Makes You Think, Psychological, Fantasy

Sign Here by Claudia Lux


Description

A darkly humorous, surprisingly poignant, and utterly gripping debut novel about a guy who works in Hell (literally) and is on the cusp of a big promotion if only he can get one more member of the wealthy Harrison family to sell their soul.

Peyote Trip has a pretty good gig in the deals department on the fifth floor of Hell. Sure, none of the pens work, the coffee machine has been out of order for a century, and the only drink on offer is Jägermeister, but Pey has a plan—and all he needs is one last member of the Harrison family to sell their soul.

When the Harrisons retreat to the family lake house for the summer, with their daughter Mickey’s precocious new friend, Ruth, in tow, the opportunity Pey has waited a millennium for might finally be in his grasp. And with the help of his charismatic coworker Calamity, he sets a plan in motion.

But things aren’t always as they seem, on Earth or in Hell. And as old secrets and new dangers scrape away at the Harrisons’ shiny surface, revealing the darkness beneath, everyone must face the consequences of their choices.

My Thoughts

This is one of those books that is hard to characterize. Is it a mystery? Horror? Weirdly devised chick/bro lit? Bitingly witty workplace angst? This is ALL that! The author offers brilliantly imagined facets of Hell, ranging from the C-suite to never-ending puddles, and every page offers some new observation about daily life.

Keeping everything straight was a little chaotic, but well worth the effort. This is a multi-layered book that I can see generating some really lively book discussions about what it means to live a decent life. There is a lot to unpack here in terms of what it takes to tip people to the dark side.

If you’re familiar with the legendary story of Dr. Faust, you’ll recognize some of that. There is more of Marlowe’s original Faust here – the successful but unsatisfied man who sells his soul to the Devil for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure – than Goethe’s intellectual Faust. Why do people want more and what is it about those in our society who are obscenely wealthy and fortunate that makes regular people idolize them? What kind of person would sell their very soul for unlimited wealth? Timely questions I’d say.

Final word – this is some of the best modern satire I’ve read in a long time.

Books About Books, Makes You Think, Mystery

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett


Description

Forty years ago, Steven “Smithy” Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. When he showed it to his remedial English teacher Miss Iles, she believed that it was part of a secret code that ran through all of Twyford’s novels. And when she disappeared on a class field trip, Smithy became convinced that she had been right.

Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Smithy decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. In a series of voice recordings on an old iPhone from his estranged son, Smithy alternates between visiting the people of his childhood and looking back on the events that later landed him in prison. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code holds a great secret, and Smithy may just have the key.

“A modern Agatha Christie” (The Sunday Times, London), Janice Hallett has constructed a fiendishly clever, maddeningly original crime novel for lovers of word games, puzzles, and stories of redemption.

My Thoughts

I’ve been searching for a book that really captures and holds my attention and makes me think about the story and the clues.

The Twyford Code is it.

The firts part of the story is told in the unusual format of transcribed recorded messages which require the reader to pay attention in order to keep to the plot. I did find this a bit difficult to follow at times and thought there could be some editing done, but it all works out in the end.

I can often predict the twist in mysteries, but this one had me completely unsuspecting the action in the last part of the story, which is AMAZING!

This book makes you work – I found myself going back and re-reading passages several times to keep everything straight, and spent a lot of time re-reading parts after I got to the end.

Puzzle aficionados will adore this and I can see book clubs chewing on this one. Very well-done.

The mysterious connection between a teacher’s disappearance and an unsolved code in a children’s book is explored in this fresh novel from the author of the “clever and often wryly funny” novel The Appeal. (PopSugar)

Publication Date: January 24, 2023
Published By: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

General, Makes You Think

The Man Without Shelter by Indrajit Garai


Description

Lucy, a young lawyer, is on the fast track to partnership in her firm. Arnault, a convicted felon, leaves prison after two decades through a new piece of evidence in his favor. The two of them come together during a rescue operation at the centre of Paris, and then go on with their separate lives. Months later, their paths cross again at a camp for migrants on the edge of Paris, where their stories merge in a surprising way.

My Thoughts

This book came to me at a time when I was reviewing spending proposals for the Rochester (NY) Peace Collective project. Several of those proposals involved services and programs for people re-entering the world after incarceration, so the opening chapters describing Arnault’s challenges after release resonated with me.

Garai goes on to weave an intricate story about the unexpected connection made between two unlikely people, and how that connection stretches, unbroken, over time. The themes of redemption and forgiveness are layered with intense description and skillful storytelling leading up to a satisfying ending.

The challenges faced by people re-entering the world after incarceration are very real, and Garai accurately describes the seemingly endless circle of frustrating experiences faced by former prisoners.

This would make a good book club selection. Recommended.

Published By: the author
Publication Date: September 5, 2022
Thanks to the author for the review copy

Magical, Makes You Think, Suspense

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd


Description

From the critically acclaimed author of The Book of M, a highly imaginative thriller about a young woman who discovers that a strange map in her deceased father’s belongings holds an incredible, deadly secret—one that will lead her on an extraordinary adventure and to the truth about her family’s dark history. 

What is the purpose of a map? 

Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field, and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable, and also exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence… because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.

But why?

To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret, and discover the true power that lies in maps…

Perfect for fans of Joe Hill and V.E. Schwab, The Cartographers is an ode to art and science, history and magic—a spectacularly imaginative, modern story about an ancient craft and places still undiscovered.

My Thoughts

I devoured this book in one night! There’s adventure, mystery, danger, and daring imagination here all spun into one of the best stories I’ve read in ages.

The vibe reminded me a bit of Mr. Penumbras 24 Hour Bookstore, but the story is wholly original. As a librarian, the setting in NYPL added an extra appeal.

While this is a fantastic adventure, there is also an underlying cautionary tale about mapping and the increasingly intrusive role of AI in mapping our locations and movements. The megalomaniac mapmaker in this story is probably out there in real life and that is a bit scary. This would be a fascinating topic for book discussion group debate regarding the value of all the information gathering that occurs without our knowledge today through things like Alexa and Siri, our cell phone location services, our smart cars, our computers, our smart TVs, etc.

I’ll be recommending this a lot in the coming months.

Published By: William Morrow
Publication Date: 3/15/2022
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Detective, Makes You Think, Mystery

The Maid by Nita Prose


Description

A charmingly eccentric hotel maid discovers a guest murdered in his bed. Solving the mystery will turn her once orderly world upside down in this utterly original debut.

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

“Smart, riveting, and deliciously refreshing . . . a murder mystery with tremendous heart.”—Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Timesbestselling author of The Family Upstairs

My Thoughts

If you love well-crafted mysteries with a surprising end, this is your book for January. The character of Molly the Maid is one of the most original and endearing characters I’ve come across, and the cast of characters here is remarkable.

This isn’t just a mystery. It is a sensitive and heartwarming treatment of what it means to be different and how those things that make a person “different” also make them exceptionally human. The peek into the inner life of someone who interacts with the world differently than other people, someone who is considered “weird,” is handled with such compassion and matter-of-factness that the reader feels what it’s like to be Molly and comes away knowing that “weird” isn’t “bad.”

The surprise ending is a bit jarring but I think it could generate some great discussion among book clubs regarding Molly’s aversion to liars and cheaters expressed early in the book and how the story ends.

Nita Prose is an author to watch. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: January 4, 2022
Published By: Random House – Ballantine
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

Children's, Folktales, Magical, Makes You Think

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo


Description

A 2021 People Magazine Best Books of Fall Winner!

From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall comes a fantastical meditation on fate, love, and the power of words to spell the world.

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood, and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all—for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.

And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories—powerful tales-within-the-tale of queens and kings, mermaids and wolves—ventures into a dark wood in search of the castle of one who wishes her dead. But Beatryce knows that, should she lose her way, those who love her—a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword, and a goat with a head as hard as stone—will never give up searching for her, and to know this is to know everything. With its timeless themes, unforgettable cast, and magical medieval setting, Kate DiCamillo’s lyrical tale, paired with resonant black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, is a true collaboration between masters.

My Thoughts

Kate DiCamillo just keeps on writing perfect books. The Beatryce Prophecy is storytelling at it finest, with endearing characters and a compelling, folktale-like story led by a remarkable and memorable trio of characters. However, if you count the goat, it’s really a group of four!

All the elements of a story are here – characters that leap off the page; a well-constructed plot that keeps the reader turning pages; a setting defined by vivid description; and a tension that grips you by the hands and pulls you along to the very satisfying conclusion.

This would make a lovely classroom read-aloud that could be used to spark discussion on a number of topics, including equity in education.

Highly recommended.

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Published By: Candlewick Press
Thanks to Edelweiss+ for the review copy

Children's, Fairytales, Folktales, Makes You Think, Women

Beasts and Beauty by Soman Chainani


Description

You think you know these stories, don’t you?

You are wrong. 

You don’t know them at all.

Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that free hearts long kept tame, truths that explore life . . . and death.

A prince has a surprising awakening . . .                           

A beauty fights like a beast . . .

A boy refuses to become prey . . .

A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again. 

New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare.

My Thoughts

I’ve read a lot of fairy tales retold and reimagined, but nothing – nothing! – like this. Chainani completely disrupts the old tales and rewrites them ferociously for all those readers who never once saw themselves in those stories.

There is power here – power of women and girls, power of color, power of sex – all woven together into a dark and delicious fist raised to the traditional, exclusionary tales.

Little girls with onyx skin and springy curls will see themselves here, as will beautiful boys who prefer red-haired thieves to brittle wives.

There is anger here, but there’s also righteousness. These are tales for our time.

Highly Recommended.

Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Published By: Harper Collins Childrens Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Letters, Makes You Think, Non Fiction

Letters of Note: Mothers by Shaun Usher


Description

A fascinating new volume of messages about motherhood, from the author of the bestselling Letters of Note collections. In Letters of Note: Mothers, Shaun Usher gathers together exceptional missives by and about mothers, celebrating the joy and grief, humour and frustration, wisdom and sacrifice the role brings to both parent and child.

A young Egyptian girl mourns her mother’s death in the fourth century AD. Melissa Rivers lovingly chides her mother, Joan, for treating her house like a hotel and taking her thirteen-year-old son to see Last Tango in Paris. Anne Sexton gives her daughter the advice to live life to the hilt, and be your own woman. In a letter to her teenage daughter, Caitlin Moran explains that some boys are as evil as vampires, and you must drive stakes through their hearts. The film Ladybird inspires journalist Hannah Woodhead to write an emotional letter to her mother. While at seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. writes that he has “the best mother in the world.” These thirty letters capture the endless range of feelings that comes with being or having a mother. Includes letters from E.B. White, George Bernard Shaw, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sylvia Plath, Laura Dern, Baya Hocine, Louisa May Alcott, Wallac Stegner, and more.

Mothers have been on my mind so I was attracted to this new entry in Usher’s “Letters of Note” series. In the middle of all the uprising and strife worldwide in the past year, there is one thing we all have in common – we all made someone a mother by our very existence.

Usher captures great joy, fear, anger, heartbreak, disappointment, love and hate in these letters, which include mothers and children from all over the globe. There is darkness here to be true, but there is even more light and hope.

Last year, my daughter gave me a subscription to Storyworth, a service that provides a weekly writing prompt which results in a book at the end of the year. The prompts include questions about important events, people, and experiences in your life. In reading over the prompts and my responses, I noted that I mention my mother or my grandmother in nearly every one. My children never had the chance to know either my mother or grandmother, so they only have my stories. These two women, Arline and Helen, shaped me and still whisper guidance in my ear. They taught me how to strive to be a good person and I know I have been blessed to have had them in my life.

My mother’s wake was held on Mother’s Day 1984, so the holiday has never been a favored one in my family. This year, I will remember these stories and tell them again to my children so they can know, in a small way, the wisdom and love I received from my mother and grandmother.

I was not familiar with this series by the author, but enjoyed this one so much I’m going to find the others. Recommended.

Historical, Makes You Think, Mystery, Suspense, Women

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner


A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge.

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time. -From the Publisher

It’s been awhile since a story intrigued me like this one. The juxtaposed stories of the apothecary in the 17th century and the woman in the 21st century blend really nicely, although I will confess I was more interested in the apothecary’s story and the action taking place there.

The 21st century characters are definitely of the time – a little whiny, self-absorbed, and feeling unfulfilled – while the 17th century characters seem to pop. I definitely got the feeling the author enjoyed writing the apothecary’s story more! Nella and Eliza, and even the Lady Clarence, blaze off the page, while I was left with little sympathy for our modern day characters.

Overall, though, this is a captivating and fast-paced story that will appeal to fans of historical fiction.

Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Published By: Park Row
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Fantasy, Historical, Magical, Makes You Think, Romance, Women

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab


A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.From the Publisher

So many people have recommended V.E. Schwab to me over the years, but this is the first of her work that I’ve read. Why did I wait so long to read her work???

Put simply, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of the most unusual and enchanting books I’ve read in a very long time. Bookshelves overflow with tales of the old gods and retellings of familiar stories, but very few take those old allegorical tales and turn them into something new and fresh like Schwab has done here.

There is so much to unpack in this story – what it means to live and die, what people must do to survive, what it means to be remembered (“It is a lonely thing, to be forgotten.“), what it takes to resist temptation – but at the same time, there is the telling of a captivating story that keeps you turning the pages just to see what happens to Addie, Henry, and the green-eyed man.

I completely understand why Schwab’s work has been so highly recommended to me. Reading this story is making me seek out her earlier work, and I could see this sweeping through book clubs this fall. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Published By: Tor Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy