, I did not know the story of the SS Californian. Dyer is able to draw us into the story with all the forces that motivated the officers, crew and their flawed actions while serving the Californian on that fateful, cold, dark night.

Dyer brings a solid characterization of this time period. The sensational journalism, the unsinkable shipping industry, the emerging Suffragettes and the British and American inquiries conducted about the sinking of the Titanic are rich and fascinating. Dyer delivers a great read! The Midnight Watch is a story to contemplate and the sad truth of “what if” haunts me… Review for Book Browse 3/16

The Widow by Fiona Barton

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore. There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything… When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…Amazon

The Heart by Maylis De Kerangel

Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. Returning home, exhausted, the driver lets the car drift off the road into a tree. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one is sent through the windshield. He is declared brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. His heart is still beating.

The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a fatal accident and a resulting heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved–grieving parents, hardworking doctors and nurses–as they navigate decisions of life and death. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart has mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star. Amazon summary

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The adult siblings are about to get together to discuss the large trust fund set up for them by deceased parent and one of the siblings (a loser) is a debut novel about a dysfunctional New York family. That’s a pretty common subject for a novel and not very interesting in itself. But there’s magic that happens when you pick up a book, start reading and realize that what the author has chosen to write about—the places, the characters, the dialogue, the set pieces—they’re all just right. That’s how I felt reading this book. The Nest is not populated with characters who are entirely lovable, but I felt each was uniquely human and identifiable, and I especially wanted to know where life would take the four 40-something Plumb family siblings (particularly that rapscallion Leo). Some will take issue with the Plumbs and their upper middle class problems. Some will detest Leo and his family and find harsher descriptions than “rapscallion.” But for my money, The Nest is a great read. This book will be among my favorites of 2016, Chris Schluep/Amazon

Zero K by Don Delillo

The wisest, richest, funniest, and most moving novel in years from Don DeLillo, one of the great American novelists of our time—an ode to language, at the heart of our humanity, a meditation on death, and an embrace of life.Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.

“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?”

These are the questions that haunt the novel and its memorable characters, and it is Ross Lockhart, most particularly, who feels a deep need to enter another dimension and awake to a new world. For his son, this is indefensible. Jeff, the book’s narrator, is committed to living, to experiencing “the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth.” Amazon, Book Browse and Book Passage

Non Fiction:

A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles: A True Story of Love, Science, and Cancer by Mary Elizabeth Williams

After being diagnosed in her early 40s with metastatic melanoma – a “rapidly fatal” form of cancer – journalist and mother of two Mary Elizabeth Williams finds herself in a race against the clock. She takes a once-in-a-lifetime chance and joins a clinical trial for immunotherapy, a revolutionary drug regimen that trains the body to vanquish malignant cells. Astonishingly, her cancer disappears entirely in just a few weeks. But at the same time, her best friend embarks on a cancer journey of her own – with very different results.

Williams’s experiences as a patient and a medical test subject reveal with stark honesty what it takes to weather disease, the extraordinary new developments that are rewriting the rules of science – and the healing power of human connection.Book Browse

Different Kind of Girl by Maria Toorpakai

This story is true about the harrowing journey to play the sport she knew was her destiny. But to combat the sexually-repressive atmosphere of rural Pakistan, she had to learn to live as a boy. She finally was helped by others and moved to Canada. Book Passage


Evicted by Matthew Desmond

In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible. Book Browse & Amazon

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

Anna Lyndsey was young and ambitious and worked hard; she had just bought an apartment; she was falling in love. Then what started as a mild intolerance to certain kinds of artificial light developed into a severe sensitivity to all light.

Now, at the worst times, Anna is forced to spend months on end in a blacked-out room, where she loses herself in audiobooks and elaborate word games in an attempt to ward off despair. During periods of relative remission, she can venture out cautiously at dawn and dusk into a world that, from the perspective of her cloistered existence, is filled with remarkable beauty. And through it all there is Pete, her love and her rock, without whom her loneliness seems boundless.

One day Anna had an ordinary life, and then the unthinkable happened. But even impossible lives, she learns, endure. Girl in the Dark is a tale of an unimaginable fate that becomes a transcendent love story. It brings us to an extraordinary place from which we emerge to see the light and the world anew. Book Browse


Girls &Sex by Peggy Orenstein

The author of the New York Times bestseller Cinderella Ate My Daughter offers a clear-eyed picture of the new sexual landscape girls face in the post-princess stage—high school through college—and reveals how they are negotiating it

A generation gap has emerged between parents and their girls. Even in this age of helicopter parenting, the mothers and fathers of tomorrow’s women have little idea what their daughters are up to sexually or how they feel about it. Drawing on in-depth interviews with over seventy young women and a wide range of psychologists, academics, and experts, renowned journalist Peggy Orenstein goes where most others fear to tread, pulling back the curtain on the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important possibilities of girls’ sex lives in the modern world.

While the media has focused—often to sensational effect—on the rise of casual sex and the prevalence of rape on campus, in Girls and Sex Peggy Orenstein brings much more to the table. She examines the ways in which porn and all its sexual myths have seeped into young people’s lives; what it means to be the “the perfect slut” and why many girls scorn virginity; the complicated terrain of hookup culture and the unfortunate realities surrounding assault. In Orenstein’s hands these issues are never reduced to simplistic “truths;” rather, her powerful reporting opens up a dialogue on a potent, often silent, subtext of American life today—giving readers comprehensive and in-depth information with which to understand, and navigate, this complicated new world. Amazon & Book Passage

The Iceberg: A Memoir by Marion Coutts

Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize, and finalist for every major nonfiction award in the UK, including the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Award, The Iceberg is artist and writer Marion Coutts’ astonishing memoir; an “adventure of being and dying “and a compelling, poetic meditation on family, love, and language.

In 2008, Tom Lubbach, the chief art critic for The Independent was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The Iceberg is his wife, Marion Coutts’, fierce, exquisite account of the two years leading up to his death. In spare, breathtaking prose, Coutts conveys theintolerable and, alongside their two year old son Ev—whose language is developing asTom’s is disappearing—Marion and Tom lovingly weather the storm together. In short bursts of exquisitely textured prose, The Iceberg becomes a singular work of art and an uplifting and universal story of endurance in the face of loss. Book Browse & Amazon

I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

When Joanna Connors was thirty years old on assignment for the Cleveland Plain Dealer to review a play at a college theater, she was held at knife point and raped by a stranger who had grown up five miles away from her. Once her assailant was caught and sentenced, Joanna never spoke of the trauma again, until 21 years later when her daughter was about to go to college. She resolved then to tell her children about her own rape so they could learn and protect themselves, and she began to realize that the man who assaulted her was one of the formative people in her life.

Setting out to uncover the story of her attacker, Connors embarked on a journey to find out who he was, where he came from, who his friends were and what his life was like. What she discovers stretches beyond one violent man’s story and back into her own, interweaving a narrative about strength and survival with one about rape culture and violence in America. I Will Find You is a brave, timely consideration of race, class, education and the families that shape who we become, by a reporter and a survivor. Amazon, Book Browse

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world. Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.


Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book. Lab Girl opens your eyes to the

beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal. Here is an eloquent demonstration of what can happen when you find the stamina, passion, and sense of sacrifice needed to make a life out of what you truly love, as you discover along the way the person you were meant to be. Amazon & Book Passage

Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon by Bronwein Dickey

The hugely illuminating story of how a popular breed of dog became the most demonized and supposedly the most dangerous of dogs—and what role humans have played in the transformation.

When Bronwen Dickey brought her new dog home, she saw no traces of the infamous viciousness in her affectionate, timid pit bull. Which made her wonder: How had the breed—beloved by Teddy Roosevelt, Helen Keller, and Hollywood’s “Little Rascals”—come to be known as a brutal fighter? Her search for answers takes her from nineteenth-century New York City dogfighting pits—the cruelty of which drew the attention of the recently formed ASPCA—to early twentieth‑century movie sets, where pit bulls cavorted with Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton; from the battlefields of Gettysburg and the Marne, where pit bulls earned presidential recognition, to desolate urban neighborhoods where the dogs were loved, prized—and sometimes brutalized.

Whether through love or fear, hatred or devotion, humans are bound to the history of the pit bull. With unfailing thoughtfulness, compassion, and a firm grasp of scientific fact, Dickey offers us a clear-eyed portrait of this extraordinary breed, and an insightful view of Americans’ relationship with their dogs. Amazon & SF Chronicle, 5/29/16

The Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

The riveting true story of the women who launched America into space. In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn’t turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.

For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women–known as “human computers”–who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we’ve been, and the far reaches of space to which we’re heading. Book Passage & Amazon


Ted Talks by Chris Anderson

..this is an insider’s guide to creating talks that are unforgettable.Since taking over TED in the early 2000s, Chris Anderson has shown how carefully crafted short talks can be the key to unlocking empathy, stirring excitement, spreading knowledge, and promoting a shared dream. Done right, a talk can electrify a room and transform an audience’s worldview. Done right, a talk is more powerful than anything in written form.

This book explains how the miracle of powerful public speaking is achieved, and equips you to give it your best shot. There is no set formula; no two talks should be the same. The goal is for you to give the talk that only you can give. But don’t be intimidated. You may find it more natural than you think.

Chris Anderson has worked behind the scenes with all the TED speakers who have inspired us the most, and here he shares insights from such favorites as Sir KenRobinson, Amy Cuddy, Bill Gates, Elizabeth Gilbert, Salman Khan, Dan Gilbert, Mary Roach, Matt Ridley, and dozens more — everything from how to craft your talk’s content to how you can be most effective on stage. This is the 21st-century’s new manual for truly effective communication and it is a must-read for anyone who is ready to create impact with their ideas. Book Browse & Amazon

The Underdogs by Melissa Fay Greene

From two-time National Book Award nominee Melissa Fay Greene comes a profound and surprising account of dogs on the front lines of rescuing both children and adults from the trenches of grief, emotional, physical, and cognitive disability, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Underdogs tells the story of Karen Shirk, felled at age twenty-four by a neuromuscular disease and facing life as a ventilator-dependent, immobile patient, who was turned down by every service dog agency in the country because she was “too disabled.” Her nurse encouraged her to tone down the suicidal thoughts, find a puppy, and raise her own service dog. Karen did this, and Ben, a German shepherd, dragged her back into life. “How many people are stranded like I was,” she wondered, “who would lead productive lives if only they had a dog?”

A thousand state-of-the-art dogs later, Karen Shirk’s service dog academy, 4 Paws for Ability, is restoring broken children and their families to life. Long shunned by scientists as a manmade, synthetic species, and oft- referred to as “Man’s Best Friend” almost patronizingly, dogs are finally paid respectful attention by a new generation of neuroscientists and animal behaviorists. Melissa Fay Greene weaves the latest scientific discoveries about our co-evolution with dogs with Karen’s story and a few exquisitely rendered stories of suffering children and their heartbroken families.

Written with characteristic insight, humanity, humor, and irrepressible joy, what could have been merely touching is a penetrating, compassionate exploration of larger questions: about our attachment to dogs, what constitutes a productive life, and what can be accomplished with unconditional love. Amazon

Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick

September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.

Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters. Amazon

Walking the Nile by Levison Wood

The Nile, one of the world’s great rivers, has long been an object of fascination and obsession. From Alexander the Great and Nero, to Victorian adventurers David Livingstone, John Hanning Speke, and Henry Morton Stanley, the river has seduced men and led them into wild adventures. English writer, photographer, and explorer Levison Wood is just the latest. His Walking the Nile is a captivating account of a remarkable and unparalleled Nile journey.

Starting in November 2013 in a forest in Rwanda, where a modest spring spouts a trickle of clear, cold water, Wood set forth on foot, aiming to become the first person to walk the entire length of the fabled river. He followed the Nile for nine months, over 4,000 miles, through six nations—Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, the Republic of Sudan, and Egypt—to the Mediterranean coast.

Like his predecessors, Wood camped in the wild, foraged for food, and trudged through rainforest, swamp, savannah, and desert, enduring life-threatening conditions at every turn. He traversed sandstorms, flash floods, minefields, and more, becoming a local celebrity in Uganda, where a popular rap song was written about him, and a potential enemy of the state in South Sudan, where he found himself caught in a civil war and detained by the secret police. As well as recounting his triumphs, like escaping a charging hippo and staving off wild crocodiles, Wood’s gripping account recalls the loss of Matthew Power, a journalist who died suddenly from heat exhaustion during their trek. As Wood walks on, often joined by local guides who help him to navigate foreign languages and customs, Walking the Nile maps out African history and contemporary life.

An inimitable tale of survival, resilience, and sheer willpower, Walking the Nile is an inspiring chronicle of an epic journey down the lifeline of civilization in northern Africa. Amazon review


While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man’s Descent into Madness by Eli Sanders

A Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter’s gripping account of one young man’s path to murder—and a wake-up call for mental health care in America

On a summer night in 2009, three lives intersected in one American neighborhood. Two people newly in love—Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper, who spent many years trying to find themselves and who eventually found each other—and a young man on a dangerous psychological descent: Isaiah Kalebu, age twenty-three, the son of a distant, authoritarian father and a mother with a family history of mental illness. All three paths forever altered by a violent crime, all three stories a wake-up call to the system that failed to see the signs.

In this riveting, probing, compassionate account of a murder in Seattle, Eli Sanders, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper coverage of the crime, offers a deeply reported portrait in microcosm of the state of mental health care in this country—as well as an inspiring story of love and forgiveness. Culminating in Kalebu’s dangerous slide toward violence—observed by family members, police, mental health workers, lawyers, and judges, but stopped by no one—While the City Slept is the story of a crime of opportunity and of the string of missed opportunities that made it possible. It shows what can happen when a disturbed member of society repeatedly falls through the cracks, and in the tradition of The Other Wes Moore and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, is an indelible, human-level story, brilliantly told, with the potential to inspire social change. Amazon & Book Browse


Young Adult

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gabriel Savit

Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone. And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness. Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.  Book Passage & Amazon

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

“Ruby’s novel deserves to be read and reread. It is powerful, beautiful, extraordinary.”—School Library Journal

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. But Finn knows what really happened to Roza. He knows she was kidnapped by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap, acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a tale of the ways in which the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are. Book Passage

Booked by Kwame Alexander

In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover,  soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.

This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match! Amazon


The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

An unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times.Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice. Book Passage & Amazon


Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein’s Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloffthe greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.Book Browse &Book Passage

4th– 7th Graders:

Gusty Girl by Caroline McNaughton

Why should girls miss out on the joy of adventure? They can jump off rocks, swing on ropes, and climb trees just as well as boys can. But girls often allow fear to stand in their way.

In The Gutsy Girl, author Caroline Paul emboldens girls to seek out a life of exhilaration. Once a young scaredy-cat herself, Caroline decided that fear got in the way of the life she wanted–of excitement, confidence, self-reliance, friendship, and fun. She has since flown planes, rafted big rivers, climbed tall mountains, and fought fires as one of the first female firefighters in San Francisco. In The Gutsy Girl, she shares her greatest escapades as well as those of other girls and women from throughout history, and offers engaging activities such as confidence-building stances, creating a compass, positive self-talk, and using crickets to estimate outside temperatures. Each section includes a place for girls to “journal” their adventures, thus encouraging a new generation to develop a zest for challenges and a healthy relationship to risk. The Gutsy Girl is Lean In for young girls, a book about the glorious things that happen when you unshackle from fear and open up to exhilaration. Fully illustrated and enlivened throughout by bestselling illustrator Wendy MacNaughton’s whimsical pen-and-ink drawings.Amazon



Thanks for reading my list. If interested in past lists go to my website:


Book summaries above are by BookBrowse, Goodreads, Amazon, Oprah Magazine, Book Passage and me!
























2016 Winter Book List

2016 Winter Book List…. @ tracys2cents@wordpress.com



A Taste of Nightshade by Martine Bailey

A Taste for Nightshade is a thrilling historical novel that combines recipes, mystery and a dark struggle between two desperate women, sure to appeal to fans of Sarah Waters and Carolly Erickson. Manchester 1787. When budding young criminal Mary Jebb swindles Michael Croxon’s brother with a blank pound note, he chases her into the night and sets in motion a train of sinister events. Condemned to seven years of transportation to Australia, Mary sends him a ‘Penny Heart’ – a token of her vow of revenge. Two years later, Michael marries naïve young Grace Moore. Although initially overjoyed at the union, Grace quickly realizes that her husband is more interested in her fortune than her company. Lonely and desperate for companionship, she turns to her new cook to help mend her ailing marriage. But Mary Jebb, shipwrecked, maltreated, and recently hired, has different plans for the unsuspecting owners of Delafosse Hall.


And Again by Jessica Chiarella

In the spirit of Station Eleven and The Age of Miracles, this exciting literary debut novel imagines the consequences when four ordinary individuals are granted a chance to continue their lives in genetically perfect versions of their former bodies.

Would you live your life differently if you were given a second chance? Hannah, David, Connie, and Linda—four terminally ill patients—have been selected for the SUBlife pilot program, which will grant them brand-new, genetically perfect bodies that are exact copies of their former selves—without a single imperfection. Blemishes, scars, freckles, and wrinkles have all disappeared, their fingerprints are different, their vision is impeccable, and most importantly, their illnesses have been cured.

But the fresh start they’ve been given is anything but perfect. Without their old bodies, their new physical identities have been lost. Hannah, an artistic prodigy, has to relearn how to hold a brush; David, a Congressman, grapples with his old habits; Connie, an actress whose stunning looks are restored after a protracted illness, tries to navigate an industry obsessed with physical beauty; and Linda, who spent eight years paralyzed after a car accident, now struggles to reconnect with a family that seems to have built a new life without her. As each tries to re-enter their previous lives and relationships they are faced with the question: how much of your identity rests not just in your mind, but in your heart, your body? Book Browse


The Blue Line by Ingrid Betancourt

Set against the backdrop of Argentina’s Dirty War and infused with magical realism, The Blue Line is a breathtaking story of love and betrayal by one of the world’s most renowned writers and activists. Ingrid Betancourt, author of  the New York Times bestselling memoir Even Silence Has an End, draws on history and personal experience in this deeply felt portrait of a woman coming of age as her country falls deeper and deeper into chaos. Buenos Aires, the 1970s. Julia inherits from her grandmother a gift, precious and burdensome. Sometimes visions appear before her eyes, mysterious and terrible apparitions from the future, seen from the perspective of others. From the age of five, Julia must intervene to prevent horrific events. In fact, as her grandmother tells her, it is her duty to do so—otherwise she will lose her gift.

At fifteen, Julia falls in love with Theo, a handsome revolutionary four years her senior. Their lives are turned upside down when Juan Perón, the former president and military dictator, returns to Argentina. Confronted by the realities of military dictatorship, Julia and Theo become Montoneros sympathizers and radical idealists, equally fascinated by Jesus Christ and Che Guevara. Captured by death squadrons, they somehow manage to escape…The Blue Line is a story centered on the consequences of oppression, collective subservience, and individual courage, and, most of all, the notion that belief in the future of humanity is an act of faith most beautiful and deserving. Book Browse


The Children’s Home by Charles Lampert

For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor – and the startling revelations their behavior evokes. In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.

Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind.

The Children’s Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque – as well as the glimmers of goodness – buried deep within the soul.


The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

Set in an alternative historical present, in a “eusistocracy” – an extreme welfare state that holds public health and social stability above all else, it follows a young woman whose growing addiction to illegal chili peppers leads her on an adventure into a world where love, sex, and free will are all controlled by the state.

The Eusistocratic Republic of Finland has bred a new human sub-species of receptive, submissive women, called eloi, for sex and procreation, while intelligent, independent women are relegated to menial labor and sterilized so that they do not carry on their “defective” line. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become involved in buying and selling a stimulant known to the Health Authority to be extremely dangerous: chili peppers. Then Jare comes across a strange religious cult in possession of the Core of the Sun, a chili so hot that it is rumored to cause hallucinations. Does this chili have effects that justify its prohibition? How did Finland turn into the North Korea of Europe? And will Vanna succeed in her quest to find her sister, or will her growing need to satisfy her chili addiction destroy her?

Johanna Sinisalo’s tautly told story of fight and flight is also a feisty, between-the-lines social polemic – a witty, inventive, and fiendishly engaging read. Book Browse


The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne

A comedy of manners that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America from the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood.

Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls’ soccer teams, its leafy streets, and charming village center. Yet no sooner has sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins arrived to study the elements of “good quality of life” than someone begins poisoning the town’s dogs. Are the poisonings in protest to an off-leash proposal for Baldwin Park—the subject of much town debate—or the sign of a far deeper disorder? Certainly these types of things don’t happen in Littlefield.

With an element of suspense, satirical social commentary, and in-depth character portraits, Suzanne Berne’s nuanced novel reveals the discontent concealed behind the manicured lawns and picket fences of darkest suburbia. Book Browse


Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne

Adrift in Cambodia and eager to side-step a life of quiet desperation as a small-town teacher, 28-year-old Englishman Robert Grieve decides to go missing. As he crosses the border from Thailand, he tests the threshold of a new future.

And on that first night, a small windfall precipitates a chain of events– involving a bag of “jinxed” money, a suave American, a trunk full of heroin, a hustler taxi driver, and a rich doctor’s daughter– that changes Robert’s life forever.

Hunters in the Dark is a sophisticated game of cat and mouse redolent of the nightmares of Patricia Highsmith, where identities are blurred, greed trumps kindness, and karma is ruthless. Filled with Hitchcockian twists and turns, suffused with the steamy heat and pervasive superstition of the Cambodian jungle, and unafraid to confront difficult questions about the machinations of fate, this is a masterful novel that confirms Lawrence Osborne’s reputation as one of our finest contemporary writers. BookBrowse

“The novel generates a palpable dread as Grieve is sucked into a Cambodian demi-monde of drugs, booze and the ghosts of those murdered in the 1970s by Cambodia’s homespun Robespierre, Pol Pot. Cambodia, a ‘traumatised country’, comes splendidly to life in Osborne’s prose, its rice fields and Frenchified architecture. Hunters in the Dark is a tip-top thriller. Osborne knows how to keep the pages turning.” – The Independent (UK)


The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela

It’s 2010 and Natasha, a half Russian, half Sudanese professor of history, is researching the life of Imam Shamil, the 19th century Muslim leader who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War. When shy, single Natasha discovers that her star student, Oz, is not only descended from the warrior but also possesses Shamil’s priceless sword, the Imam’s story comes vividly to life. As Natasha’s relationship with Oz and his alluring actress mother intensifies, Natasha is forced to confront issues she had long tried to avoid – that of her Muslim heritage. When Oz is suddenly arrested at his home one morning, Natasha realizes that everything she values stands in jeopardy.

Told with Aboulela’s inimitable elegance and narrated from the point of view of both Natasha and the historical characters she is researching, The Kindness of Enemies is both an engrossing story of a provocative period in history and an important examination of what it is to be a Muslim in a post 9/11 world. Book Browse


Midnight in Broad Daylight, A Japanese American Family caught Between two worlds by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

After their father’s death, Harry, Frank, and Pierce Fukuhara – all born and raised in the Pacific Northwest – moved to Hiroshima, their mother’s ancestral home. Eager to go back to his own land – America – Harry returned in the late 1930s. Then came Pearl Harbor. Despite being sent to an internment camp, Harry dutifully volunteered to serve his country. Back in Hiroshima, his brothers Frank and Pierce became soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army. As the war raged on, Harry, one of the finest bilingual interpreters in the United States Army, island-hopped across the Pacific, moving ever closer to the enemy and to his younger brothers. But before the Fukuharas would have to face each other in battle, the U.S. detonated the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, gravely injuring tens of thousands of civilians, including members of their family.

Alternating between the American and Japanese perspectives, Midnight in Broad Daylight captures the uncertainty and intensity of those charged with the fighting and provides a fresh look at the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Book Browse


My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

The profound mother-daughter bond is explored through a mother’s hospital visit to her estranged daughter by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys.

A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all – the one between mother and daughter. Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable. Book Browse & Goodreads


Oblivion by by Sergei Lebedev (Author), Antonina W. Bouis (Translator)

A masterful novel about the search for the truth about a shadowy neighbor represents an epic attempt to rescue history from the brink of oblivion.

In one of the first 21st century Russian novels to probe the legacy of the Soviet prison camp system, a young man travels to the vast wastelands of the Far North to uncover the truth about a shadowy neighbor who saved his life, and whom he knows only as Grandfather II. What he finds, among the forgotten mines and decrepit barracks of former gulags, is a world relegated to oblivion, where it is easier to ignore both the victims and the executioners than to come to terms with a terrible past.

This disturbing tale evokes the great and ruined beauty of a land where man and machine worked in tandem with nature to destroy millions of lives during the Soviet century. Emerging from today’s Russia, where the ills of the past are being forcefully erased from public memory, this masterful novel represents an epic literary attempt to rescue history from the brink of oblivion. Book Browse


The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

The Shut Eye is a spine-tingling, edge-of-your-seat thriller about a woman who gets involved with a psychic who may be able to find her missing son.

Five footprints are the only sign that four-year-old Daniel Buck was ever here. And now they are all his mother has left. Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiraling towards insanity. Anna is desperate for hope, which she’s not getting from the police, or her husband James. So when a woman tells her she’s found a true psychic, a “shut eye,” she grasps at it. Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son. But when she meets the psychic, what she gets is not at all what she suspected.

Matching breathtaking suspense with a keen exploration of skepticism in the face of the unexplainable, The Shut Eye is a riveting read from one of our finest crime writers. Book Browse


The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

The New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife returns with a triumphant new novel about New York’s “Swans” of the 1950s—and the scandalous, headline-making, and enthralling friendship between literary legend Truman Capote and peerless socialite Babe Paley.

Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley. Her flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue, and she is celebrated and adored for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, especially among her friends—the alluring socialite Swans Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. By all appearances, Babe has it all: money, beauty, glamour, jewels, influential friends, a high-profile husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman—a woman desperately longing for true love and connection.

Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality explodes onto the scene, setting Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrée into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Sure of the loyalty of the man she calls “True Heart,” Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake. But once a storyteller, always a storyteller—even when the stories aren’t his to tell.

Truman’s fame is at its peak when such notable celebrities as Frank and Mia Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Rose Kennedy converge on his glittering Black and White Ball. But all too soon, he’ll ignite a literary scandal whose repercussions echo through the years. The Swans of Fifth Avenue will seduce and startle readers as it opens the door onto one of America’s most sumptuous eras. Book Browse


The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there’s just one other resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna’s and Luke’s families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them. Amazon

Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles

Originally published in 1943, this recently reissued cult classic ( a favorite of Tennessee William’s and others) details with sly anarchry, the sexual exploits of a pair of seemingly buttoned up , middle age women looking to live outsides themselves. Oprah Magazine 1/16, Dotun Akintoye & N.B.


Winter by Christopher Nicholson

From the author of the Costa Best Novel-shortlisted The Elephant Keeper, a poignant imagining of Thomas Hardy’s relationship with his last muse.

A celebrated author, in the winter of his life, awaits a visit from a beautiful young actress – the leading lady in a staging of his most famous tragedy. But his wife is troubled. An anxious and sickly woman, she watches the growing intimacy between her husband and the young woman, and becomes tormented by the idea that they will betray her. In this delicately-wrought novel, Christopher Nicholson has been inspired by the true story of the first theatrical production of Tess of the D’Urbervilles to paint a subtle and moving portrait of life’s little ironies, its disappointments and its desires. Book Browse


Non Fiction


Blood and Earth Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World by Kevin Bales

A leading expert on modern-day slavery, Kevin Bales has traveled to some of the world’s most dangerous places documenting and battling human trafficking. In the course of his reporting, Bales began to notice a pattern emerging: Where slavery existed, so did massive, unchecked environmental destruction. But why?

Bales set off to find the answer in a fascinating and moving journey that took him into the lives of modern-day slaves and along a supply chain that leads directly to the cellphones in our pockets. What he discovered is that even as it destroys individuals, families, and communities, new forms of slavery that proliferate in the world’s lawless zones also pose a grave threat to the environment. Simply put, modern-day slavery is destroying the planet.

The product of seven years of travel and research, Blood and Earth brings us dramatic stories from the world’s most beautiful and tragic places, the environmental and human-rights hotspots where this crisis is concentrated. But it also tells the stories of some of the most common products we all consume—from computers to shrimp to jewelry—whose origins are found in these same places.  Blood and Earth calls on us to recognize the grievous harm we have done to one another, put an end to it, and recommit to repairing the world. This is a clear-eyed and inspiring book that suggests how we can begin the work of healing humanity and the planet we share. Book Browse, Goodreads


The City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence

To the charity workers, Dabaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a ‘nursery for terrorists’; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.

Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land, getting to know many of those who have come there seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.

In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Rawlence combines intimate storytelling with broad socio-political investigative journalism, doing for Dadaab what Katherinee Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers did for the Mumbai slums. Lucid, vivid and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dadaab home. BookBrowse


Cure A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant

Have you ever felt a surge of adrenaline after narrowly avoiding an accident? Salivated at the sight (or thought) of a sour lemon? Felt turned on just from hearing your partner’s voice? If so, then you’ve experienced how dramatically the workings of your mind can affect your body.

Yet while we accept that stress or anxiety can damage our health, the idea of “healing thoughts” was long ago hijacked by New Age gurus and spiritual healers. Recently, however, serious scientists from a range of fields have been uncovering evidence that our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs can ease pain, heal wounds, fend off infection and heart disease, even slow the progression of AIDS and some cancers.

In Cure, award-winning science writer Jo Marchant travels the world to meet the physicians, patients, and researchers on the cutting edge of this new world of medicine. We learn how meditation protects against depression and dementia, how social connections increase life expectancy, and how patients who feel cared for recover from surgery faster. We meet Iraq war veterans who are using a virtual arctic world to treat their burns and children whose ADHD is kept under control with half the normal dose of medication. We watch as a transplant patient uses the smell of lavender to calm his hostile immune system and an Olympic runner shaves vital seconds off his time through mind-power alone.

Drawing on the very latest research, Marchant explores the vast potential of the mind’s ability to heal, acknowledges its limitations, and explains how we can make use of the findings in our own lives. Book Browse


Ghettoside : A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man is shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of the thousands of black Americans murdered that year. His assailant runs down the street, jumps into an SUV, and vanishes, hoping to join the scores of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes. But as soon as the case is assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shift.

Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped. Amazon


The Hundred Year Walk: An Armenian Odessey by Dawn Anahid MacKeen

In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. He is separated from his family as they are swept up in the government’s mass deportation of Armenians into internment camps. Gradually realizing the unthinkable—that they are all being driven to their deaths—he fights, through starvation and thirst, not to lose hope. Just before killing squads slaughter his caravan during a forced desert march, Stepan manages to escape, making a perilous six-day trek to the Euphrates River carrying nothing more than two cups of water and one gold coin. In his desperate bid for survival, Stepan dons disguises, outmaneuvers gendarmes, and, when he least expects it, encounters the miraculous kindness of strangers.

The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals. Reading this rare firsthand account, his granddaughter Dawn MacKeen finds herself first drawn into the colorful bazaars before the war and then into the horrors Stepan later endured. Inspired to retrace his steps, she sets out alone to Turkey and Syria, shadowing her resourceful, resilient grandfather across a landscape still rife with tension. With his journals guiding her, she grows ever closer to the man she barely knew as a child. Their shared story is a testament to family, to home, and to the power of the human spirit to transcend the barriers of religion, ethnicity, and even time itself. Goodreads & BookBrowse



In a Different Key, The Story of Autism by John Donovan, Caren Zucker

The extraordinary story of autism, from it’s first diagnosis through to the modern day; and the prejudice, controversies, and struggles families had to go through as they coped with this condition in a loved one.

Nearly seventy-five years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi became the first child diagnosed with autism. Beginning with his family’s odyssey, In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism—by liberating children from dank institutions, campaigning for their right to go to school, challenging expert opinion on what it means to have autism, and persuading society to accept those who are different.

It is the story of women like Ruth Sullivan, who rebelled against a medical establishment that blamed cold and rejecting “refrigerator mothers” for causing autism; and of fathers who pushed scientists to dig harder for treatments. Many others played starring roles too: doctors like Leo Kanner, who pioneered our understanding of autism; lawyers like Tom Gilhool, who took the families’ battle for education to the courtroom; scientists who sparred over how to treat autism; and those with autism, like Temple Grandin, Alex Plank, and Ari Ne’eman, who explained their inner worlds and championed the philosophy of neurodiversity.

This is also a story of fierce controversies—from the question of whether there is truly an autism “epidemic,” and whether vaccines played a part in it; to scandals involving “facilitated communication,” one of many treatments that have proved to be blind alleys; to stark disagreements about whether scientists should pursue a cure for autism. There are dark turns too: we learn about experimenters feeding LSD to children with autism, or shocking them with electricity to change their behavior; and the authors reveal compelling evidence that Hans Asperger, discoverer of the syndrome named after him, participated in the Nazi program that consigned disabled children to death. By turns intimate and panoramic, In a Different Key takes us on a journey from an era when families were shamed and children were condemned to institutions to one in which a cadre of people with autism push not simply for inclusion, but for a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability. Book Browse


The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project by Robert S. Boynton

A fascinating investigative report into the abduction of Japanese citizens over many decades by the North Korean intelligence agencies.

Throughout the late 1970s and early ’80s, dozens of Japanese citizens were abducted from coastal Japanese towns by North Korean commandos. In what proved to be part of a global project, North Korea attempted to reeducate the abductees and train them to spy on the state’s behalf. When the project faltered, the abductees were hidden in a series of guarded communities known as “Invitation-Only Zones”–the fiction being that these were exclusive enclaves, not prisons.

In 2002, Kim Jong Il admitted to kidnapping thirteen Japanese citizens and returned five of them (the other eight, he said, had died). From the moment that Robert S. Boynton first saw a photograph of these men and women, he became obsessed with the window their story provided into the vexed politics of Northeast Asia. In The Invitation-Only Zone, he untangles the logic behind the kidnappings and shows why some Japanese citizens described them as “their 9/11.” He tells the story of how dozens were abducted and reeducated; how they married and had children; and how they lived anonymously as North Korean citizens. He speaks with nationalists, diplomats, abductees, and even crab fishermen, unearthing the bizarre North Korean propaganda tactics and the peculiar cultural interests of both counties.

A deeply reported, thoroughly researched treatise on the power struggle of one of the most important areas in the global economy, Boynton’s keen investigation is riveting and revelatory. Book Browse Review


KooKooland by Gloria Norris

An electrifying coming of age memoir about madness, murder, and a born storyteller’s wild ride from a terrorized girlhood in Nowheresville New Hampshire to life as a Hollywood producer and screen writer. Review from Oprah Magazine, 1/16, Dotun Akintoye & N.B.


The Sound of Gavel, A Memoir by Ruth Wariner

A riveting, deeply-affecting true story of one girl’s coming-of-age in a polygamist doomsday cult.

Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turned a blind eye to the polygamous practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth’s father – the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony – is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.

In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where her mother collects welfare and her stepfather works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the community into which she was born is not the right one for her. As Ruth begins to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance her fierce love for her siblings with her determination to find a better life for herself.


When Breath becomes AIR by Paul Kalanithi

For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.'” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both. Book Browse

Young Adult


The Boys who Challenged Hitler Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose

At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation’s leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys’ exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is Phillip Hoose’s inspiring story of these young war heroes. Book Passage & Amazon


The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

16-year-old Vicky Cruz wakes up in a hospital’s mental ward after a failed suicide attempt. Now she must find a path to recovery—and perhaps rescue some others along the way. When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: After her suicide attempt, she shouldn’t be alive. But then she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

But Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up, sending Vick back to the life that drove her to suicide, she must try to find her own courage  and strength. She may not have them. She doesn’t know.

Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one — about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway. Book Browse

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

10:00 a.m.

The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m…….The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03….The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05…..Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival. Goodreads


We are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button. Only he isn’t sure he wants to.

After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year…Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever. Book Browse



Thanks for reading my list. If interested in past lists go to my website:


Book summaries above are by BookBrowse, Goodreads, Amazon, Oprah Magazine, Book Passage and me!
























2015 Fall Books to Read


After You by JoJo Moyes

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living? Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes—a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and rejoice at being back in the world she creates. Here she does what few novelists can do—revisits beloved characters and takes them to places neither they nor we ever expected. Amazon


Angel on my Chest by Leslie Pietrzyk

This Angel on My Chest is a collection of unconventionally linked stories, each about a different young woman whose husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Ranging from traditional stories to lists, a quiz, a YouTube link, and even a lecture about creative writing, the stories grasp to put into words the ways in which we all cope with unspeakable loss.

Based on the author’s own experience of losing her husband at age thirty-seven, this book explores the resulting grief, fury, and bewilderment, mirroring the obsessive nature of grieving. The stories examine the universal issues we face at a time of loss,  as well as the specific concerns of a young widow: support groups, in-laws, insurance money, dating, and remarriage. This Angel on My Chest ultimately asks, how is it possible to move forward with life while “till death do you part” rings in your ears—and, how is it possible not to? Amazon


Best Boy by Eli Gottieb

Sent to a “therapeutic community” for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the “Old Fox” of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel “normal” again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return “home” to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams.

Written astonishingly in the first-person voice of an autistic, adult man, Best Boy with its unforgettable portraits of Todd’s beloved mother, whose sweet voice still sings from the grave, and a staffer named Raykene, who says that Todd “reflects the beauty of His creation” is a piercing, achingly funny, finally shattering novel no reader can ever forget. Amazon


Carrying Albert Home: the Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam

Big Fish meets The Notebook in this emotionally evocative story about a man, a woman, and an alligator that is a moving tribute to love, from the New York Times bestselling author of the award-winning memoir Rocket Boys—the basis of the movie October Sky.

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (the father of the author) were high school classmates in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked with a dancing actor named Buddy Ebsen (yes, that Buddy Ebsen). But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.

Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree days with Buddy every day because of his unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert she raised in the only bathroom in the house. When Albert scared Homer by grabbing his pants, he gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or that alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do: Carry Albert home.

Carrying Albert Home is the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1,000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love. Amazon

Did You Ever Have a Family by Brian Clegg

The stunning debut novel from bestselling author Bill Clegg is a magnificently powerful story about a circle of people who find solace in the least likely of places as they cope with a horrific tragedy.

On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor. Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

Did You Ever Have a Family is an absorbing, unforgettable tale that reveals humanity at its best through forgiveness and hope. At its core is a celebration of family—the ones we are born with and the ones we create. Amazon summary


Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his acclaimed novel about North Korea, The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson is one of America’s most provocative and powerful authors. Critics have compared him to Kurt Vonnegut, David Mitchell, and George Saunders, but Johnson’s new book will only further his reputation as one of our most original writers. Subtly surreal, darkly comic, both hilarious and heartbreaking, Fortune Smiles is a major collection of stories that gives voice to the perspectives we don’t often hear, while offering something rare in fiction: a new way of looking at the world.

In six masterly stories, Johnson delves deep into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal. “Nirvana,” which won the prestigious Sunday Times short story prize, portrays a programmer whose wife has a rare disease finding solace in a digital simulacrum of the president of the United States. In “Hurricanes Anonymous”—first included in the Best American Short Stories anthology—a young man searches for the mother of his son in a Louisiana devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine” follows a former warden of a Stasi prison in East Germany who vehemently denies his past, even as pieces of it are delivered in packages to his door. And in the unforgettable title story, Johnson returns to his signature subject, North Korea, depicting two defectors from Pyongyang who are trying to adapt to their new lives in Seoul, while one cannot forget the woman he left behind.

Unnerving, riveting, and written with a timeless quality, these stories confirm Johnson as one of America’s greatest writers and an indispensable guide to our new century. Amazon


The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.

At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled. Book Browse & Amazon


The Hours Count by Jillain Cantor

In McCarthy-era New York, a mother copes with her mute toddler and brutish husband, but when her neighbors, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, are arrested as spies, she’s thrust into a world of uncertainty in this historical novel. Good Reads

On June 19, 1953, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for conspiring to commit espionage. The day Ethel was first arrested in 1950, she left her two young sons with a neighbor, and she never came home to them again. Brilliantly melding fact and fiction, Jillian Cantor reimagines the life of that neighbor, and the life of Ethel and Julius, an ordinary-seeming Jewish couple who became the only Americans put to death for spying during the Cold War.

A few years earlier, in 1947, Millie Stein moves with her husband, Ed, and their toddler son, David, into an apartment on the eleventh floor in Knickerbocker Village on New York’s Lower East Side. Her new neighbors are the Rosenbergs. Struggling to care for David, who doesn’t speak, and isolated from other “normal” families, Millie meets Jake, a psychologist who says he can help David, and befriends Ethel, also a young mother. Millie and Ethel’s lives as friends, wives, mothers, and neighbors entwine, even as chaos begins to swirl around the Rosenbergs and the FBI closes in. Millie begins to question her own husband’s political loyalty and her marriage, and whether she can trust Jake and the deep connection they have forged as they secretly work with David. Caught between these two men, both of whom have their own agendas, and desperate to help her friends, Millie will find herself drawn into the dramatic course of history.

As Millie—trusting and naive—is thrown into a world of lies, intrigue, spies and counterspies, she realizes she must fight for what she believes, who she loves, and what is right. Amazon


The Incarnations: A Novel by Susan Barker

Hailed by The New York Times for its “wildly ambitious…dazzling use of language” and “mesmerizing storytelling,” The Incarnations is a “brilliant, mind-expanding, and wildly original novel” (Chris Cleave) about a Beijing taxi driver whose past incarnations over one thousand years haunt him through searing letters sent by his mysterious soulmate.

Who are you? you must be wondering. I am your soulmate, your old friend, and I have come back to this city of sixteen million in search of you.

So begins the first letter that falls into Wang’s lap as he flips down the visor in his taxi. The letters that follow are filled with the stories of Wang’s previous lives—from escaping a marriage to a spirit bride, to being a slave on the run from Genghis Khan, to living as a fisherman during the Opium Wars, and being a teenager on the Red Guard during the cultural revolution—bound to his mysterious “soulmate,” spanning one thousand years of betrayal and intrigue. As the letters continue to appear seemingly out of thin air, Wang becomes convinced that someone is watching him—someone who claims to have known him for over one thousand years. And with each letter, Wang feels the watcher growing closer and closer…Seamlessly weaving Chinese folklore, history, and literary classics, The Incarnations is a taut and gripping novel that sheds light on the cyclical nature of history as it hints that the past is never truly settled. Amazon


The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

In their isolated country house, a mother and her two children prepare to wait out a blinding snowstorm. Two violent predators walk through the door. Nothing will ever be the same.

When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper’s isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it’s the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it’s just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done. For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of victims – women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them – has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she’s losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.

But the murders at the Cooper farmhouse didn’t quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena’s ten-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more dangerous than what she’s running from. In this extraordinary, pulse-pounding debut, Saul Black takes us deep into the mind of a psychopath, and into the troubled heart of the woman determined to stop him. Book Browse

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

With more than two million copies of her novels sold, New York Times bestselling author Geraldine Brooks has achieved both popular and critical acclaim. Now, Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected.  We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, andBatsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans. Book Browse & Amazon


The Tears of Black Water by Corben Addison

Daniel and Vanessa Parker are an American success story. He is a Washington, DC, power broker, and she is a physician with a thriving practice. But behind the gilded façade, their marriage is a shambles, and their teenage son, Quentin, is self-destructing. In desperation, Daniel dusts off a long-delayed dream—a sailing trip around the world. Little does he know, the voyage he hopes will save them may destroy them instead.

Half a world away on the lawless coast of Somalia, Ismail Adan Ibrahim is living a life of crime in violation of everything he was raised to believe—except for the love and loyalty driving him to hijack ships for ransom and plot the rescue of his sister, Yasmin, from the man who murdered their father. There is nothing he will not do to save her, even if it means taking innocent lives. Paul Derrick is the FBI’s top hostage negotiator. His twin sister, Megan, is a celebrated defense attorney. They have reached the summit of their careers by savvy, grit, and a secret determination to escape the memory of the day their family died. When Paul is dispatched to handle a hostage crisis at sea, he has no idea how far it will take him and Megan into the past—or the chance it will give them to redeem the future.

Across continents and oceans, through storms and civil wars, the paths of these individuals converge in a single, explosive moment. It is a moment that will test them and break them, but it will also leave behind an unexpected glimmer of hope—that out of the ashes of tragedy and misfortune, the seeds of justice and reconciliation can grow. Amazon review


Two Years, Eight Months and 28 Days by Salman Rushdie

From Salman Rushdie, one of the great writers of our time, comes a spellbinding work of fiction that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story. A lush, richly layered novel in which our world has been plunged into an age of unreason, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a breathtaking achievement and an enduring testament to the power of storytelling.

In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining. Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.

Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights – or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse. Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption. Book Browse


The Witches: Salem 1692 by Sarah Schiff

It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister’s daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death. The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, parents and children each other. Aside from suffrage, the Salem Witch Trials represent the only moment when women played the central role in American history. In curious ways, the trials would shape the future republic.

As psychologically thrilling as it is historically seminal, THE WITCHES is Stacy Schiff’s account of this fantastical story-the first great American mystery unveiled fully for the first time by one of our most acclaimed historians. Amazon

Non Fiction

Clementine: The life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purell

By Winston Churchill’s own admission, victory in the Second World War would have been “impossible without her.” Until now, however, the only existing biography of Churchill’s wife, Clementine, was written by her daughter. Sonia Purnell finally gives Clementine her due with a deeply researched account that tells her life story, revealing how she was instrumental in softening FDR’s initial dislike of her husband and paving the way for Britain’s close relationship with America. It also provides a surprising account of her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and their differing approaches to the war effort.

Born into impecunious aristocracy, the young Clementine was the target of cruel snobbery. Many wondered why Winston married her, but their marriage proved to be an exceptional partnership. Beautiful and intelligent, but driven by her own insecurities, she made his career her mission. Any real consideration of Winston Churchill is incomplete without an understanding of their relationship, and Clementine is both the first real biography of this remarkable woman and a fascinating look inside their private world. Book Browse


Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family – and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared. Book Browse


Rice, Noodle, & Fish: Deep Travels through Japan’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding

An innovative new take on the travel guide, Rice, Noodle, Fish decodes Japan’s extraordinary food culture through a mix of in-depth narrative and insider advice, along with 195 color photographs. In this 5000-mile journey through the noodle shops,tempura temples, and teahouses of Japan, Matt Goulding, co-creator of the enormously popular Eat This, Not That! book series, navigates the intersection between food, history, and culture, creating one of the most ambitious and complete books ever written about Japanese culinary culture from the Western perspective. Amazon


The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

The 1920s are famous as the golden age of jazz and glamour, but it was also an era of fevered yearning for communion with the spirit world, after the loss of tens of millions in the First World War and the Spanish-flu epidemic. A desperate search for reunion with dead loved ones precipitated a tidal wave of self-proclaimed psychics – and, as reputable media sought stories on occult phenomena, mediums became celebrities.

Against this backdrop, in 1924, the pretty wife of a distinguished Boston surgeon came to embody the raging national debate over Spiritualism, a movement devoted to communication with the dead. Reporters dubbed her the blonde Witch of Lime Street, but she was known to her followers simply as Margery. Her most vocal advocate was none other than Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed so thoroughly in Margery’s powers that he urged her to enter a controversial contest, sponsored by Scientific American and offering a large cash prize to the first medium declared authentic by its impressive five-man investigative committee.  Admired for both her exceptional charm and her dazzling effects, Margery was the best hope for the psychic practice to be empirically verified.  Her supernatural gifts beguiled four of the judges. There was only one left to convince…the acclaimed escape artist, Harry Houdini.

David Jaher’s extraordinary debut culminates in the showdown between Houdini, a relentless unmasker of charlatans, and Margery, the nation’s most credible spirit medium. The Witch of Lime Street, the first book to capture their electric public rivalry and the competition that brought them into each other’s orbit, returns us to an oft-mythologized era to deepen our understanding of its history, all while igniting our imagination and engaging with the timeless question: Is there life after death? Book Browse & Amazon


Three Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and their Quest for Oympic Glory by Julie Checkoway

In 1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians. They faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The children were Japanese-American, were malnourished and barefoot and had no pool; they trained in the filthy irrigation ditches that snaked down from the mountains into the sugarcane fields. Their future was in those same fields, working alongside their parents in virtual slavery, known not by their names but by numbered tags that hung around their necks. Their teacher, Soichi Sakamoto, was an ordinary man whose swimming ability didn’t extend much beyond treading water.

In spite of everything, including the virulent anti-Japanese sentiment of the late 1930s, in their first year the children outraced Olympic athletes twice their size; in their second year, they were national and international champs, shattering American and world records and making headlines from L.A. to Nazi Germany. In their third year, they’d be declared the greatest swimmers in the world, but they’d also face their greatest obstacle: the dawning of a world war and the cancellation of the Games. Still, on the battlefield, they’d become the 20th century’s most celebrated heroes, and in 1948, they’d have one last chance for Olympic glory. Amazon


Zero Night: The Untold Story of WWII’s Greatest Escape by Mark Felton

On August 30, 1942 – ‘Zero Night’ – 40 Allied officers staged the most audacious mass escape of World War II. Months of meticulous planning and secret training hung in the balance during three minutes of mayhem as the officers boldly stormed the huge double fences at Oflag Prison. Employing wooden ladders and bridges previously disguised as bookshelves, the highly coordinated effort succeeded and set 36 men free into the German countryside. Later known as the ‘Warburg Wire Job’, fellow prisoner and fighter ace Douglas Bader once described the attempt as ‘the most brilliant escape conception of this war’.

The first author to tackle this remarkable story in detail, historian Mark Felton brilliantly evokes the suspense of the escape and the adventures of those escapees who managed to elude the Germans, as well as the courage of the civilians who risked their lives to help them in enemy territory. Fantastically intimate and told with a novelist’s eye for drama and detail, this rip-roaring adventure is all the more thrilling because it really happened. Book Browse

Young Adult


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters. Book Browse


Need by Charbonneau

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature. Amazon



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All summaries are by Amazon, Book Browse, Good Reads or me!










2015 Summer Book Recommendations

2015 Summer Book Recommendations


A Head of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil. Summary from Amazon.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

This ambitious hard SF epic shows Robinson (Shaman) at the top of his game. Freya and her parents live aboard a starship that has traveled for generations and will soon reach Tau Ceti, a star about 12 light years from Earth’s solar system. Freya’s mother, Devi, is the de facto chief engineer, struggling to keep the ship’s environment balanced until they reach a new world and, they hope, survive on it. But ecologies are delicate, resources are limited, and the laws of physics are immutable. Over the course of Freya’s life, her community faces genuinely surprising struggles for survival, leading Freya to wonder whether it is too late to reconsider a question initially decided millions of miles away and centuries ago: should this ship have been launched in the first place? As always, Robinson is at his best when dealing with large populations, scientific questions, and logistics, and the very human characters are more than afterthoughts. Even an occasional lapse into preaching about the philosophical problems with space exploration can’t mar this poignant story, which admirably stretches the limits of human imagination. (July) Publishers Weekly (3/30/15)

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.

Thrilling, suspenseful and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees gives us a dazzling young heroine and will change forever the way you look at the world outside your window. Summary from Amazon

The Book Of Speculation by Erika Swyler

“Dear Mr. Watson, I came across this book at auction as part of a larger lot I purchased on speculation. The damage renders it useless to me, but a name inside it – Verona Bonn – led me to believe it might be of interest to you or your family….” 

Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home – a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls.

On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm. Why does his grandmother’s name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family – and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her – and perhaps himself – Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past.

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic. Summary by Book Browse

Circling the Sun by Paula Mclain

Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. 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, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

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. Summary by Amazon

Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

In the tradition of The Girl on the Train comes the UK bestseller THE ICE TWINS, a terrifying psychological thriller with a twisting plot worthy of Gillian Flynn.

One of Sarah’s daughters died. But can she be sure which one?

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity–that she, in fact, is Lydia–their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, they are forced to confront what really happened on that fateful day. Summary from Amazon

In the Country by Mia Alvar

These nine globe-trotting, unforgettable stories from Mia Alvar, a remarkable new literary talent, vividly give voice to the women and men of the Filipino diaspora. Here are exiles, emigrants, and wanderers uprooting their families from the Philippines to begin new lives in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere—and, sometimes, turning back again.

A pharmacist living in New York smuggles drugs to his ailing father in Manila, only to discover alarming truths about his family and his past. In Bahrain, a Filipina teacher drawn to a special pupil finds, to her surprise, that she is questioning her own marriage. A college student leans on her brother, a laborer in Saudi Arabia, to support her writing ambitions, without realizing that his is the life truly made for fiction. And in the title story, a journalist and a nurse face an unspeakable trauma amidst the political turmoil of the Philippines in the 1970s and ’80s.

In the Country speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever searched for a place to call home. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar’s powerful debut collection explores the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined. Deeply compassionate and richly felt, In the Country marks the emergence of a formidable new writer.

The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock

“Harrison sat very still. On the screen was the surface of the moon.”

Jim Harrison is a test pilot in the United States Air Force, one of the exalted few. He spends his days cheating death in the skies above the Mojave Desert and his nights at his friend Pancho’s bar, often with his wife, Grace. She and Harrison are secretly desperate for a child-and when, against all odds, Grace learns that she is pregnant, the two are overcome with joy.

While America becomes swept up in the fervor of the Space Race, Harrison turns his attention home, passing up the chance to become an astronaut to welcome his daughter, Florence, into the world. Together, he and Grace confront the thrills and challenges of raising a child head-on. Fatherhood is different than flying planes-less controlled, more anxious-however the pleasures of watching Florence grow are incomparable. But when his family is faced with a sudden and inexplicable tragedy, Harrison’s instincts as a father and a pilot are put to test. As a pilot, he feels compelled to lead them through it-and as a father, he fears that he has fallen short.

The aftermath will haunt the Harrisons and strain their marriage as Jim struggles under the weight of his decisions. Beginning when the dust of the Second World War has only just begun to settle and rushing onward into the Sixties, Benjamin Johncock traces the path of this young couple as they are uprooted by events much larger than themselves. The turns the Harrisons take together are at once astonishing and recognizable; their journey, both frightening and full of hope. Set against the backdrop of one of the most emotionally charged periods in American history, The Last Pilot is a mesmerizing debut novel of loss and finding courage in the face of it from an extraordinary Summary by Amazon

The Mapmakers Children by Sarah McCoy

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way. Summary by Amazon

The Mountain Story: A Novel by Lori Hansen

Four lost hikers are about to discover they’re capable of something extraordinary.

Nola has gone up the mountain to commemorate her wedding anniversary, the first since her beloved husband passed. Blonde, stick-thin Bridget is training for a triathlon. Vonn is working out her teenage rebellion at eight thousand feet, driven by family obligation and the urge to escape her mistakes. Still reeling from the tragic accident that robbed him of his best friend, Wolf Truly is the only experienced hiker among them, but he has come to the cliffs on his eighteenth birthday without food or supplies because he plans to take his own life.

When a series of missteps strands this unusual group together in the wilderness, they soon realize that their only defense against the brutality of nature is one another. As one day without rescue spirals dramatically into the next, and misadventure turns to nightmare, these four broken souls begin to form an inextricable bond, pushing themselves and one another further than they ever could have dreamed possible. The three who make it home alive will be forever changed by their harrowing days on the mountain.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Girls, The Mountain Story is a fast-paced, suspenseful adventure and a gorgeous tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. Braving a landscape both unforgivingly harsh and breathtakingly beautiful, Nola, Bridget, Vonn, and Wolf find themselves faced with an impossible question: How much will they sacrifice for a stranger?  Summary by Book Browse

Our Souls at Night: A Novel by Kent Haruf

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. The neighbors do something together that sets the neighbors of the small town gossip about …but it doesn’t stop their deep conversations and chastely slumber at night. Amazon & Powell’s Books (Mark Ingraham) Portland, OR.

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

Set against dramatic Mediterranean Sea views and lush olive groves, The Rocks opens with a confrontation and a secret: What was the mysterious, catastrophic event that drove two honeymooners apart so suddenly and absolutely in 1948 that they never spoke again despite living on the same island for sixty more years? And how did their history shape the Romeo and Juliet–like romance of their (unrelated) children decades later? Centered around a popular seaside resort club and its community, The Rocks is a double love story that begins with a mystery, then moves backward in time, era by era, to unravel what really happened decades earlier.

Peter Nichols writes with a pervading, soulful wisdom and self-knowing humor, and captures perfectly this world of glamorous, complicated, misbehaving types with all their sophisticated flaws and genuine longing. The result is a bittersweet, intelligent, and romantic novel about how powerful the perceived truth can be—as a bond, and as a barrier—even if it’s not really the whole story; and how one misunderstanding can echo irreparably through decades. Summer reading for sure! Summary from Amazon

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

For fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes comes a riveting family drama with a dark mystery at its core, from the internationally bestselling author of The House We Grew Up In. In the early hours of a summer morning, a young woman steps into the path of an oncoming bus. A tragic accident? Or suicide?

At the center of this puzzle is Adrian Wolfe, a successful architect and grief-stricken widower, who, a year after his third wife’s death, begins to investigate the cause. As Adrian looks back on their brief but seemingly happy marriage, disturbing secrets begin to surface. The divorces from his two previous wives had been amicable, or so it seemed; his children, all five of them, were resilient as ever, or so he thought. But something, or someone, must have pushed Maya over the edge… With psychological nuance that gets into the heart of its characters, The Third Wife is a gripping story about a man seeking the truth behind his seemingly perfect marriage and the broken pieces left behind. Summary by Book Browse

What doesn’t Kill Her by Carla Norton

Reeve LeClaire is a college student, dammit, not Daryl Wayne Flint’s victim. Not anymore – not when Reeve is finally recovering a life of her own after four years of captivity. Flint is safely locked up in Olshaker Psychiatric Hospital, where he belongs. He is walking the grounds of the forensic unit, performing his strange but apparently harmless rituals. It seems that he is still suffering the effects of the head injury he suffered in the car crash that freed Reeve seven years ago. Post-concussive syndrome, they call it.

For all that Flint seems like a model patient, he has long been planning his next move. When the moment arrives, he gets clean away from the hospital before the alarm even sounds. And Reeve is shocked out of her new life by her worst nightmare: Her kidnapper has escaped. Less than 24 hours later, Flint kills someone from his past – and Reeve’s blocked memories jolt back into consciousness. As much as she would like to forget him, she knows this criminal better than anyone else. When Flint evades capture, baffling authorities and leaving a bloody trail from the psychiatric lock-up to the forests of Washington State, Reeve suddenly realizes that she is the only one who can stop him.

Reeve is an irresistibly brave and believable heroine in Carla Norton’s heart-stopping new thriller about a young woman who learns to fight back. Summary from Book Browse

Non Fiction

Daughters of the Samurai by Janice P. Nimura

In 1871, five young girls were sent by the Japanese government to the United States. Their mission: learn Western ways and return to help nurture a new generation of enlightened men to lead Japan.

Raised in traditional samurai households during the turmoil of civil war, three of these unusual ambassadors―Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda―grew up as typical American schoolgirls. Upon their arrival in San Francisco they became celebrities, their travels and traditional clothing exclaimed over by newspapers across the nation. As they learned English and Western customs, their American friends grew to love them for their high spirits and intellectual brilliance.The passionate relationships they formed reveal an intimate world of cross-cultural fascination and connection. Ten years later, they returned to Japan―a land grown foreign to them―determined to revolutionize women’s education.

Based on in-depth archival research in Japan and in the United States, including decades of letters from between the three women and their American host families, Daughters of the Samurai is beautifully, cinematically written, a fascinating lens through which to view an extraordinary historical moment. Summary from Amazon

Joan of Arc by Helen Castor

From the author of the acclaimed She-Wolves, the complex, surprising, and engaging story of one of the most remarkable women of the medieval world – as never told before.

Helen Castor tells afresh the gripping story of the peasant girl from Domremy who hears voices from God, leads the French army to victory, is burned at the stake for heresy, and eventually becomes a saint. But unlike the traditional narrative, a story already shaped by the knowledge of what Joan would become and told in hindsight, Castor’s Joan of Arc: A History takes us back to fifteenth century France and tells the story forwards. Instead of an icon, she gives us a living, breathing woman confronting the challenges of faith and doubt, a roaring girl who, in fighting the English, was also taking sides in a bloody civil war. We meet this extraordinary girl amid the tumultuous events of her extraordinary world where no one – not Joan herself, nor the people around her – princes, bishops, soldiers, or peasants – knew what would happen next.

Adding complexity, depth, and fresh insight into Joan’s life, and placing her actions in the context of the larger political and religious conflicts of fifteenth century France, Joan of Arc: A History is history at its finest and a surprising new portrait of this remarkable woman. Summary from Book Browse

Missoula: Rape and Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team the Grizzlies with a rabid fan base.

The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical. In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.

Some of them went to the police. Some declined to go to the police, or to press charges, but sought redress from the university, which has its own, non-criminal judicial process when a student is accused of rape. In two cases the police agreed to press charges and the district attorney agreed to prosecute. One case led to a conviction; one to an acquittal. Those women courageous enough to press charges or to speak publicly about their experiences were attacked in the media, on Grizzly football fan sites, and/or to their faces. The university expelled three of the accused rapists, but one was reinstated by state officials in a secret proceeding. One district attorney testified for an alleged rapist at his university hearing. She later left the prosecutor’s office and successfully defended the Grizzlies’ star quarterback in his rape trial. The horror of being raped, in each woman’s case, was magnified by the mechanics of the justice system and the reaction of the community.

Krakauer’s dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these women endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. College-age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken. Summary from Amazon

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee

The acclaimed biographer of Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf gives us an intimate portrait of one of the most quietly brilliant novelists of the twentieth century. Penelope Fitzgerald was a great English writer whose career didn’t begin until she was nearly sixty. She would go on to win some of the most coveted awards in literature—the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Now, in an impeccable match of talent between biographer and subject, Hermione Lee, a master biographer and one of Fitzgerald’s greatest champions, gives us this remarkable writer’s story. Lee’s critical expertise is on dazzling display on every page, as it illuminates this extraordinary English life. Fitzgerald, born into an accomplished intellectual family, the granddaughter of two bishops, led a life marked by dramatic twists of fate, moving from a bishop’s palace to a sinking houseboat to a last, late blaze of renown. We see Fitzgerald’s very English childhood in the village of Hampstead; her Oxford years, when she was known as the “blonde bombshell”; her impoverished adulthood as a struggling wife, mother and schoolteacher, raising a family in difficult circumstances; and the long-delayed start to her literary career.

Fitzgerald’s early novels draw on her own experiences—working at the BBC in wartime, at a bookshop in Suffolk, at an eccentric stage school in the 1960s—while her later books open out into historical worlds that she, magically, seems to entirely possess: Russia before the Revolution, postwar Italy, Germany in the time of the Romantic writer Novalis. Fitzgerald’s novels are short, spare masterpieces, and Hermione Lee unfurls them here as works of genius. Expertly researched, written out of love and admiration for this wonderful author’s work, Penelope Fitzgerald is literary biography at its finest—an unforgettable story of lateness, persistence and survival. Amazon

On the Move by Oliver Sachs

When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: “Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.” It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California, where he struggled with drug addiction, and then in New York, where he discovered a long-forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, we see how his engagement with patients comes to define his life.

With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions—weight lifting and swimming—also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists—Thom Gunn, A. R. Luria, W. H. Auden, Gerald M. Edelman, Francis Crick—who influenced him. On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer—and of the man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human.

The Pirate Hunters by Kurson

Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men – John Chatterton and John Mattera – are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister’s exploits would have been more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s, but his story, and his ship, have been lost to time.

If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history – it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate’s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates – like Bannister – that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.

Fast-paced and filled with suspense, fascinating characters, history, and adventure, Pirate Hunters is an unputdownable story that goes deep to discover truths and souls long believed lost. Summary by Book Browse

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

Sy Montgomery’s popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep Intellect,” about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think?

The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds. Summary from Amazon

Spinster by Kate Bolick

“Whom to marry, and when will it happen – these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she – along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing – remains unmarried.

This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless – the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

Intellectually substantial and deeply personal, Spinster is both an unreservedly inquisitive memoir and a broader cultural exploration that asks us to acknowledge the opportunities within ourselves to live authentically. Bolick offers us a way back into our own lives – a chance to see those splendid years when we were young and unencumbered, or middle-aged and finally left to our own devices, for what they really are: unbounded and our own to savor. Summary from Book Browse

Without You There Is No Us by Kim Kovacs

Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields – except for the 270 students at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has accepted a job teaching English. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them to write, all under the watchful eye of the regime.

Life at PUST is lonely and claustrophobic, especially for Suki, whose letters are read by censors and who must hide her notes and photographs not only from her minders but from her colleagues – evangelical Christian missionaries who don’t know or choose to ignore that Suki doesn’t share their faith. She is mystified by how easily her students lie, unnerved by their obedience to the regime. To them, everything in North Korea is the best, the tallest, the most delicious, the envy of all nations. Still, she cannot help but love them – their boyish enthusiasm, their eagerness to please, the flashes of curiosity that have not yet been extinguished.

As the weeks pass, she begins to hint at the existence of a world beyond their own – at such exotic activities as surfing the Internet or traveling freely and, more dangerously, at electoral democracy and other ideas forbidden in a country where defectors risk torture and execution. The students in turn offer Suki tantalizing glimpses into their lives, from their thoughts on how to impress girls to their disappointment that soccer games are only televised when the North Korean team wins. Then Kim Jong-il dies, leaving the students devastated, and leading Suki to question whether the gulf between her world and theirs can ever be bridged.

Without You, There Is No Us offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world’s most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls “soldiers and slaves. Summary Book Browse

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