Last night, we hosted a wonderful Book Lovers evening at Douglas County Libraries in Highlands Ranch, James H. LaRue. Our staff, along with special guest Alice Kober, discussed their favorite summer reads.
The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews
Riley Griggs has a season of good times with friends and family ahead of her on Belle Isle when things take an unexpected turn. While waiting for her husband to arrive on the ferry one Friday afternoon, Riley is served with papers, and her husband is nowhere to be found. She turns to her island friends for help and support, but each of them has their own secrets, and the clock is ticking as the mystery deepens — in a murderous way.
Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell
Lily Ivory feels she can finally fit in and conceal her “witchiness” in San Francisco. It’s there that she opens her vintage clothing shop, outfitting customers both spiritually and stylistically. Just when things seem normal, a client is murdered and children start disappearing from the Bay Area. Lily has a good idea that some bad phantoms are behind it. Can she keep her identity a secret as she attempts to stop the phantoms?
The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron
Ruddy McCann, former college football star, has experienced a seismic drop in popularity — he is now the full-time repo man and part-time bar bouncer in Kalkaska, Michigan. His best friend is his basset hound Jake, with whom he shares a simple life of stealing cars. Simple, that is, until Ruddy starts hearing a voice in his head. The voice says it’s Alan Lottner, a dead realtor. To complicate matters, the girl he loves is Alan’s daughter. When Alan demands Ruddy find his murderers, Ruddy decides a voice in your head seeking vengeance is best ignored.
Some Enchanted Éclair by Bailey Cates
When Hollywood invades the historic district in Savannah, Georgia, to film a Revolutionary War movie, magical baker Katie Lightfoot and her witches’ coven, the Spellbook Club, take a break from casting spells for casting calls. One of the witches snags a part as an extra, while Katie’s firefighter boyfriend, Declan, acts as on-set security. Katie and her Aunt Lucy decide to stay out of the action, but after the movie’s “fixer” fires the caterer, the Honeybee Bakery comes to the rescue, working its magic to keep the hungry crew happy. But when someone fixes the fixer — permanently — and a spooky psychic predicts Katie will find the killer, the charming baker and her fellow conjurers step in to sift through the suspects before anyone else winds up on the cutting room floor.
Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her 2-year-old daughter playing with her husband, Joe, who was brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband — and herself.
I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors
When Joanna Connors was 30 years old on assignment for the Cleveland Plain Dealer to review a play at a college theater, she was held at knifepoint and raped by a stranger who had grown up five miles away from her. Once her assailant was caught and sentenced, Connors 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. Setting out to uncover the story of her attacker, Connors 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.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
North Dakota, late summer 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence — but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else. He has killed his neighbor’s 5-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. The youngest child of Landreaux’s friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s 5-year-old son, LaRose. The two families were always close, and Landreaux’s wife is the half-sister of Dusty’s mother. Horrified, Landreaux turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition — the sweat lodge — for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and his wife give LaRose to the grieving Peter and his wife.
Reading Up a Storm by Eva Gates
After a successful party at Bodie Island’s Lighthouse Library, librarian Lucy Richardson is ready to curl up with her cat, Charles, and a good book. But her R & R is cut short when she notices some mysterious lights leading a small boat to crash into the coast. The two shipwrecked seafarers survive the ordeal, but one of them shows up dead ashore a few days later. Lucy finds herself again roped into a murder investigation and navigating a sea of suspects, all of whom had motives to deep-six the deceased. And this time, she has a sinking feeling that finding the real killer won’t be so easy.
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
What would you do if your 4-year-old son claimed he had lived another life and that he wants to go back to it? That he wants his other mother? Single mom Janie is trying to figure out what is going on with her beloved son Noah. Noah has never been ordinary. He loves to make up stories, and he is constantly surprising her with random trivia someone his age has no right knowing. She always chalked it up to the fact that Noah was precocious ― mature beyond his years. But Noah’s eccentricities are starting to become worrisome. Did he really have another life?
A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install
Ben’s really great at failing at things ― his job, being a husband, taking the garbage out. But then he finds a battered robot named Tang in his garden. And Tang needs Ben. More ornery and prone to tantrums than one would expect from something made of gears and springs, Tang desperately must be fixed ― and he just might be the thing to fix what’s broken in Ben. Together they discover that friendship can rise up under the strangest of circumstances, and what it really means to be human.
The Highwayman by Craig Johnson
When Wyoming highway patrolman Rosey Wayman is transferred to the beautiful and imposing landscape of the Wind River Canyon, an area the troopers refer to as no man’s land because of the lack of radio communication, she starts receiving “officer needs assistance” calls. The problem? They’re coming from Bobby Womack, a legendary Arapaho patrolman who met a fiery death in the canyon almost a half-century ago. With an investigation that spans this world and the next, Sheriff Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear take on a case that pits them against a legend: The Highwayman.
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
It’s the eve of Rachel Chu’s wedding and she should be over the moon. She has a flawless diamond, a wedding dress she loves, and a fiancé willing to thwart his meddling relatives and give up one of the biggest fortunes in Asia in order to marry her. Still, Rachel mourns the fact that her birth father, a man she never knew, won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. Then a chance accident reveals his identity. Suddenly, Rachel is drawn into a dizzying world of Shanghai splendor, a world where people attend church in a penthouse, where exotic cars race down the boulevard, and where people aren’t just crazy rich, they’re China rich.
How to Be a Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
From best-selling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus comes a timely novel about a 40-something wife and mother thrust back into the workforce, where she finds herself at the mercy of a boss half her age. Rory McGovern is entering the ostensible prime of her life when her husband, Blake, loses his dream job and announces he feels like “taking a break” from being a husband and father. Rory was already spread thin and now, without warning, she is single-parenting two kids, while coming to terms with her disintegrating marriage. And without Blake, her only hope is to accept a full-time position working for two full-time 20-somethings.
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde — fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer. By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She’s eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less. Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. This is a funny, poignant and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention.
Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Lyn, Cat and Gemma Kettle, beautiful 33-year-old triplets, seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Together, laughter, drama and mayhem seem to follow them. But apart, each is dealing with her own share of ups and downs. Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage, and Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, holds out hope for lasting love. In this wise, witty and hilarious novel, we follow the Kettle sisters through their tumultuous 33rd year as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio.
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
When an intricate old map is found stuffed in the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes. Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets — to an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former chief of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go — but must. And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy and a dead professor. And with the body a copy of the old, odd map.
The Assistants by Camille Perri
Tina Fontana is a 30-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the CEO of a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss — but after six years of making reservations and pouring drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, the glamour has faded while her student loan debt has not. When a technical error with Robert’s expense report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off her loans, she hesitates. She’s always played by the rules, but this would be a life changer. Soon other assistants with crushing debt and less scruples approach her to say they want in. Before she knows it, she’s at the forefront of a movement with implications beyond what anyone anticipated.
Who Let the Dog Out? by David Rosenfelt
A lawyer by day, Andy Carpenter’s true passion is the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization he runs with his friend Willie Miller. So it’s frightening when there’s been a break-in at the foundation building. It turns out that a recently rescued dog, nicknamed Cheyenne since her arrival at the foundation, has been stolen. Andy and Willie track the missing dog to a house in downtown Paterson, New Jersey, and sure enough they find the dog — right next to a dead body. The man had been murdered mere minutes before Andy and Willie arrived. Could it be coincidence? Or could the dog theft be connected to the killing?
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Kell is one of the last Travelers — magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel among parallel universes, connected by one magical city. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, and without magic; Red London, where life and magic are revered — and where Kell was raised alongside Rhys Maresh, the rougish heir to a flourishing empire; White London — a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back; and once upon a time, Black London — though no one speaks of it now. Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, carrying the monthly correspondences among the royals of each London. Unofficially, he is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpse of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro
When Alizée Benoit, a young American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her arts patron and political compatriot Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends and fellow WPA painters, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. And some 70 years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who, while working at Christie’s auction house, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind works by those now famous abstract expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt? The Muralist plunges readers into the divisiveness of prewar politics and the largely forgotten plight of European refugees refused entrance to the U.S.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
East Sussex, 1914. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master. When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking — and attractive — than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing. But the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.
The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children in danger, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent. They are warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them. After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, she finds herself entangled in a world-famous 30-year-old missing-child case that continues to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance begin to heal her grief-stricken heart. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust — and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined.
The Dressmaker’s War by Mary Chamberlain
Ada Vaughan is a young working-class woman with an unusual skill for dressmaking who dreams of opening her own atelier. When she meets Stanislaus von Leiden, a Hungarian aristocrat, a new, better life seems to arrive. Stanislaus sweeps Ada off her feet and brings her to Paris. But when war breaks out and Stanislaus vanishes, Ada is abandoned and alone, trapped on an increasingly dangerous continent. Taken prisoner by the Germans, Ada does everything she can to survive. In the bleak horror of wartime Germany, Ada’s skill for creating beauty and glamour is the one thing that keeps her safe. But after the war, Ada finds that no one is interested in the messy truths of what happened to women like her. And though Ada thought she had left the war behind, her past eventually comes to light, with devastating consequences.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor — there’s not much else to do in a dying small town that’s almost beyond repair. You certainly wouldn’t open a bookstore, and definitely not with a tourist in charge. You’d need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy’s house is full of them), and customers. The bookstore might be a little quirky, but then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel’s own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
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 prestigious husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath her elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman desperately longing for true love and connection. Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality sets Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrée into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite. But Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake.
The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield
Welcome to Quinn, Montana, population: 956. A town where nearly all of the volunteer firemen are named Jim, where The Dirty Shame — the only bar in town — refuses to serve mixed drinks (too much work), where the locals hate the newcomers (then again, they hate the locals, too), and where the town softball team has never even come close to a winning season. Until now. Rachel Flood has snuck back into town after leaving behind a trail of chaos nine years prior. She’s here to make amends, but nobody wants to hear it, especially her mother, Laverna. But with the help of a local boy named Jake and a little soul searching, she just might make things right.
American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis
Meet the women of American Housewife: They wear lipstick, pearls and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it’s a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These 12 irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood. Great audio book!
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin
Legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and addicts. The complete prologue and introduction discusses Berlin’s life and stories, but I found that it gives away too much of her stories. Because of her extraordinary talent and life, I was drawn to the stories. Many are about things that happened to her or around her. She spent time in many places, including Boulder, Colorado, where she taught at the University of Colorado. She died in 2004. This book is surprising, blunt, tragic, funny and sad. I’m glad I read it, and will probably re-read it.
The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown
Madeleine is trapped in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside she fears she has nothing that matters. In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been — elegant, reserved and perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafés, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist. Despite her unhappiness, when Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she escapes to her hometown and stays with her critical, disapproving mother. In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer. Margie and Madeleine’s stories intertwine to explore the joys and risks of living life on our own terms.
The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck
Traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, over the course of four months, Buck is accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and a Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, they dodge thunderstorms, chase runaway mules, cross the Rockies, and make desperate 50-mile forced marches for water. The Buck brothers repair so many broken wheels and axels that they nearly reinvent the art of wagon travel itself. They also must reckon with the ghost of their father, an eccentric yet lovable dreamer whose memory inspired their journey and whose premature death years earlier has haunted them ever since. This majestic, uniquely American journey is equal parts armchair adventure and moving history. “This tale of brotherhood, persistence, and daring so snares the emotions that it becomes a tear-jerker at its close” (Minneapolis Star Tribune), while also being “a laugh-out-loud masterpiece … and an unremitting delight” (Willamette Week).
The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church
Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s to follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of the era. In 1941, at 17 years old, Meridian begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago. She is soon drawn to Alden Whetstone, a brilliant, complicated physics professor who opens her eyes to the fundamentals and poetry of his field, the beauty of physics, the delicate balance of force and energy that allows a bird to fly. Entranced and in love, Meridian follows Alden west to Los Alamos, where he is engaged in a secret government project (later known to be the atomic bomb). In married life, though, she feels lost and left behind. She channels her academic ambitions into studying a particular family of crows, whose free life and companionship are the very things that seem beyond her reach. There in her canyons, Meridian meets Clay, a young geologist and veteran of the Vietnam War, and together they seek ways to mend what the world has broken.
City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan
In 1945, with no homes to return to, thousands of Jewish refugees set out for Palestine. Those who made it were hunted as illegals by the British mandatory authorities there and relied on the underground to shelter them. Taking fake names, they blended with the population, joining the wildly different factions fighting for the independence of Israel. City of Secrets follows one survivor, Brand, as he tries to regain himself after losing everyone he’s ever loved. Now driving a taxi, he navigates the twisting streets of Jerusalem and the overlapping, sometimes deadly loyalties of the resistance. Haunted by memories, he tries to become the man he was before the war — honest, strong, capable of moral choice. He falls in love with Eva, a fellow survivor, reclaims his faith, and commits himself to the revolution, accepting secret missions that grow more dangerous even as he begins to suspect he’s being used by the cell’s dashing leader, Asher. By the time Brand understands the truth, it’s too late, and the tragedy that ensues changes history.
The Dressmaker’s War by Mary Chamberlain
The Dressmaker’s War is the compelling story of one young woman’s resolve to endure and of the choices she must make at every turn – choices that will contain truths she must confront. London, spring 1939. Eighteen-year-old Ada Vaughan, a beautiful and ambitious seamstress, has just started work for a modiste in Dover Street. A career in couture is hers for the taking – she has the skill and the drive – if only she can break free from the dreariness of family life in Lambeth. A chance meeting with the enigmatic Stanislaus von Lieben catapults Ada into a world of glamour and romance. When he suggests a trip to Paris, Ada is blind to all the warnings of war on the continent: This is her chance for a new start. Anticipation turns to despair when war is declared and the two are trapped in France. After the Nazis invade, Stanislaus abandons her. Ada is taken prisoner and forced to survive the only way she knows how: by being a dressmaker. It is a decision that will haunt her during the war and in its devastating aftermath.
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
After 20 years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat — the town’s only policeman, who harbors an unusual passion for fabrics — and a budding romance with Teddy, the local football star whose family is almost as reviled as hers, she finds a measure of grudging acceptance. But as her dresses begin to arouse competition and envy in town, causing old resentments to surface, it becomes clear that Tilly’s mind is set on a darker design: exacting revenge on those who wronged her, in the most spectacular fashion.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta 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 10,000 people aboard — adults and children alike — must fight for the same thing: survival. Told in alternating points of view, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff — the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest hours.