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Thursday, December 31, 2015

What I’m Reading: Becky’s Top 10 for 2015

I have saved my personal top 10 books I read this year for today, the final day of 2015.

A quick look at my 10 reads surprised me at how varied they are. I have nonfiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, horror, fantasy, graphic novels, psychological suspense, and short stories. I compiled this list by only looking at the books I gave 5 stars to right after reading them.

You can always use the What I’m Reading tag or the Book Discussion Books tag to see everything I reviewed this year.

One final reminder, my top 10 list is of books I read in 2015. They are not all 2015 releases, but I read them in 2015. All titles link to my original review of the book. They are listed below in the order I read them.

The Best Books I Read in 2015:
And that wraps up 2015 in reading. I will be back on Monday with a post tying up all of the lose ends of the old year and introducing the new one.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What I’m Reading: Uprooted

Ahh, today is a review that is NOT months late because I just finished Uprooted by Naomi Novik last week.

I have read Novik in the past, but that was her Temeraire series.  Uprooted is a standalone, and one that was getting rave reviews from my fellow librarians and patrons. It was on many year end best lists. So I was determined to get through it before the end of the year.

Becky’s Soundbite Review:
“Based on a Polish folktale, but wholly its own magical story, Uprooted tells the story of Agnieszka, a poor rural girl who is chosen by The Dragon to be his student. What follows is an epic fantasy tale of good versus evil, with heroes and villains, kings and queens, good spirits and an evil Wood. This is also Agnieszka’s coming of age story. She must learn what it means to be a powerful witch, help her friends, save her community, and become an adult.  Be ready to be enveloped by Novik’s vivid world, make life-long friends with Agnieszka and her best friend Kasia, find romance, and go on an amazing adventure in this compelling and exciting tale." 
I did not give much of the set-up here that many reviews do because the set up was my least favorite part of this book. In fact, I had trouble getting into the book at the beginning with all The Dragon chooses a girl every 10 years stuff. Once Agnieszka was taken to his tower and she started showing a natural gift for magic, I was hooked.

The most important appeal factor in this novel is the world building. Wow is it great.  Every single place, from the villages, to the evil Wood, to the capitol city to just the tower where The Dragon lives were all amazing.  The descriptions were vivid and made each place come alive without slowing the pacing down at all.  If you like a detailed historical or fantasy setting, you will enjoy Uprooted

And yes I said historical or fantasy because most of the time to world of Uprooted felt historical. It could have been real except for the magic. It reminded me of Game of Thrones in that way, although I would not say they are readalikes in any other way.

Many reviews have said this book is a fairy tale retelling, or a fairy tale for adults. I disagree. It is much more an epic fantasy like a Tolkien. There is quite a lot for high fantasy fans here. The novel is filled with many story arcs where a smaller hurdle is cleared with high drama, before we move on to another conflict, each one building in intensity until we get to the final battle against the Wood and the safety of the entire world. A fairy tale tends to have one conflict leading to a single climax. The story map here had many ups and downs-- in a good way. Also, the villain here was way too complex for a fairy tale; it was much more of a concept than a single evil force.

Speaking of the Wood. What a great place/character. I don’t want to give much away but “the Wood” is the evil antagonist in this world. It is filled with evil that infects the people who live on it’s edges and those edges are constantly encroaching on the villages, swallowing many of them [and their inhabitants] up over the years.

The Wood is a nice bridge from the importance of place to the characters. Next to the world building, the characters are the next big selling point.  All of them are well drawn, complex and interesting-- good guys, bad guys, and in-between ones. But it is Agnieszka and the Dragon that rule the story.  Well, Agnieszka first. She is a strong, independent protagonist. She is young and naive at the outset, but she also knows herself and is true to what she believes. When she goes to live with the Dragon she has no idea the power she holds inside herself. Watching both of them discover it together is magical.

And plus, their romance is great and believable. There is one sex scene between them which is well done, but I have to say that the sensuous descriptions of their magic co-mingling and working a spell together were much hotter [on purpose I think].

I feel like this book is going to become a sure bet. It is good for men or women, teens to adults, people who love setting, plot, OR character. There is much to love in this standalone, epic fantasy.

Limiters:  There is one attempted rape scene, but Agnieszka battles him off and they confront each other later in the story. Amends are made.

Three Words That Describe This Book: strong world building, strong female protagonist, suspenseful

Readalikes: I couldn’t stop comparing Uprooted to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern while I was reading. Both are filled with magic, romance, secrets, a larger evil to battle, and have action and great secondary characters. They also both are fantasy novels but with such well defined settings that you would swear they are more historical fiction that just happen to feature magic. Both are modern, standalone fantasy classics.

I tend to enjoy novels that have a fairy tale feel without being strict retellings. You can click through to each review in the list below to see why else they are similar (beyond the fairytale-esque feel) and to find even more readalikes. Warning: these links may take you down a large rabbit hole from which you will emerge with a very long TBR list.
But Uprooted still has something many of these suggestions lack-- a lot of action. Those other book are mostly literary fiction with fantasy aspects. But Uprooted is first and foremost a fantasy book with literary and historical elements. There were times the story resembled classic high fantasy a la Lord of the Rings. Interestingly, I went back to my review of His Majesty’s Dragons and I also suggested Tolkien there too.

For people who want to read some of the other “best” fantasy of 2015, two titles that are also making many best lists and would appeal to those who enjoyed Uprooted are The Aeornauts Windlass by Jim Butcher or The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin; however these are both the first in a series, while Uprooted is a standalone title.

Monday, December 28, 2015

What I'm Reading: All the Light We Cannot See

Many months ago I listened to All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I have book talked this one, particularly the brilliance of the audio, so much that I forgot that I hadn't written a review here on the blog yet. In fact, I only realized that I did not have a review when I went to list my favorite reads of 2015 and I couldn't find the review. That's because I never wrote it.

Well time to fix that right now.

Before my soundbite review, I am going to use the publisher's plot summary. Why? Well it is not just to save time; I actually have a teaching moment planned here. It is to show you how a plot has nothing to do with why you love or book or not. So, summary:
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is 12, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. 
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
So that is what happens, but that is not why people love this book. Here is my soundbite review which gets more to the heart of this novel's appeal

Becky's Soundbite Review:
"This stunning, Pulitzer Prize winning historical novel tells the story of two children, on opposite sides of WWII. We follow each of them, one a blind, French girl who may be in possession of a rare jewel, and the other, a German, orphan boy with a talent for fixing radios, as they come of age during wartime.  Each gets their chance to narrate their separate story from their perspective, but as the novel moves forward, it becomes clear that their lives are meant to intersect. With memorable and authentic characters, lyrical but accessible language, a haunting tone, and a plot that carefully unwinds itself in a way that is suspenseful and compelling, this story will wrap you up and refuse to let you go."
That is the appeal hand sell highlights, but here is a little more.

First and foremost, this story is focused on the characters. Marie-Laure and Werner, yes, but there are many, many more. One of my favorites is Etienne, Marie-Laure's PTSD suffering uncle who offers her shelter in Saint-Malo. Even Marie-Laure's father, who is taken away by the Germans fairly early in the story is a presence throughout. His intricately carved model of Saint-Malo becomes vital to the story's final, heart pounding moments.

While this story does have intrigue due to the fact that the Germans are trying to find the one real jewel among many fakes and Marie-Laure may be the one with the real deal, readers who put plot first, will be disappointed. There are long stretches here where character development is the main goal of the narrative. Now it is not character development for no reason. Every detail we learn about the characters comes into play at some point in the plot; however, there are long stretches when "nothing happens." For a historical fiction story, set during wartime, well that may seem odd to some readers. In fact, the plot summary I shared above, makes the novel sound way more action-oriented than it truly is.

The language and tone are also beautiful in a haunting way. The tone is enhanced by Marie-Laure being blind and Werner living much of his life listening intently.  I also still remember a few descriptions from this book, namely the first time Marie-Laure went to the sea, and Werner's descriptions of surviving a bombing raid. The words that Doerr used have stayed with me.

Finally, the style. The story is mostly chronological but overall I describe it as stylistically interesting. I did not chose "complex" because while it is not straight forward, it is not hard to follow either. "Interesting" is my word because the multiple narrations mean the time line is a little fluid with some back and forth, but it also allows for compelling hints at how their lives will eventually overlap. Reading the book is like a small puzzle [which I know is on purpose due to some major plot points]; it is not hard to solve it, but it takes time and patience. And the unraveling toward a resolution is a large part of the enjoyment.

This is a book that is hard to forget after you have read it.

Note on the Audio: Look, there is not much to say here because Zach Appleman's narration has won all the awards. So instead of talking about how well he narrates it, here is why I think this book is improved as a story when it is listened to instead of read. Both story lines rely heavily on listening. The first is because Marie-Laure is blind. Obviously, she experiences everything without sight. When you listen to this novel recounting her life during WWII, you never forget that she is blind because in a way, you are too.  We both only have our ears to tell us the story. And then there is Werner, whose entire life is changed by hearing a science radio broadcast from France, so much so that he dedicates his life to radios and listening. It is what he is better at than anyone, it is what allows him to leave his mining town, it is what gets him into the war at a young age. When we listen to his story, we are more firmly placed in Werner's head than if we just read the words on the page.

Three Words That Describe This Book: character-centered, haunting, stylistically interesting

Readalikes: By far the book that is most similar here in appeal, but not in plot at all, is Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra.  Like All the Light We Cannot See, Marra's novel is impossible to forget after you have read it. Read my review because it explains why they are so similar and all of the readalikes there would also work here.

Marra's novel is a bit more contemporary, but if you want another historical fiction with multiple perspectives that is both haunting and compelling, try Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. It is also award winning, with a great audio.

Of course, some will be drawn to All the Light We Cannot See because it is set during WWII and that is a very popular frame.  You can click here for a crowd-sourced list of the "best" WWII books, but specifically for fans of All the Light We Cannot See, I would send you to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson or Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.  The titles link to my reviews for details, but in both of these we have the same haunting tone, amazingly authentic characters who drive the story, a compelling story line, and interesting styles.

Finally, All the Light We Cannot See was a finalist with Station Eleven in the 2015 Tournament of Books. Click through to see there final battle with commentary. I read Station Eleven last year and it made my 2014 best list also. Both novels are stylistically interesting with multiple narrators and a haunting tone.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What I’m Reading: Here

I am in a mad rush to catch up on all the reviews before I post my top 10 of 2015 on 12/31. So the rest of the year will be reviews while the first few days of 2016 will be a combination of 2015 wrap ups and 2016 planning. 

I was first altered to Here by Richard McGuire in this review in the New York Times Book Review, and thank goodness for that because this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. 

Before I get to my sound bite review it is important to note that Here, while a newer full page book [December 2014], is an older story with an important place in graphic novel history. From The Guardian:
In 1989, Richard McGuire, an aspiring New York artist, drew a 36-panel comic that leapt back and forth through thousands of years of history without ever stepping outside the four walls of a suburban living room – a feat he achieved by floating frames within frames (his inspiration was Microsoft Windows, then just four years old). The comic, called Here, was published in Raw, the edgy anthology edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, and caused a stir among younger cartoonists. Chris Ware, who would go on to create the award-winning Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, said McGuire’s strip came closer to capturing “real memory and experience than anything that had come before”. 
You can go to the linked NYT review or The Guardian one above for more plot detail.

Becky's Soundbite Review [with a panel illustration]:

“A corner of one NJ living room is both the setting and the subject of this graphic novel, as McGuire tells the story of this single place from prehistoric times to thousands of years in the future [but not in chronological order]. The stories are literally and figuratively layered as McGuire places drawings, clearly labelled with their year, on top of one and other. While it may sound confusing, McGuire tells a coherent, cohesive, and compelling tale of a place and those that have and will live in it. The result is a fascinating and original story that forces the reader to contemplate his or her place in the universe. It is in equal turns beautiful and unsettling. It is a reading experience you will not forget for a long time; in fact, you may find yourself turning the last page only to go immediately back to page one."
Clearly, this is a unique way to tell a story. McGuire relies on very few words, although the ones he does include, add much to the pictures. Words, phrases, and situations repeat over time, as do the pictures. It is as if history [and the future] are echoing throughout time in this one place.

I cannot stress enough how easy the story is to follow once you get in the rhythm. I had to read the first few pages a few times, going back and forth for ten minutes or so. But then, maybe the fourth time I started, I didn’t go backward for a while. I kept reading, occasionally paging back to see something again, and I didn’t stop until I finished it. And as I said in the soundbite above, after I turned the final page, I went right back to the beginning and started the entire book again.

On a personal note, I purchased a copy of this book, and I am glad I did because I have already read it twice and my ten year-old son has read it too. I have left the book out in a common area and he has gone back to it a few times, has shown it to others, and continues to discuss it with me. This truly is a book for the entire family. In fact, it is even better if you read it together in a corner of your own living room.

Still not convinced?  Think it is a bit too unconventional for your patrons. Take a look at this great article in Wired, which outlines five reasons why you should read this book. It also has more panels to look at and talks about the amazing interactive e-book version.

This is an inventive and unique graphic novel that is truly accessible to any reader-- from graphic novel regulars to newbies. The setting is familiar. Everyone has a living room.  Everyone has thought of the others who have lived in their home or on their land before. But Here forces you to confront your home, your place in it, what it was before you, and what it will be long after. you are gone. Talk about universal.

Notes on the Art: The color palate is muted. The pictures are easy to understand. While McGuire labels the top left of each panel, no matter where that panel resides on the page, the drawing styles and colors that tell the story for each year are unique to that year. So as you are reading, despite the fact that the time frame jumps around, you get to know the drawing style of the “era” and you can start placing yourself within the story even before you see the year marked in the top left corner of the box.

Three Words That Describe This Book: thought-provoking, layered, original

Readalikes: As the quote from The Guardian above notes, McGuire greatly influenced Chris Ware. I did not know this while I was reading Here, but I did make the connection between why I was enjoying Here and why I loved Building Stories. Anything by Ware is a great readalike, but in particular, Building Stories with its inventive story telling style and its focus on a single place to center the larger story, shares much with Here. The illustrations and color palate are also similar.

Another graphic novelist who tells thought provoking stories with inventive and original storytelling techniques is Adrian Tomine. Try Killing and Dying, also from this year and on many best lists.

Back in 2009 I read Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. While that graphic novel is much more character driven than this one, the thought-provoking storylines of both force the reader to think broadly about life and our place in the world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Importance of Making Reading Resolutions From a RA Service Standpoint

Each year I make reading resolutions. [Click here to see past examples.] And each year, before I make the new resolutions, I always go back and see how I did on the past year’s ones. That post will come in early January, but today, I want to psych you up to start thinking about creating your own reading plan for 2016.

Before I made public Reading Resolutions on the blog, I had an annual reading plan that was required for my job at the RA desk. Here is how it went. I had to read at least 1 book from each genre, 2 from a genre I was less familiar with or was concentrating on that year. Then I also had to read 5 nonfiction titles from at least 3 different Dewey areas. I was encouraged to read “multicultural” titles [the old word for diverse books] and different formats such as audio and graphic novels.

This reading plan also formed the basis for the syllabus I created when I taught the RA class for many years. I encouraged my students to read across the breadth of leisure reading holdings and challenge themselves to read outside their personal comfort zones.

When I talk about reading plans in my RA trainings, people always ask the same questions. Why is this forced reading important? I thought you said "Never apologize for your reading tastes,” so why can’t I read what I want?

Here is one simple answer to both inquires. It is your job to help leisure readers find the right book for them.  It is not about YOU! It is about the reader in front of you. What they like and what they want in their next leisure read is all that matters for each transaction. How can you be ready for any type of reader walking into your building if you are only reading your own favorite types of books?


Look, when you work with leisure readers as your job, no matter how much you love books and reading, it is still YOUR JOB! You need to work at it to be better. People turn to me as one of the RA experts in our field and I work hard at it. So you.... you have no excuse.

Okay, I am done chastising.  Now I will offer solutions.

This year, along with the more specific RA resolutions I will be laying out in a post in early January, I am  also going to do the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Here is their description :
There are, once again, 24 tasks averaging out to two per month if you’re planning out your reading year. As I said last year, “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is – a perspective shift – but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.”
I have a screen shot of their easy to use check list below, but you can click here for the entire post and print a nice copy that you can use all year long.

If you are a library worker helping leisure readers, I think it is imperative to read outside your comfort zone. I realize sometimes it is hard to both create your own reading plan AND stick to it. If you follow the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, you have a great plan all laid out, and it comes with a like minded community on Goodreads where you can share your plan and how you are doing with other readers. In fact, even just joining the Goodreads group without participating will greatly increase your RA skills, as you will be part of a conversation about a wide range of leisure reads. Lurking will get you far toward your training goals.

And remember, that is the goal of making Reading Resolutions. It is not to shame yourself into reading something you wouldn’t normally pick up. It isn’t even about learning to like new types of books for your own enjoyment. Rather, it is to commit yourself to learning about as wide a range of titles as possible because you never know what kind of reader is going to step up to the service desk. You want to be ready to help everyone, but you only can be if you work at it.

If the hardest work challenge you have in 2016 is reading a book you didn’t like but was outside your comfort zone, I promise you, that mean you had a great year.

What do you have to lose? And you have only becoming even better at helping leisure readers to gain!

Monday, December 21, 2015

What I’m Reading: Delicious Foods and Between the World and Me

Today I have two reviews. Both are books that have been on many year end best lists. Both are two of my favorite reads of the year.  But why am I reviewing them together? Because each book resonated more with me because I read the other in conjunction with it.  So this will not be a traditional “What I’m Reading” post in that I will not separate my discussions of these two titles; however, this will be an extremely useful post for you to use as you help readers.

In fact, I would argue that this will be a MORE helpful review because I am pairing these books.  So much has already been said about  Between the World and Me that I almost didn’t write a review of it. I didn’t feel like I could add anything useful to the conversation. But in organizing the review in the fashion, I truly feel like I am helping you to help a reader.

For the record, that is always my goal with the reviews here on the blog. I try to give you something you cannot get from other review resources.  I think this is important to spell out since I have a lot of new readers. These posts are meant to be used to help a reader who either enjoyed the title I am reviewing to find more titles he or she would enjoy OR to help you to match this book with its best reader. I am not writing them to hear myself pontificate. Once these reviews stop being useful, I will stop writing them.

Enough preamble. Let’s get on with the information...

I want to start with Delicious Foods by James Hannaham, which is the book that most surprised me this year.  This was a novel that was clearly on my radar; I had heard it was good before it even came out. I ordered it for my library, and almost checked it out for myself a couple of times. But then, the combination of a review and a personal recommendation put this book on the top of my to-read list-- and they came from the same person.

My very good friend, Magan told me about how much she loved the audio of this novel. She loved it so much that not only did she give the audio a star in her Booklist review, but also she stood her ground and defended her choice to her editor, Joyce Saricks.  Well, it did get a star in the September 1st issue of Booklist, and then this novel went on to be on many year end best lists, many of which singled out the audio for its excellence.

Since it was Magan’s review that led me to listen to this novel, I am going to let her explain it to you more:
Hannaham’s stunning second novel (after God Says No, 2009) opens with 17-year-old Eddie’s desperate escape from Louisiana, driving a (stolen) car for the first time in his life, minutes after having both of his hands cleaved at the wrists under mysterious circumstances, in search of his aunt in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. It’s a hell of a tale: Eddie’s father was murdered when he was 6, and his mother, Darlene, completely shattered by her grief and guilt, spiraled downward into crack addiction, effectively abandoning Eddie long before she hopped into a minibus to work at Delicious Foods. She’s turned into a modern-day indentured servant in the hellish place, where Eddie eventually joins her. Author Hannaham narrates his harrowing novel and moves between unbelievable scenes of human suffering and dark, sly humor in so skillful a manner that belief is easily suspended while “Scotty,” Darlene’s name for crack, narrates events from his perspective. His voice characterizations bring to vivid life each of the sad collection of broken people at Delicious Foods, ratcheting up the horror without speeding through the plot, concluding with a realistic portrait of the aftereffects of suffering and perseverance on a family. Not to be missed.   — Magan Szwarek
 Before I add more of my own thoughts here, I want to say that this experience of being compelled to finally read this book because of the work of a librarian, AND having it turn out to be one of my favorites of the year reaffirmed for me why I work so hard to help all of you be better Reader’s  Advisors. This book was such a great read that I will always remember it, and I read it because of a librarian suggesting it to me. I am not lying when I tell you in trainings how powerful sharing a reading suggestion with a patron can be. People, you can be this person for someone out there!

I will suggest this novel for years to come to readers much like I do with The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, The Good Thief, City of Thieves, Brief History of the Dead, and The Snow Child. No none of these are readalikes for each other, but they are all quirky, well constructed, thought-provoking, and emotionally moving stories that do not loose anything over time. While they are not sure bets for every reader who walks through the doors of the public library, they are great under the radar picks for a wide range of readers.

On the other hand, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates IS a sure bet.  I read a lot of books, and I see my fair share of hype about many books that are very good, but not as great as people want you to believe.  Between the World and Me is not that. It is one of the best books I have ever read. It will and should be read by every American at some point in their lives. It will become a classic that is read in schools.

Why? Because Coates takes his personal journey as a black man in America, and lays out the brutal truth, without judging or casting blame-- that is my favorite part about it, the nonjudgmental tone. This is a personal, emotional, and lyrical letter to his son about the truth of race in America, yet Coates takes what is a complex problem, and amazingly puts it into a deceptively short book without sacrificing anything.

Everyone should read this book, but in particular, all white America needs to read this, especially people who think that race is no longer an issue. For example, how many white people think about one of the facts Coates lays out early in the book-- that as a country, we have still had slavery longer than we have not!  Of course this is true, but it still shocked me to see it on the page. How can this fact not be at the front of my brain more often. Why have I never had this thought? Of course, someone like Coates lives this fact every day of his life.  As a Jewish person, I understand a very small sliver of what Coates is saying, but I can blend in my highly Catholic area. People don’t look at me and know immediately that I am not on team Jesus. Most of them just assume everyone is. When they find out I am not, I am a quaint example of “the other.”

Being black in America is hard enough, but being America’s "foremost public intellectual,” while being black could be soul crushingly impossible. The fact that Coates handles it so well and produced such an amazing book is awe inspiring.

Back to the first book...Delicious Foods is written by someone who didn’t need to read Coates’ book because it is obvious from the novel that he, James Hannaham, has lived in Coates’ shoes. Delicious Foods is proof of Coates’ brilliance, his truths, and the surprisingly succinct way he delivers such a complex message.

Because I read these two powerful and honest books back-to-back, I took more from each-- more knowledge, more enjoyment, more feeling. And yes, I meant to use the word “enjoyment." Despite how heart-wrenching and emotionally raw both books are, I enjoyed the experience of reading them.  Both were lyrical, beautiful and compelling. And while both were emotionally difficult to read, neither is “sad.” Both end with hope for a future that is better than today. If others read these books, maybe that better future will happen.

Three Words That Describe Delicious Foods: original, heart-wrenching, haunting

Three Words That Describe Between the World and Me: honest, lyrical, classic

Readalikes [for both]: Since I am reviewing fiction and nonfiction titles together here I have 3 of each to offer up as readalikes.

Fiction-- The 1980s slavery depicted in Delicious Foods reminded me so much of the masterful The Known World by Edward P. Jones which is a historical fiction novel based on the fact that there were black slave owners.  Both novels are inventive and original with a fluid use of time-line. But this is also a readalike for Between the World and Me. Both books are beautifully written while also taking a hard and honest look at America’s troubled history with race.

I am suggesting The Round House by Louise Erdrich because like both books here it looks at a tenuous and fraught history between Americans and those of a persecuted race, but with Erdrich it’s Native Americans.  But also, all three books have a coming of age theme. In all three the narrator is able to look back on his life to a critical moment (or moments), assess the racial injustice, and still move on without resorting to simple blame. All three works are also haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful.

My final fiction suggestion may sound a bit odd, but I think it works-- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. All three works are haunting, lyrical, and moving, with complex characters, that explore hard truths about humanity. In my review of Station Eleven I chose the word “disquieting” as one of my “three words.” This struck a chord with me when I was thinking about the two books being reviewed here. That word can apply to all three.

Nonfiction-- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. Actually, anything by James Baldwin. Coates openly admits to using Baldwin as an inspiration [not that he could hide it], but I also see much of Baldwin and his anger at injustice in Hannaham’s narrative voice too.

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore and/or Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich are both books I have read with my book club that elicited the following response-- “Every high school kid in America needs to read this book.” While Between the World and Me is much richer than these two offerings [they are a both much more of a simplistic look at similar, entrenched, American, societal problems],  but the themes are similar.  Also as readalikes to Delicious Foods, both of these suggestions take much of the class and race conflict from the novel and ground it in fact in a way that makes the novel even more realistic.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Speculative Fiction Genre Study: FIRST ASSIGNMENT and a Discussion About China Miéville As Our Study's Frame

It's like an early Christmas present for all of us library nerds.

As I announced here, the Adult Reading Round Table 2016-17 genre study is going to be on Speculative Fiction. And now, the first assignment is LIVE here. I have also reposted it at the end of this post for the clicking adverse.

As you can see, we are really shaking up how we did things in the past. The key things to note right away are that the first assignment is light but by June, you need to have a read a lot of pages.

I also love how we decided to begin.  The first assignment asks you to read any book by China Miéville. Why we are beginning here has a good story.  One of the major contributions to the field of RA that ARRT creates is our Popular Fiction List, a self-evaluative training tool testing RA knowledge. [The latest edition of the list is available to subscribers of NoveList Plus in their Professional Toolbox.] While we were crafting the most recent edition, Annabelle, Karen and I were the team captains for Speculative Fiction. We had a list of subgenres and authors and worked very hard to make every "must include" author fit into a subgenre category. It worked wonderfully except for one very important author....

China Miéville!

We had to include him in the list, but he could also only appear in one place. Miéville is a master of speculative genre-blend novels. In the end, we had to create an entirely new category, just for him, and even then we were still not thrilled.

We struggled with Miéville and where to place him for months. We struggled even more because he was the tip of the iceberg. Miéville's work was popular because of his ability to blend genres into compelling stories.  Readers love him. They want more like him. How can the list be a training tool if such an important author is unclassifiable. Arrrggghhhh.

During our marathon genre study planning meeting, the three of us shared this story with or 4th team member, Megan. We really wanted to teach these genres differently because we knew from experience that the old subgenre method would be unsatisfying. We had to capture the "WHY" people loved authors like Miéville so that we could help each other find readlaikes for our patrons.

Our experience trying to pigeon-hole Miéville is what led us to deciding to frame the genre study from an appeal perspective. Since he was our inspiration, it made sense to focus on him at the first meeting. [That and we still couldn't find an appeal area to place him in. Seriously that man is our kryptonite, but we love him.] He truly serves as the perfect example of the joys and challenges of working with speculative fiction and its fans.

I can't wait for February 4th. If you want to learn more about Miéville before then, you can look at my reviews of The City and the City or the forthcoming This Census-Taker by Miéville. I think I am going to use this assignment as a chance to finally read Embassytown, which I have meant to read for years.

What about you?

Consider joining us, or if you live far from Northern IL, make your own group and follow along.


February 4, 2016: Introduction to Speculative Fiction
2-4 PM
Lisle Public Library
777 Front St.
Lisle, IL 60532
We’ll provide an overview of science fiction, fantasy, and horror as well as discuss the genre study’s general structure and the “doorway” appeal factors we’ll use to help us better serve speculative fiction readers.
  1. Fill out a two-question Speculative Fiction Reader Profile. (You won’t have to turn in the document—just be prepared to discuss your profile at the meeting.)
  2. Read any one novel or story collection by China Miéville.
This is a fairly light assignment, but there will be some heavy reading later in the study. So we want to give you fair warning that the assignment for the June 2016 meeting will be reading Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring (although if you can muster it, we recommend you read all three volumes of The Lord of The Rings) AND your choice of either A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin or a book by Neil Gaiman. If you haven’t read these yet, you may want to start soon. Caveat lector!
The study usually meets the first Thursday of every other month between 2-4, alternating between Lisle and Glenview libraries. Because the April meeting conflicts with PLA, we’ll decide at the February session whether to push the date back a week. With that in mind, the 2016 dates will be:
April 2 or 9 (Glenview)
June 4 (Lisle)
Aug. 6 (Glenview)
Oct. 2 (Lisle)
Dec. 3 (Glenview)
The full two-year schedule will be distributed at the kickoff meeting. Non-members are welcome at the kickoff meeting, but you must become a member by April 2016 to attend the rest of the 2016 meetings.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What I’m Reading: Seveneves

Over the summer I listened to Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and loved it! Here is my soundbite review:
“Did you love The Martian but wish it were 3x longer? Try Seveneves. One evening, for no apparent reason, the moon explodes. The consequences are dire. After a few years, the debris will cause a “hard rain” down on earth that will make it uninhabitable for 5,000 years. The only way to survive will be to send people up to space to wait it out. Broken up into 2 distinct halves, one set from the moment the moon explodes until he hard rain begins, and the second, picking up 5,000 years later, Seveneves is a sweeping, science fiction epic, but it is also a thought provoking look at human nature and evolution. You will be caught up in the intense drama, the well developed characters, and the fate of our planet and its inhabitants."
[Feel free to use this to book talk this novel to your patrons, just credit RA for All as helping you.]

That’s the very basic appeal. Now I will elaborate.

Let me tackle the 1,000 plus pages that make up this novel first. Yes this is a big book, but see my comments on the audio below and why I think listening to it is a great option. But despite the page count, this novel is very compelling. The entire first half is paced like a thriller because we have this time deadline until the hard rain begins. We are literally counting down to extinction. Yes there are small side stories that are science heavy and detailed oriented which move a bit slower, but they serve two purposes. First, they are small breaks in the intense drama when I could stop and catch my breath. And second, they are necessary to make the plot believable, flesh out the characters, and foreshadow things that will come in part 2.  I am not a big science person, but Stephenson explained enough that I got the gist of “how” humans were able to adapt to living in space indefinitely.

The second half of the story moves a bit slower because we are in a situation that is unimaginable-- returning to Earth 5,000 years later. There is a lot more description here, but I was so interested in knowing what had happened over the 5,000 years and what would happen next that I was riveted.

Character is key to the enjoyment of Seveneves. As the title hints at, there are 7 literal “Eves,” women who keep the human race alive. These strong women drive the plot, but there are other characters throughout who take turns with the pov and whose interaction and decisions are key. This novel is a great example of a story that has plenty of action, but in truth it is driven by it’s characters. Stephenson carefully and skillfully builds each character until you feel like they are living beside you in the real world. And since, ultimately, this novel is about the human race, every character is important.

Like all well executed since fiction, there is a huge world building element that readers of the genre will expect and enjoy.  But also, science fiction is about ideas of today, they are just extrapolated into a currently impossible [but not scientifically improbable] setting. In this case, Stephenson is forcing us to confront how we take our environment for granted AND he speculates on human evolution [fascinating].

Despite it’s length, I wished Seveneves was longer.  We are left at the new beginning on Earth. It is a closed ending; we know about how and if mankind survived, but not what happens as everyone returns to the Earth’s surface.  I hope someday Stephenson returns to tell us what happens next.

Notes on Audio: The first part of the novel is narrated by a woman, while the second half (5,000 years later) is narrated by a man. I did not have a problem with either narrator because the story and the characters were so riveting; however, I have read a few negative comments on the narration.  I did love two specific things about listening to this book:
  1. It is a long book, over 1,000 pages long.  Carrying it around to read would have gotten old quickly. Also, when a book is over 500 pages, I generally get through it quicker if I listen because I am not worried about how much is left. I let the story take me where it is going to go. This is a good one for that.
  2. I was able to listen to this novel over the summer as I did a lot of gardening.  Wow did that put the issue of losing our home planet and being forced to live in space for 5,000 years right in my face! As I was tending to my brand new landscaping for hours at a time, I was able to be thankful for all of it in an intense and emotional way thanks to this book. I think this appeal holds true for the book in general, but when someone is telling it to you, it is hard to ignore the larger message. I found myself looking at the natural world around me with awe.
A final note on the audio-- I read somewhere that the printed book has some useful illustrations. The audio does not, obviously, but I did not feel like I was missing anything.

Three Words That Describe This Book: sweeping, thought-provoking, stylistically complex

Readalikes: As I said above, this is the book for those of you who loved The Martian but wish it were 3x longer. But the amazing thing about this novel is how many entry points there are for someone to enjoy this story. You have to be okay with the fact that there is a bunch of science here, but you do not need to be a hard core SF fan to like it.

You do, however, need to be a fan of complex stories, strong world building where the setting and its details are extremely important, and you have to care about character, how characters interact, and how character can drive the story.

Kim Stanley Robinson is a great example of this in science fiction.  Anything by him is a good choice here, but in particular I would suggest the older Three Californias Trilogy or the brand new Aurora.

But the epic historical fiction of Edward Rutherfurd and/or Ken Follett  would also work for readers who want to follow people, over many generations and do not need to have the SF elements to be happy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Slides and Links for PLA Attack of the "Best" Lists Webinar

Later today [1 pm central] I will be presenting the PLA's best books wrap up webinar. This is an annual, free webinar that PLA provides to their personal members as a thank you gift.  I am excited to a be a part of this webinar both as the presenter and as a member myself.

I am honored that PLA is willing to enlist me, and my more active approach to RA service to help all of you serve your leisure readers more effectively. I am going to blow-up the entire idea of "Best" lists and how you should be using them. I am going to take examples from this year's "Best" lists and show you how to make connections to other titles depending on what you patron actually likes to read.

Be prepared because it is going to be a whirlwind of an hour, but I promise that you will be able to immediately use something I said to help a patron...today!

Every time I present, I also provide a link to the slides for all of my readers. Of course, they are most useful to those who have attended the presentation, but there is always something there for anyone who helps leisure readers in a library.

Here is the link for today's slides with the live links for you to explore. I also will keep an easy to access link in the Recent Presentations page of this blog for at least six months.  If you are encountering this post after that time frame, please feel free to contact me and I will forward you the link at any time.

I would also like to add a few more links to the presentation today.

Early Word has extensive and exhaustive compilations of all of the "Best" lists. Nora Rawlinson, the editor of Early Word, encourages you to use them to help patrons in the same ways that I outline in my presentation. An interesting side note from Nora on the lists this year:
"Of the 355 fiction titles, 251 were picked by only one source. In nonfiction, of the 281 titles, 199 got just one pick. Mining those single picks can bring up interesting overlooked titles, ripe for readers advisors." 
I couldn't agree more. Here are the quick links directly to the "Best" compilations:
2015 Best Books Fiction – V3 
2015 Best Books Nonfiction, V3 
2015 Best Books Poetry V2
During the presentation I also mention that I will be featuring a librarian who is also a self-published romance author on my blog in early 2016. Here is the link to one of this mystery person's novels, now on sale for $0.99. Check it out for yourself.

I realize that some of you may be new to this blog today, so I also wanted to welcome you. Please explore. I have been doing this for over eight years now, so there is a lot of information to take in. You can find a great introduction to me, including contact info, some interviews I have done, and even a video of me presenting here.

Now, with all that housekeeping out of the way, let's start attacking those "Best" lists together.

Click here to view slides

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Crime Book Talks and Announcement of the 2016-17 Genre Study

As I mentioned here, at the last Crime Fiction Genre Study we asked the participants to come prepared to book talk a crime book that we did not get to over the two years.  This was a way for the participants to drive the conversation by getting in a book or a series that they have had good luck suggesting to patrons AND allowed us to tackle genre blending. Click here for the detailed assignment for that meeting.

Well, people came prepared with their book talks and now we can share it with everyone. Click here for the Library Aware book list our fabulous and amazing notetaker Karen Toonen compiled using the Naperville Public Library’s account.  Thanks to Karen and Naperville for making us look even better.

From Karen’s intro to the list:
During 2015 and 2016, the Adult Reading Round Table's Genre Study focused on Crime Fiction.  Over the course of the study, we discussed many authors, titles, and series. (See the notes section for details of our discussions.) As part of our final wrap-up meeting, participants wrote 90 second book talks.  The only qualification was that neither the title nor author could have been discussed during the study.  Written for library staff, to be shared with library staff, the following shows the variation in how people formalize book talks. The wide variety of titles mirrors the interest of crime fans as well as those newer to crime and the broadness of crime fiction in general.  As said by crime writer Karin Slaughter, "The most enduring stories in literature generally have some kind of crime at their center, whether it's the blood butchery of Hamlet, the lecherous misanthropes of Dickens, or the lone gunman from The Great Gatsby."
Click through to see the full book list, and feel free to use it as long as you credit ARRT.  

This list is an example of what I always say about compound interest in my training sessions. Each person provided a single book talk, but when we put each talk together, we have a diverse and useful list that has many books and will help a lot of readers. I am so proud of everyone and feel honored to have been able to lead this amazing and dedicated group for the last 2 years.

With endings come new beginnings though, and only 6 days after finishing the genre study, our new team-- Annabelle from Skokie, Megan from Morton Grove, and me and Karen (mentioned above)-- met to plan the next genre study on.... SPECULATIVE FICTION-- Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.

But what is so great about the new genre study is that we are not going to organize the meetings solely by genre because the nature of these three genres is that they blend. In order to more accurately get at the heart of why our patrons read them, we are going to organize the study more along the lines of appeal.

We have hammered out many of the details, but I am going to leave the specifics until Annabelle, the official head of the genre study, has finished putting the schedule together.

The four of us are extremely excited about the way it is all shaking out and cannot wait to start including our wonderful members in the conversation.

Which leads me to my final point. Remember, you must be a member of ARRT to participate in the genre study. The 2016 membership form is available now! But, you do not need to be a member to see our schedule and use it to lead your own speculative fiction genre study, all we ask is that you credit ARRT. I will let you know when all of those documents are ready.

In the meantime, you might want to start planning which speculative fiction books you are going to read next.

Monday, December 14, 2015

What I’m Reading: This Census-Taker

Here is the draft version of one of my reviews. The final review is in the magazine.

This Census-Taker by China Miéville

Jan. 2016. 208p. Del Rey, hardcover, $24  (9781101967324)
REVIEW.  First published December 15, 2015 (Booklist).

Mieville is back with an ominous, thought provoking fairy tale for adults, narrated by an unnamed man as he looks back on the pivotal weeks during his ninth year when his mother disappeared under nefarious circumstances. At it’s heart, this is the story of how a scared, confused boy took the first steps that led him to his current adult life. The descriptions of the world in which the novella takes place and the characters involved in the action (both in the past and present) are purposely vague, but this narrative choice gives the story a magical feel, leaving us questioning how much we are supposed to believe. It also captivates, giving us glimpses of cities ravaged by decades of war, mysterious keys that might do dangerous things, many missing persons, and most strikingly, a very deep hole. While many questions will still remain once the final page is turned, answers are not why you read this tale. Rather, Mieville is offering us the opportunity to contemplate our own adult lives and question what led us to where we find ourselves today presented in the form of a compelling and fascinating book that begs to be read in a sitting or two. Fans of Mieville will enjoy seeing some of the ideas he contemplated in regards to place and boundaries in the award-winning The City & The City poking through here. Comparisons to Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane are inevitable, but this novella more closely resembles the narrative style, quirkiness, and plotting found in the works of Karen Russell, Aimee Bender, or Steven Millhauser.

Three Words That Describe This Book: mysterious, open ended, thought-provoking

Readalikes: Mieville is the reigning king of the New Weird. Another master of this emerging genre is Jeff Vandermeer. HIs Southern Reach Trilogy is a great readalike. I read Annihilation and wrote a review here. At that link I have many more readalikes suggestions. Both This Census Taker and Annihilation can be read in a sitting or two.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Support Groups for Book Discussion Leaders by Me in Booklist

The latest issue of Booklist features a spotlight on Book Discussions, one of my favorite topics.

I contributed an article entitled, “Support Groups for Book Discussion Leaders,” which begins:
A librarian walks into a bar, sits down, and puts her head in her hands. The bartender strolls over and asks, “Tough day at work? Your relationship headed south?” “Both!” answers the librarian. “Book club did not go well today; it did not go well at all . . .”
Intrigued? You can read the rest of the article here. It is all about the awesome work we do at ARRT helping book discussion leaders.

The whole issue has lots of information for everyone out there working with book clubs.  Here is the post from Booklist Reader which previews the entire issue [with clickable links]:

The Latest Booklist: Spotlight on Book Discussions

c1De2The December 15 issue of Booklist magazine is now live. Visit Booklist Onlinewhere you’ll find 280 new reviews and 9 new feature articles and lists. The articles will be free to all for the next two weeks—to have unrestricted access, you’ll need to log in. If you aren’t yet a subscriber, or do subscribe but haven’t registered for access, you can take care of that today!
Our Spotlight on Book Discussions sports a number of resources for book groups. From Becky Spratford’s intelligent “Support Groups for Book Discussion Leaders” to Michael Cart’s brief and informative history of book groups—”Carte Blanche: Read and Discuss.” Former Adult Books Editor Brad Hooper’s forthcoming book, The Librarian’s Guide to Book Programs and Author Events (ALA Editions), is excerpted in an adapted list of the best books for book groups. To get discussion going for young adult readers, Sarah Hunter compiles a read-alikes list perfect for discussing an especially hot-button topic—teen pregnancy. Kaite Mediatore Stover and David Wright share their holiday wish lists and Dan Kraus conducts a not-to-be-missed interview with Stephanie Kuehn, Ashley Hope Pérez, and Victoria Schwab on the state of the YA novel.
As a reminder, Booklist’digital edition of the December 15 issue is also live today. It’s a great new way to explore the magazine from your iPhone, iPad, tablet, Samsung Galaxy, or any other internet-connected device. With the digital issue, subscribers will now get print, online, digital, and archival access to the 22 Booklist and 4 Book Links issues each year! Visit www.booklistonline.com or click the link above to take a peek.
Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Library Reads: January 2016

Here is the monthly list of the best books for January according to librarians! Please remember to use previous lists to help patrons.  They make great sure bets, and they come with their own shelf talker. These titles are tailored made to book talk.  

I have all of the lists archived in backwards chronological order using the “Library Reads” tag.

January 2016 LibraryReads List

LucyBarton blog

My Name Is Lucy Barton:
A Novel

by Elizabeth Strout

by Random House
ISBN: 9781400067695
“Set in the mid-1980s, Lucy Barton, hospitalized for nine weeks, is surprised when her estranged mother shows up at her bedside. Her mother talks of local gossip, but underneath the banalities, Lucy senses the love that cannot be expressed. This is the story that Lucy must write about, the one story that has shaped her entire life. A beautiful lyrical story of a mother and daughter and the love they share.”
Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
ReadersBroken blog

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

Published: 1/19/2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 9781492623441
“Sara arrives in the small town of Broken Wheel to visit her pen pal Amy, only to discover Amy has just died. The tale of how she brings the love of books and reading that she shared with Amy to the residents of Broken Wheel is just a lovely read. Any book lover will enjoy Sara’s story and that of the friends she makes in Broken Wheel. If ever a town needed a bookstore, it is Broken Wheel; the healing power of books and reading is made evident by this heartwarming book.”
Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton Public Library, Groton, CT

SwansofFifth blog

The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel

by Melanie Benjamin

Published: 1/26/2016 by Delacorte Press
ISBN: 9780345528698
“Benjamin transports readers to 1960s Manhattan. This story gives us the chance to spy on Truman Capote’s close friendship with Babe Paley and his society “swans,” and the betrayal and scandal that drove them apart. I loved the description of the Black and White Ball.”
Emily Weiss, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH


Ashley Bell: A Novel

by Dean Koontz

Published: 12/8/2015 by Bantam
ISBN: 9780345545961
“This is a thrilling novel that caught me by surprise. Bibi Blair was diagnosed with brain cancer and astounds her doctor by being cured the day after her diagnosis. Why was she saved? A girl named Ashley Bell can provide the answers she seeks. Reality and dreams mix together in this unique narrative. Readers will be compelled to rush through to get to the ending.”
Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA

AmericanHousewife blog

American Housewife: Stories

by Helen Ellis

Published: 1/12/2016 by Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385541039
“In a series of short stories, Helen Ellis picks up the rock of American domesticity and shows us what’s underneath. While it’s not always pretty, it is pretty hilarious, in the darkest, most twisted of ways. The ladies in these stories seem to be living lives that are enviable in the extreme, but then slowly, the layers are pulled away, and the truth is revealed.”
Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, Darien, CT

LittleDribbling blog

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

by Bill Bryson

Published: 1/19/2016 by Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385539289
“A slightly more curmudgeonly Bill Bryson recreates his beloved formula of travel writing and social commentary. This book is a lovely reminder of all the amazing natural beauty and historically significant sites found in the United Kingdom. Even though Bryson extols the virtues of his adopted homeland, he never lets up on the eccentricities and stupidity he encounters. Bryson’s still laugh-out loud funny and this book won’t disappoint.”
Susannah Connor, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

things we keep blog

The Things We Keep: A Novel

by Sally Hepworth

Published: 1/19/2016 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250051905
“A sweet story of love and loss set in a residential care facility. Two of its youngest residents, a man and a woman both diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, fall in love. Their story is intertwined with the stories of other residents and employees at the facility, including a recently widowed cook and her seven-year-old daughter. A moving and improbably uplifting tale.”
Elizabeth Eastin, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY

ornaments of death blog

Ornaments of Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery

by Jane K. Cleland
Published: 12/1/2015 by Minotaur
ISBN: 9781250074539

“The Josie Prescott mystery series–featuring likable characters and fascinating facts about antiques–continues to please in this latest entry. Josie is dealing with her annual Christmas party while trying to unravel the mystery of a missing relative and the disappearance of two valuable seventeenth-century miniatures. A nicely twisted mystery in a fun and festive setting.”
Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

Even Dogs in the Wild blog

Even Dogs in the Wild

by Ian Rankin

Published: 1/19/2016 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316342513
“Readers rejoice! John Rebus has come out of retirement. Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox are working an important case and ask for his help. Then an attempt is made on the life of his longtime nemesis, Big Ger Cafferty. Are the cases connected? A top notch entry in a beloved series.”
Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC

what she knew blog

What She Knew: A Novel

by Gilly Macmillan

Published: 12/1/2015 by William Morrow Paperbacks
ISBN: 9780062413864
“Rachel Jenner is out for a walk with her son Ben when, after allowing him to run ahead to a swing, he vanishes. The investigation focuses on Rachel due to her recent divorce, and as a result, Rachel becomes undone. This is a psychological thriller full of suspense that will have you guessing until the very end. When all is revealed, the characters and action of the crime will stay with you long after you read the final page. I recommend this book to every fan of the genre.”
Annice Sevett, Willmar Public Library, Willmar, MN