Jonathan Tropper’s keen insight into family relationships has allowed him to create novels about families that are both touching and funny, such as How to Talk to a Widower and This is Where I Leave You. In his latest work, One Last thing Before I Go, Daniel Silver is a divorced, ex-rock band drummer living in a depressing high-rise filled with divorced, middle-aged men like himself. He contemplates the failures in his life, from his marriage and parenting to his career, and when he is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness that can be corrected with surgery, he decides that the people in his life would be better off without him. As he faces his death, he learns truths about himself and the ones he loves, and examines his past failures. Tropper’s work is filled with insight, humor and heartbreaking honesty. Family dynamics and characters are believable and well-developed, from the ex-wife that Silver still loves, to the other down-and-out divorced men that reside in his apartment building. This is a story that make you laugh and will touch your heart as well. Jonathan Tropper is one of my favorite authors and this new novel is a welcome addition to his works.
Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick is an American Library Association 2012 Teen Top Ten Nomination. I had heard good things about the book, but hesitated to pick it up because I’m not really into zombies. However, zombies or no zombies, it gripped my interest from the first few pages. Seventeen year old Alex has had a rough life. Her parents died in an accident and shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After multiple treatments that have not worked, her case is terminal. While her body and mind are still functioning she takes one last trip into the Waucamaw Wilderness where she has camped many times with her dad. Just a few days into her trip electromagnetic pulses are set off, wiping out power and electronic devices everywhere. To make matters worse, the pulse kills off a large portion of the population and turns most young adults into crazed zombies. Alex along with fellow survivors Ellie, a young girl, and Tom, a soldier who is on leave, band together to survive. The plot continually twists and turns and kept me on the edge of my seat. I always felt like some new horror was lurking around every corner (and more often than not it was). Although some of the action sequences are quite gruesome, this part horror/part post- apocalyptic novel kept me riveted until the end. If you like books wrapped up all neat and tidy at the end this is not for you! Virtually nothing is resolved by the end, and there is a cliffhanger worthy of the Hunger Games. Luckily, book number two of this planned trilogy, Shadows, comes out September 25th!
Having recovered from a serious childhood illness , Olivia Mackenzie is determined to live the rest of her life with her 3 close friends, also survivors of illness, as her only relationships. Her goal is to see her father, who is running a ponzi scheme, put in jail. Olivia unwittingly becomes involved in an FBI sting operation, where she meets agent Grayson Kincaid. After attempts on her life and despite her objections, Kincaid takes on the job of protecting Olivia. Several suspects could be the assailant, and the plot twists and turns lead the reader from one suspect to another. Sweet Talk is a blend of complicated mystery and a satisfying romance, with likeable, complicated, strong characters and a fast-paced plot.
Izzy Spellman never really had a chance for a normal life. Raised by private investigators, she joined the family business at 12, establishing a pattern of snooping and distrust that doesn’t bode well for healthy relationships. Her parents routinely run background checks on her boyfriends. Her uncle Ray regularly disappears on binges of his assorted addictions. Her brother David, the supposedly normal one, has been hiding something. Even her baby sister is mastering the art of extortion within the family. Meanwhile Izzy tries to solve an unsolvable case and maintain a fairly normal (if completely dishonest) relationship with the dentist of her dreams.
I was told to read The Spellman Files because I like the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Both series are hilarious mysteries with entertaining young female characters who can’t quite get it together, but Spellman is less slapstick and more clever. This tale of mystery, suspense, and family dysfunction will keep you laughing all the way through.
Bill Geist, a roving correspondent for CBS News, goes Way Off the Road in his tribute to quirky places and people in rural America. Never Mean-spirited and always respectful, Geist finds the humor in off-beat and odd celebrations and occupations. From a 92 year old paper boy who delivers the paper by airplane (and has had 5 heart attacks!) to the Iowa town that celebrates the summer solstice with a festival built around the sunset over the railroad tracks, or from the Prairie Dog vacumers in Colorado to the UFO believers in New Mexico, we meet people and places that make the reader laugh out loud. Filled with charming and interesting stories, this book will inspire you to turn off of the interstates and explore the places in America that are unique, fascinating and more than just a bit eccentric.
Uncle Sam wants Deputy U.S. Marshall Matt Battles …to be an outlaw! Battles is blackmailed by President Chester A. Arthur who needs an undercover agent to discover why Hatfield J. Warful is gathering every notorious gunslinger to his home in Slaughter Canyon. Thanks to a false news report planted by the Secret Service, Battles is wanted for robbery and murder, leaving him no choice but to infiltrate Warful’s gang–but the trigger happy gunfighters share unpleasant history with the supposed ex-marshall. A target from both the law and the outlaws, Battles faces the challenge of his life. If his particular mission fails, the result could be a second Civil War.
Dan Zevin is a stay-at-home dad in Brooklyn. There is nothing earth shattering in his story of taking care of his kids, walking the dog, trying to make a living, and wondering if his life is headed in the right direction. That may be the true gift of his writing, the ability to take the everyday struggles that all parents face and show the humor. Dan Gets a Minivan won’t provide you with any helpful advice, but it will make you laugh out loud – at Zevin, but also a bit at yourself. A must read for anyone who has children.
Each year from September 15 to October 15 we recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month “by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” What better time of year to explore mysteries written by Hispanic or Latino authors of many nationalities?
Mexican-American writer, Rudolfo Anaya, for example, features New Mexico private investigator Sonny Baca in a seasonal quartet whose titles include Zia Summer, Rio Grande Fall, Shaman Winter, and Jemez Spring. Sonny Baca is not your average private investigator. A divorced former high school teacher, he’s the grandson of a legendary lawman, whose backup includes an extra-large sociopath, coyotes, and a curandera (folk healer). Sonny routinely deals with drug dealers and medical experiments, as well as the mysticism and magic of Chicano culture.
Marcos McPeek Villatoro brings El Salvadoran policewoman Romilia Chacon to life in a series of novels that take her from the Nashville Police Department to the FBI in Los Angeles, as the Latina detective hunts for her sister’s killer. Titles in the series include Home Killing, Minos, A Venom Beneath the Skin, and Blood Daughters.
Inspector Espinosa is the protagonist in a series by Brazilian writer Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. Lush in setting, these mysteries take place in steamy, exotic Rio de Janiero. Titles in this Rio-noir series include Silence of the Rain, December Heat and Pursuit. Inspector Espinosa is an everyman character, a public servant, a solitary individual, who does not consider himself a hero. Garcia-Roza has created an ethical policeman often out of his depth in the seedy world he serves.
Cuban-born writer Leonardo Padura is the author of a colorful series featuring Police Lieutenant Mario Conde. Havana Gold, Havana Red, Havana Blue, and Havana Black blend dark police procedurals with vivid images of contemporary Havana. Lieutenant Conde is a cop who would rather be a writer, feeling himself drawn to other writers, crazy people, and drunks.
For thrillers with a mystery twist, Spanish author Juan Gomez-Jurado offers several titles written with both energy and a sense of the cinematic. The Traitor’s Emblem involves a daring rescue at sea, a mysterious gold emblem, Nazis, Masons, and a son’s search for the truth behind his father’s death. Other titles by Gomez-Jurado in English include God’s Spy and The Moses Expedition.
Michele Martinez is a Puerto Rican-American attorney and former federal prosecutor in New York who shares many characteristics with her protagonist, Melanie Vargas. Martinez features Vargas and FBI agent Dan O’Reilly in several novels. In Most Wanted, the first book in the series, Melanie Vargas takes the case of a prominent New Yorker found tortured and murdered in his posh townhouse. Other titles in the series include The Finishing School, Cover-Up, and Notorious.
Cayetano Brule is the private investigator in a series of mysteries by Chilean author Roberto Ampuero. In The Neruda Case Cayetano meets the poet Pablo Neruda at a party in Chile in the 1970s. The dying Neruda recruits Cayetano to help him solve the last great mystery of his life. The novel is set against the dangerous political world of pre-Pinochet Chile, Castro’s Cuba, and perilous behind-the-Wall East Berlin.
Cuban expatriate Jose Latour delivers a suspenseful, atmospheric novel of intrigue set in contemporary Havana and Miami in Comrades in Miami. As Colonel Victoria Valiente, the Havana-based spymaster of greater Miami, her husband, and $2.7 million in stolen money set sail for Key West, little do they know that the FBI is on their trail. This novel gives an insider’s view of the Cuban regime’s darker corners.
Learn more about National Hispanic Heritage Month at hispanicheritagemonth.gov/.
September is also “Library Card Signup Month.” Visit the library to sign up for your card today, or click the Library Card button on our web page to register online. Your library card will open up a world of adventure, information, and knowledge, not to mention mysteries by Hispanic authors.
In the latest installment in her popular Friday Harbor series, Dream Lake, Lisa Kleypas tells the story of Alex Nolan, whose past demons haunt him and prevent him from developing a close and loving relationship with anyone, including his brothers. He is an alcoholic coping with divorce when he meets Zoe Hoffman, a chef at the local inn whose culinary expertise has been known to create food that can comfort and heal. Zoe has given up on believing in love after being hurt in the past. She is devoted to caring for the grandmother that raised her and now suffers from Alzheimer’s. Alex returns to Friday Harbor to help renovate his brothers home, where he becomes aware of the presence of a ghost. The ghost appears only to Alex and needs Alex’s help to discover who he was and why he is unable to move on. The relationship between Zoe and Alex is touching and believable, and the presence of the ghost adds humor. This is a satisfying and magical romance and a wonderful addition to the Friday Harbor series, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor and Rainshadow Road.