Tag Archives: Adult Fiction

Girl in Disguise

Girl in Disguise by Greer MacAllister is a novel about the first female Pinkerton agent, Kate Warne, whose real life is almost stranger than fiction. I first discovered Kate in a Netflix show called the Pinkerton’s. I did the proper library assistant thing and researched her. Not only was she  the first female Pinkerton detective she also lead the women’s detective bureau part of the agency. Not much is known about her before she become a Pinkerton agent, leaving both historians and novelist alike to wonder who Kate Warne was.

Greer MacAllister breathes life into her own version of Kate’s history before she becomes a Pinkerton agent. The novel sucked me into the story and Kate’s world from the first chapter. It  begins in 1856 and continues through the Civil War but ends soon after the Civil War. Greer gives her own spin to a few of Kate’s actual cases as a Pinkerton, including cases that may or may not have been real. One of the most nerve racking and nail biting parts of the book  is her working to get Lincoln to Washington without him being killed before being sworn in as President. This is based on Kate’s most famous case as a Pinkerton.

It’s hard to put Girl in Disguise into a genre category even though the library had it classified as general fiction. To me it is a bit of biographical fiction and historical fiction with a bit of mystery thrown in. Fans of historical fiction, mystery, biographical fiction, detective fiction will enjoy this book. Kate Warne proves that sometimes life can be more mysterious than fiction.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Perception Versus Reality: a review of The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus

Perception versus reality – how often are the two completely unrelated?  Throughout the years, numerous authors, philosophers, poets, and others have attempted to explore this question.  Mr. Henry James, that behemoth in the firmament of American literature, employed, for example, his novels to aid in developing within the reader the ability to move past perception and into reality.

In the words of Betty Suchar at a presentation before the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (Henry James’ “Portrait of a Lady,” 2013):

“James believed that the skill the author possessed in composing the various scenarios played out in the character’s mind had the potential to assist intelligent readers in the complicated challenge of understanding human relationships and in developing their ability to rehearse options in their own mind before making decisions. Since motives are often hidden or misleading, readers could sharpen their ability to interpret human nature only if his novels were ambiguous.”

Now, what has this to do with the debut novel, The Unfortunates authored by Sophie McManus, you may ask, about which this review was to focus?  Well, I believe that Ms. McManus has aptly succeeded in giving the reader characters who, on first meeting, leave a very particular impression.  Cece and her son, George, heirs to a great robber baron fortune, seem cultivated, polished, and self-assured.  But once again, it is what lies beneath, hidden from sight, that is most important, and as the novel progresses, Ms. McManus begins to provide subtle hints that, when upon close inspection, there are actually cracks in the marble and all that glitters is most decidedly not gold.

This strong debut novel draws realistic characters who lead lives of quiet desperation, a desperation that slowly becomes visible as subtle hints become more pronounced when failures and tragedies are no longer avoidable and must then be faced.  And small decisions of the past, seemingly insignificant when taken on their own, rise from that past and merge to create unforeseen disasters.  Or were they foreseeable?  Decisions of her past, in Cece’s parlance, constitute “the unfortunates.”  Ah, the euphemism is such a useful tool in that wonderfully human game of self deception.

“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.” 

“History isn’t the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious or defeated.”  — Julian Barnes, A Sense of an Ending

Formats Available:  Book, eBook

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

 

For all the troublesome women out there…

Danielle Abbott has always been obsessed with the Drowning Pool. An area of her town’s river that has taken numerous women’s lives, including now, her own. Was it an accident? Suicide? Or something more?

Danielle had many enemies and she has left behind an angry teenage daughter who is harboring dark secrets from her best friend’s earlier drowning. Hawkins weaves together the secrets of the town and deaths as each chapter takes the voice of a different character and their viewpoint and involvement. Into the Water had me hypnotized and kept me guessing until the very end and even then I didn’t get it right! Hawkins is quickly becoming a master of psychological suspense.

I felt notes of magical realism peppered throughout the mystery. The way the Drowning Pool pulls you in and swept away so many women’s lives is eerie and otherworldly. Hawkins is particularly adept at capturing the way the past holds on to us and just how deceiving and destructive memories can be.

Just as addicting as Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins has a diehard fan in this librarian.

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

GodPretty in the Tobacco Fields

The loss of her parents was a tragedy for RubyLyn Bishop. Even worse in her mind, she was shuffled off to live with her Uncle Gunnar in the small rural town of Nameless, Kentucky. For RubyLyn life in Nameless brings changes and challenges from the people who watch and gossip about her.

She must work in the tobacco fields to help support the small farm on which she and her uncle live. Memories of the past and a small scrape of tobacco paper are all RubyLyn has left of happier times with her parents. When her spirits need a bit of a lift, she sometimes folds the scrap of paper into a fun way to tell her fortune, a practice that Uncle Gunnar doesn’t approve.

Surprisingly, RubyLyn finds growing tobacco is something that comes naturally to her. There’s a sense of peace, a solace in working the land and plants, especially when a close neighbor, Rainey Ford, takes an interest. He is easy to talk with and friendly. It isn’t long before she finds herself caring a good deal about him, but there is a problem, he is African-American and she is white. In the 1960’s South, close friendships like theirs were frowned upon and could cause serious problems for them.

Then there is Rose, an older woman and neighbor, who becomes someone that RubyLyn can depend on and talk with when she needs someone. Rose encourages RubyLyn to enter her tobacco plant in the State Fair competition. It may be just the push she needs to realize there is a larger world around her and that she can decide for herself where her future should lie.

Born and raised in central Kentucky, this book drew me in right away. In it, I found an opportunity to spend a short time in the Appalachian area. If you’ve ever wondered what small town life might be like, especially in our turbulent past, this is a book you should take time to sit with. In my opinion, Kim Michele Richardson takes the reader on a journey back in time, using her words to paint pictures of small town life with characters you will come to care about and for whom you can root. It is a realistic portrayal, where life doesn’t always end the way you want it to, where when one road ends another will begin.

Later this year, Ms. Richardson will release a new novel entitled The Sisters of Glass Ferry. For more information about this budding author check out her website.

 

 

Formats Available:  Regular Type, Book Kit

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

After simmering on this book for a couple of weeks now, I’m changing my original 4 stars to a 2 ½ stars.

Ruth Jefferson is a Labor and Delivery nurse in Connecticut. She has worked more than twenty years in this field. For all intents and purposes, she is good at what she does.

One morning, she meets Davis Bauer, a beautiful baby boy. As she is giving him his newborn checkup, she senses something off with the parents. When she hands the baby back to his mother, his father requests to see her manager. When her manager returns from meeting with the new baby’s parents, Ruth is made aware that she is no longer allowed to work on their case.

You see, Ruth is African-American and the Bauer’s are white supremacists. What happens later is both sad and eye opening. After a sudden turn of events, the Bauer’s baby dies and Ruth is put on trial for his murder.

As I delved more into this book, it felt more like racism was on trial. This woman, who was simply doing her job, was thrown to the wolves by her employer because they knew that the parents wanted blood. It made me angry and it also made me very sad.

Small Great Things is told from the points of view of Ruth Jefferson, Turk Bauer and Ruth’s lawyer, Kennedy McQuarrie. I can completely relate to Ruth. I, too, am an African-American woman, raising a teenage son, albeit with my husband, in a time when it’s not very easy to be an African-American. Especially when it feels like our sons are targets for all types of things. I, like Ruth, have raised my son with integrity and the knowledge that he can be anything that he wants to be as long as he puts in the work. I, like Ruth, just want to prove that I can do my job just as well as anyone else.

When I started to read the words of Turk Bauer, my stomach clenched up in metaphorical knots. I wanted to vomit. I felt pent up rage and anger coursing through my blood. His words were vile and spoken with vitriol and I hated him instantly. I wanted to hate Jodi Picoult, too, because she had written these words for this character. I also know that, in order to be a great writer, you have to be able to draw out your reader’s emotions. She did just that.

I don’t even want to call Turk a man because he acted like an animal. He was out for revenge and the driving factor was the color of Ruth’s skin. Although I knew that he wasn’t real, he was a caricature of people that we all know exist.

Kennedy McQuarrie was also a character that I don’t know if I liked or just tolerated. She existed in her own world with her physician husband and outspoken young daughter. Until she met Ruth, her main thought was that she didn’t see color. Her character seemed to be one that was added for readers who may not like the content of Ms. Picoult’s new book yet would find comfort in reading about someone that was just like them. She is that person that insists they aren’t racist.

The more I read about race and how it pertained to the plight that Ruth Jefferson was going through, the more that I realized that the color of my skin is more than just a color. It symbolizes who I am in this country, in this state, in this city, in my life. This book brought out so many emotions that I didn’t really understand that I had. I felt anger at times and I wanted to punch Turk Bauer in the throat with all that I had. I also felt helpless and very sad. Most of all, I felt hurt.

The more I read this book, I became a little bit more perturbed and questioned the author’s motives. Like The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, Ms. Picoult has taken to writing a book from the viewpoint of an African-American woman, even though she is white. What bothers me about books like this are, although they are written well, if you have not had the African-American experience, how can you portray it as though you have? When you leave your pen and paper behind, you are able to settle back into your privilege and reap the benefits of it.

Like Ms. Stockett, Jodi Picoult is set to make money from the movie about this book. A book about experiences that she has never had. A book off the back of a fictional, African-American character with real world problems.

Picoult says, in an interview that she did with NPR’s Scott Simon, that she has wanted to write a book on race relations for about twenty years. Why did she wait until now, when so many things are happening with regards to race, to cash in on this movement? Maybe that is what bothers me the most.

I implore you to read the book. Maybe I read too much into it and am completely absorbed by my feelings about it. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll give it a 3.

Formats Available:  Regular Type, Large Type, eBook, Audiobook

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

whataliceforgotWhen Alice Love wakes up on the cold gym floor, she’s astonished at her surroundings. What in the world is she doing at the gym? She doesn’t even like the gym. What about her unborn child? She’s worried that something has happened. It is only when she reaches the hospital that she realizes that not only is she not twenty-nine years old and pregnant, she’s actually thirty-nine years old with three children that she doesn’t remember. What happens next is Alice coming to the realization that she has not become the woman that she thought she would be in the ten years that she is missing.

I will be completely honest and tell you that it took me a while to get into the story. I read so many books for children, so when I actually read a book written for adults, it takes a while for my mind to switch over from kittens and puppies to adult emotions and feelings. The story takes place in Sydney, Australia and as I listened to it, I was drawn into the lyrical voice of the narrator. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I suddenly lost ten years of my life. What type of person would I have been? I can barely remember ten minutes ago, let alone ten years.

Alice believes that she is currently pregnant with her first child and doesn’t really believe the doctors when they say that this isn’t true. She is even thrown off by the way her sister, Elizabeth, treats her. After all, she thinks its ten years before, when she and her sister had a wonderful relationship.

I’m absolutely enthralled by this book. I don’t know if it was the thought of having to start fresh on your own, when others know what you have done but you can’t seem to remember. I was very fascinated with Alice and how she kept on chugging along. Ms. Moriarty has written several books and it usually takes me a while to start to like any of the characters but this one was one I couldn’t wait to continue. Once I was able to get into the story, I wanted it to continue. This is one you won’t want to miss. Check it out.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular and Large Type), eBook, Audiobook (CD and Downloadable), Foreign Language Book (Spanish)

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

When you think of Southern Fiction what comes to your mind?  To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone With The Wind, A Time to Kill, and All Over But the Shoutin’ are just a few of the titles, many of which were adapted for film.

Southern Literature as a genre has been with us for well over 175 years but in recent years we have seen several well written authors taking up their pens to depict a South plagued with problems.  These stories still draw many readers, even if only for the familiar surroundings.

Numerous websites such as BookRiot.com, have published reading lists for readers looking to read more of this fictional genre.  Below is a review of one such, the recent novel by Brian Panowich.  It won the 2016 Thriller Award for Best First Novel, presented by the International Thriller Writers organization.

bullmountain

Bull Mountain delves into the mysteries and life styles of a Southern town.  It is a place where characters abound and suspense creeps along the pages, ending in a way that may well surprise you.  In this gripping, hard edged tale of murder, abuse, drugs, and alcohol, you meet the Burroughs family, a clan that traffics in drug and moonshine.  While running the roads of Georgia, the Burroughs cross paths with the motorcycle gang known as the “Jacksonville Jackals.”

1950’s

The morning is cool in Bull Mountain, Georgia as three men, a young man, his father and his uncle, step into the woods hunting for deer.  It will be the young man’s first deer.  The father instructs his son to take a shot as the deer comes within sight.  A loud shot rings out.  The deer falls.  At that same instant, the young man/boy hears another shot next to him.  As he looks towards the other two, he sees his uncle unmoving, lying on the ground.  “Deddy” had taken deliberate aim at his brother for own form of justice/revenge.

Present Day

Even though his genealogy has past ties to trafficking crimes, Clayton is the one member of the Burroughs clan that has decided to sit on the right side of the law.  Wanting to curtail the illegal business of drug and alcohol trafficking in his home town, he becomes the town sheriff.  But trouble comes for Clayton and his family in the form of a revenuer, Special Agent Simon Holly from the A.T.F. (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms).  Agent Holly wants to see Clayton in regards to his older brother who is running drugs all around the Bull Mountain community.  In order to protect his family Clayton will now have to stop looking the other way, putting an end to the trafficking trade in his both his town and Jacksonville.

There is a great deal going in this tale, digging into the choices people make out of loyalty and family ties.  The author shows the determination and grit of those behind the trafficking drugs and moonshine, and that of the gangs in competition.  Alternating chapters, between past and present, as well as shifting between Sherriff Clayton and Agent Holly as narrator, you are kept on the edge of your seat.

Formats Available:  Audiobook, e-Book, Large Type, Regular Type

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

Fox and O’Hare Series by Janet Evanovich

foxohare

Fox and O’Hare is one of the newest series by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. This is series is a cross between White Collar and Leverage. Nick is the Fox of the team as well as the con artist that’s been caught by the FBI. Kate is the O’Hare of the team and the agent that catches Nick, hence the similarities to White Collar. The Leverage part deals with the rag tag team of “specialists” that Kate and Nick hire to help them carry out the cons, conning other con artists. It’s a deal that Nick made to stay out of jail.

Each member of the team added gets weirder than the last. There’s a crazy former waitress who was apparently was a NASCAR driver in another life. There’s also an architect, an engineer, and a computer guy, as well as an out of work actor. The group rounds itself out with Kate’s retired military father who likes to pretend he’s not really retired. Instead he spends his free time helping Kate out and bringing his military buddies along on some of the cons, most of which are as crazy as he is.

The premise of the Fox and O’Hare series is that it takes a con artist to catch a con artist. But it also takes an FBI agent to keep said con artist in line. So Kate’s got to work with Nick and she just doesn’t want to. As an FBI agent she’s used to putting guys like Nick in jail, not being partnered with them. However, it’s a secret partnership and if they are caught during one of their cons they are on their own, they get no help from the FBI what so ever. Nick will be in prison and Kate – if she’s lucky – will only lose her job.  If she’s not she will also be in a federal prison.

The Fox and O’Hare series is different from Evanovich’s previous series but it still has her trademark humor, wit, and writing style.  The Heist is the first book, check it out to see if you like it.

The library has all five books that have been published so far.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print), Large Type, and Audiobook

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies is a dazzling novel, its people and prose are alive from page one. At once intimate and sweeping, this is the story of a marriage of parallel myths.”  – Jess Walters, author of Beautiful Ruins

I enjoy literary fiction, I do. I admire writers who play with language and skillfully take ordinary circumstances and create extraordinary, enviable moments where the reader is lost in the novel’s world. Lauren Groff has written such a novel. Her third novel, Fates and Furies, examines a marriage of a dynamic couple as they navigate their way through the peaks and valleys of their relationship, and it is magical.

Fates and Furies is a dazzling novel, its people and prose are alive from page one. At once intimate and sweeping, this is the story of a marriage of parallel myths.”  – Jess Walters, author of Beautiful Ruins

fatesandfuries

It is a sweeping epic, a true bildungsroman where the life of its golden hero, Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwaite is laid bare in illustrious detail. His story, his viewpoint, his rose-colored perspective is glorified in “Fates,” and “Furies” illuminates his enigmatic, reserved wife, Matilde (or Aurelie as she is known in childhood). Their relationship is the definition of opposites attract – he is charming, gregarious, and demonstrative where she is quiet, aloof, and damaged. Their personal histories effect and color how they exist and interact with each other; the past is a burden that weighs heavily on their bond.

“Between his skin and hers, there was the smallest of spaces; barely enough for air, for this slick of sweat now chilling.  Even still, a third person, their marriage slid in.” – p. 5

As Jess Walters, observes, ”this is a story of parallel myths.” Lotto sees their marriage as blissful, perfect, and  without hardship despite the years of living on one meal a day or wearing the same  clothes until they turn to rags, because  Matilde  fosters the illusion by borrowing money from his sister without his knowledge. Matilde is resourceful where Lotto expects everything to work out because life has always catered to him. The duality of marriage is exposed through what they hide, what they choose to share, and what they purposefully ignore.

Lotto was born into luxury, love and support in a family that is eccentric and wealthy thanks to his father’s bottled water company, Hamlin Springs. Matilde’s idyllic life in France is shaken by an accident where she is blamed and abandoned to be raised by strangers.  When they meet the attraction is so immediate and intense that they marry within two weeks. Lotto’s friends are envious but skeptical of their fast coupling, yet somehow they make sense together. Both are beautiful, ambitious, intelligent people who are naïve to the challenges of marriage.

This disparity, the dichotomy in their backgrounds, is what makes the novel so captivating.  The reader follows them through twenty-six years of their life together.  Through feast and famine, illness, happiness and sorrow, their love, their lust, and their deep passion for one another never diminishes.

 Formats Available: Audiobook, Paperback, eBook

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

This book  by Jojo Moyes was one that I really was not looking forward me-before-you to reading when the book club suggested it several months ago. I had heard from others that the story line was very reminiscent of many novels by Nicholas Sparks, and I had already sworn off his novels several years prior. After reading several chapters of this book, however I realized that there was a lot more to it than a sad ending.

The story revolves around 26-year old Louisa Clarke who has recently lost her job and is struggling to help support herself and her family. She reluctantly goes for an interview as a caretaker even though she has never worked in the field before. Camilla Traynor, a mother of a recent quadriplegic, hires Louisa out of desperation for her son’s mental health. Louisa starts work right away and meets a chilly Will Traynor. Will led an exciting and adventurous life before his accident, and has slipped into depression since.

Lou is immediately met with sarcastic remarks and an emotional wall with Will. She slowly chips away at his chilly demeanor with her silly remarks and her quirky clothes. Will quickly discovers an outlet for his energy in Lou. She has truly never lived her life and Will wants to make sure that she discovers what all life can be. Will has a secret though and Lou quickly finds out by overhearing his parents in conversation about Will ending his own life. Will has control over only one thing left in his life and that is how it will end. He is determined that he will not suffer anymore and he will end his own life in a dignified manner in less than six months.

After hearing this Lou is determined that she is going to make Will really live again, but what she doesn’t realize is Will is actually making her truly live for the first time in life. They enjoy concerts and even embark on a sunny vacation together. Will this be enough to change Will’s mind in the end though?

You will only find out if you read the book or take a trip to the movies to see the recently released movie based on the book. However after seeing the movie with the book club recently, I can certainly say my standard quote…”The book is almost always better than the movie!”

me-before-you-movie

Formats Available:  Book, Audiobook, E-book, Large Type

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch