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Hot Reads July

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running. Suddenly, mother and son are as trapped as the animals. Joan’s intimate knowledge of this place that filled early motherhood with happy diversions—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines—is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger. A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?     The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple—young, beautiful, successful, and in love. But after receiving an odd gift at their wedding, they find themselves initiated into a mysterious organization known as The Pact. The goal of The Marriage Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And some of the rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls, plan a trip together once per quarter, exchange thoughtful gifts regularly. But other rules—and their methods of enforcement—prove to be far more terrifying. What follows is a relentlessly paced tale of deception, unfaithfulness, and duplicity in which the twists and turns just keep [...]

Hot Reads April

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later. Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name. Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?   Miss You by Kate Eberlen “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Tess can’t get the motto from her mother’s kitchen knick-knack out of her head, even though she’s in Florence on an idyllic vacation before starting university in London. Gus is also visiting Florence, on a holiday with his parents seven months after tragedy shattered their lives. Headed to medical [...]

Hot Reads March

The Gargoyle Hunters by John Freeman Gill In 1974, with both his family and his city fracturing, thirteen-year-old Griffin Watts is recruited into his estranged father's illicit and dangerous architectural salvage business. Small and nimible, Griffin is charged with stealing exuberantly expressive 19th-century architectural sculptures-- gargoyles--right off the faces of unsung tenements and iconic skyscrapers all over town. As his father explains it, these gargoyles, carved and cast by immigrant craftsmen during the city's architectural glory days, are an endangered species, hundreds of them consigned each month to the landfill in an era of sweeping urban renewal. Desperate both to forge a connection with his father and to generate income from gargoyle sales so that his father can make the mortgage payments on the brownstone where Griffin lives with his mother and sister, he is slow to recognize that his father's deepening obsession with preserving the architectural treasures of Beaux Arts New York is also a destructive force, imperiling Griffin's friendships, his relationship with his very first girlfriend, and even his life. As his father grows increasingly possessive of Griffin's mother as well as of the lost city, Griffin must learn how to build himself into the person he wants to become and discover which parts of his life can be salvaged-- and which must be let go. Maybe loss, he reflects, is the only thing no one can ever take away from you.   The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she goes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact [...]

Hot Reads February

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle Jeremy works at the counter of Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It’s a small town—the first “a” in the name is pronounced ay—smack in the center of the state. This is the late 1990s, pre-DVD, and the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut. But there are regular customers, a predictable rush in the late afternoon. It’s good enough for Jeremy: It’s a job; it’s quiet and regular; he gets to watch movies; he likes the owner, Sarah Jane; it gets him out of the house, where he and his dad try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck. But when Stephanie Parsons, a local schoolteacher, comes in to return her copy of Targets, starring Boris Karloff—an old movie, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store—she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, Lindsey Redinius brings back She’s All That, a new release, and complains that there’s something wrong with it: “There’s another movie on this tape.” So Jeremy takes a look. And indeed, in the middle of the movie the screen blinks dark for a moment and She’s All That is replaced by a black-and-white scene, shot in a barn, with only the faint sounds of someone breathing. Four minutes later, She’s All That is back. But there is something profoundly disturbing about that scene; Jeremy’s compelled to watch it three or four times. The scenes recorded onto Targets are similar, undoubtedly created by the same hand. Creepy. And the barn looks a lot like a barn just outside of town. Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious. In truth, [...]

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Hot New Reads – May 2016

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring. Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed. Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.   Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet Lydia Millet’s chilling new novel is the first-person account of a young mother, Anna, escaping her cold and unfaithful husband, a businessman who’s just launched his first campaign for political office. When Ned chases Anna and their six-year-old daughter from Alaska to Maine, the two go into hiding [...]

Hot New Reads – April 2016

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom The author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House continues the story of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, whose deadly secret compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad. Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over. This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline. Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in [...]

Hot New Reads – March 2016

Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik Death sets the plot in motion: the murder of Nica Baker, beautiful, wild, enigmatic, and only sixteen. The crime is solved, and fast—a lonely classmate, unrequited love, a suicide-note confession—but memory and instinct won’t allow Nica’s older sister Grace to accept the case as closed. Dropped out of college and living at home, working at the moneyed and progressive private high school from which she recently graduated, Grace becomes increasingly obsessed with identifying and punishing the real killer. Compulsively readable, Lili Anolik’s debut novel combines the haunting atmospherics of The Secret History and the hairpin plot twists of Megan Abbott’s Dare Me.     Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement.  Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess. Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, [...]

Hot New Reads – February 2016

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf Sarah Quinlan's husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded. Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia's accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack's past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.   Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhorn On the evening of May 3, 1937, Emilie Imhof boards the Hindenburg. As the only female crewmember, Emilie has access to the entire airship, from the lavish dining rooms and passenger suites to the gritty engine cars and control room. She hears everything, but with rumors circulating about bomb threats, Emilie’s focus is on maintaining a professional air…and keeping her own plans under wraps. What Emilie can’t see is that everyone—from the dynamic vaudeville acrobat to the high-standing German officer—seems to be hiding something. Giving free rein to countless [...]

Hot New Reads – January 2016

Fallen Land by Taylor Brown Fallen Land is Taylor Brown's debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward. Callum, a seasoned horse thief at fifteen years old, came to America from his native Ireland as an orphan. Ava, her father and brother lost to the war, hides in her crumbling home until Callum determines to rescue her from the bands of hungry soldiers pillaging the land, leaving destruction in their wake. Ava and Callum have only each other in the world and their remarkable horse, Reiver, who carries them through the destruction that is the South. Pursued relentlessly by a murderous slave hunter, tracking dogs, and ruthless ex-partisan rangers, the couple race through a beautiful but ruined land, surviving on food they steal from abandoned farms and the occasional kindness of strangers. In the end, as they intersect with the scorching destruction of Sherman's March, the couple seek a safe haven where they can make a home and begin to rebuild their lives.   Travelers Rest by Keith Lee Morris A chilling fable about a family marooned in a snowbound town whose grievous history intrudes on the dreamlike present. The Addisons-Julia and Tonio, ten-year-old Dewey, and derelict Uncle Robbie-are driving home, cross-country, after collecting Robbie from yet another trip to rehab. When a terrifying blizzard strikes outside the town of Good Night, Idaho, they seek refuge in the town at the Travelers Rest, a formerly opulent but now crumbling and eerie hotel where the physical laws of the universe are bent. Once inside the hotel, the family is separated. As Julia and Tonio drift through the [...]

Hot New Reads – November 2015

Hot Reads November 2015 Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew Tannie Maria (Tannie meaning Auntie, the respectful Afrikaans address for a woman older than you) is a middle-aged widow who likes to cook—and eat. She shares her culinary love as a recipe columnist for the local paper—until The Gazette decides its readers are hungrier for advice on matters of the heart rather than ideas for lunch and dinner. Tannie Maria doesn’t like the change, but soon discovers she has a knack—and a passion—for helping people. Of course she shares her recipes and culinary advice whenever she can! Assisting other people with their problems, Tannie Maria is eventually forced to face her own issues, especially when the troubles of those she helps touch on the pain of her past, like a woman desperate to escape her abusive husband. When the woman is murdered, Tannie Maria becomes dangerously entwined in the investigation, despite the best efforts of one striking detective determined to keep her safe. Suddenly, this practical, down-to-earth woman is involved in something much more sinister than perfecting her chocolate cake recipe . . . The Grownup by Gillian Flynn A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the psychic visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan's terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in [...]