Spot-Lit for August 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click Here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction 2021 Debuts

Spot-Lit for July 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction 2021 Debuts

Escaped and Missing!

Ever want to disappear, escape from your life? When I find a good book that’s exactly what happens. I lean towards the genres of Historical Fiction, Mystery, and occasional a combination of both.

The list of subjects found under the mystery genre is long: there’s paranormal and knitting and everything in-between. Super sleuth I’m not but I have discovered my own pattern of favorites:

  • Missing Persons
  • Murder
  • Detective
  • Victim

Below is a list of mysteries I read over the last year that reflect these topics. Each story is similar in that the reader is lead down his or her detective path exploring and imagining possible outcomes. What’s different is the style, tone, circumstances, and scenarios ranging from atmospheric/contemplative to thriller/page turner.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I read The Vanishing Half when it first came out last spring. Set in a fictional small town, the story begins in the 1950’s spanning to the 90’s. A pair of twin sisters take two different life paths when they conspire to escape to New Orleans for a better life. Stella finds work in an office and is wooed by the ‘good life’ and the attraction of her boss. She accepts his proposal leaving all others behind. Her light brown skin tone grants her access into a new world, one she is determined to keep hidden and separate from her past.  Desiree’s dreams, however, don’t materialize as she imagined. More historical fiction than mystery, The Vanishing Half addresses emotional issues of family and race. Bennett’s characterizations make this a compelling read.

Lost Boy Found by Kirsten Alexander

In 1913, long before television and radio were a source of communication, four-year-old Sonny Davenport wanders off the family’s vacation property. A huge search party ensues without a lead. Shock and fear turn into a depression and desolation that unravels a once happy family. Desperate to appease his wife Mary, John resorts to taking matters in his own hands. Using his wealth and the power of persuasion, blame is pinned on the poor and innocent which even by today’s standards seems unconscionable.

The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian

Red Lotus captured my attention immediately. Austin and his new girlfriend, an ER doctor, are on a bicycling tour in Vietnam. Near the end of their trip, Austin insists on taking a solo bike ride against their tour guide’s safety warnings. The reader learns right away of his demise. A complex plot involving an illegal international web follows. “The Red Lotus is a fascinating story of those who dedicate their lives to saving people, and those who instead peddle death to the highest bidder“… provided by the publisher.

Before She Was Helen by Caroline Cooney

Over the course of working from home, I listened to a podcast featuring authors discussing their latest novels. Beloved children’s author Cooney announced she had written her first adult novel. Before She Was Helen interested me because the story depicts a complex older woman as the main character. Helen goes ‘missing’ intentionally, creating two separate lives: the one her family knows about and the other she portrays living in her retirement community. Helen gets tangled unwittingly in a murder when she sends an incriminating text to her nephew with an attached photo. Humorous and heartbreaking, Before She Was Helen is a murder mystery and more.

When the Stars go Dark by Paula McLain

Pivoting from historical fiction (The Paris Wife) to a missing person’s investigation, McLain’s latest book did not disappoint. Several young women turn up missing in a northwest coastal region of California. Kidnapped? Runaways? Are the events related?  Suffering from her own trauma, San Francisco detective Anna Hart returns to her hometown of Mendocino, California to re-evaluate and take a needed break. Anna can’t rest when she learns of one local young girl who has disappeared without explanation.

“As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment… As Anna becomes obsessed with these missing girls, she must learn that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.”–provided by the publisher.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

My grandmother used to say: “Location, Location, Location!” Of course she was referring to real estate, but I can say that the same rings true in classic murder mystery. Think Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express or Lifeboat directed by Alfred Hitchcock … the setting can create suspense.

Perched on a cliff in the Swiss Alps, a renovated sanatorium turned upscale hotel, Le Sommet, is the setting for this thriller. A murder is followed by an avalanche that blocks the local police out, isolating guests, staff, and the killer setting the tone for this fast-paced novel. Weary and unsettled Elin Warner is on a leave of absence as a detective in the UK. Invited to join the celebration of her estranged brother and former girlfriend Laure. When Laure disappears old suspicions and tensions mount. Suspense ratchets up as the storm intensifies. The Sanatorium is more of a whodunit than a missing person; a debut novel sure to climb the best seller lists. So, here’s my take on a good mystery: it needs to be engaging, provide multifaceted characters, and be a story that sweeps you away to a different era or intriguing location. In my early days reading mysteries I was pacified with the predictable, but I quickly tired of reading the same author who invariably employed a similar plot and characters for each novel.

Finishing a good mystery is a bit like putting the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle.

Spot-Lit for June 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction 2021 Debuts

All in All it’s Just Another Body in the Wall

At first, I thought Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark might end up being another cliched hum-drum ghost story. My mind was already made up not to feel guilty if I decided to put it down and pick up another book to read. But some little voice (call it Jiminy Cricket, the ghost of the still living Stephen King, or hell, even Leonard Cohen whom I was listening to when I picked the book up) told me to keep going. So kept going I did and this book knocked my socks off. Well, they were already half off because my puppy was tugging on them so he could run around with them in his mouth, but you get what I’m saying.

As the book opens, an abandoned, possibly haunted, house still clings to the family who left it with just the clothes on their backs twenty-five years ago never to return. Ewan, his wife Jess, and their young daughter Maggie moved into the massive mansion for a fresh start. Ewan is a writer and his freelance jobs are drying up. He thinks the move into an old home with a colorful history will give him the push he needs to write a novel.

The house has its eccentricities: a chandelier that turns itself on, a record player in the den that plays a song from the album The Sound of Music. But all old houses have their own personalities, so the Holt family isn’t too worried about it. Jess made Ewan swear he wouldn’t get lost digging into the house’s past and although he makes the promise, he breaks it and finds out some disturbing things about the past owners of the home.

A father killed himself and then his daughter a few years before the Holts moved in. Before that, a 16-year-old girl had killed herself when her father forbade her from seeing a man she fell in love with. Many other inexplicable deaths occurred in the home when it was a bed and breakfast as well.

Ewan is awoken at the same time in the middle of the night to a thump and the record player starting up on its own and a strange tapping noise coming from the hallway. Meanwhile, their daughter Maggie complains about Mister Shadow and Miss Penny Face, two entities who seem to haunt her at night, watching her from the giant armoire in her bedroom. The haunting comes to a head two weeks after they move in and they flee in the night without any of their belongings.

Time shifts to 25 years later and Maggie is all grown up with a home restoration business of her own. Her father Ewan has just died. She remembers nothing from their stay in that house. But after running away in the night her father wrote a bestseller called House of Horrors that made the family a lot of money and pretty much ruined Maggie’s life. She was always “that girl who lived in a haunted house.”

At the reading of Ewan’s will, Maggie discovers that her parents never sold Baneberry Hall and her father left it to her. She decides it’s the perfect time to go there, renovate the house and finally find out what happened all those years ago, believing that both of her parents have spent the past 25 years telling her lies about it. Maggie goes to Baneberry Hall and shrugs off the feeling that the house is haunted by saying it’s such an old house of course it’s going to be odd.

But finding answers and the truth isn’t as easy as Maggie thought it’d be. The Ditmers, who used to look after and clean the house still live in a small house on the property. Mrs. Ditmer is old and has dementia and her daughter Hannah takes care or her. Hannah’s older sister Petra disappeared the same night that the Holt family ran away, and she hasn’t been seen since. Some of the talk is that Ewan must have had something to do with it, especially when her bones show up in the house.

Primarily a spooky mystery about the redemption of family and the need to heal the past, Home Before Dark is a damn fine read. Just spooky enough to pull the blankets around my shoulders and take a glimpse under the bed for any, you know, ghosts or dead folk and mysterious enough to have me wanting to hang around until it was solved, Home Before Dark is a book you can lose yourself in for a couple of hours. But make sure you keep that armoire closed and maybe put a two by four in the handles so Mister Shadow and Miss Penny Face can’t get out and watch you sleep.

Spot-Lit for May 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction 2021 Debuts

The A’s Have it

I don’t know you guys. The idea of having to be an initiate to get into an ultra-elite “it” group in high school just sounds exhausting. Maybe that’s because I’m 43 and at this age I’d be like: “You want me to steal the answers to the trigonometry final, so I qualify to get into this elitist snob factory? Nah. I’m good. I’m going to sit on the couch and eat this family sized bag of Cheetos while I watch The Office for the 800th time.”

In Elizabeth Klehfoth’s debut novel All These Beautiful Strangers, Charlie Calloway is a junior at the prestigious Knollwood Academy, a school her father attended, and his father before him, and so on and so on. She’s got a huge academic load to worry about and now at the beginning of her junior year she gets a letter saying a secret society known as the A’s wants her to join the group. But there’s a catch (isn’t there always?): she must pass three tests to become a member.

This is kind of a back story to the main story which is the disappearance of Charlie’s mother ten years before when she was seven. She doesn’t have much contact with her mother’s family because her father’s family kind of trash talked them because they weren’t rich. But Hank, Charlie’s mother’s brother finds Charlie and has her look at some photographs he found beneath the floorboards at the Calloway Family summer home on Langley Lake.

Charlie’s family believes that Grace, Charlie’s mother, just packed her bags one day and left, tired of being a wife and mother to her two daughters. For ten years Charlie has lived with the feeling that her mother didn’t love her and that it was very easy for her to leave and never contact her children. Questions begin to swirl around in Charlie’s mind, things she remembers as a seven-year-old: the fights her mother and father would have, her mother yelling at her father “Get your hands off of me!” Was her mother and father’s relationship that strained?

Charlie’s father was also a member of the A’s but since it’s a secret society, it was never talked about. Charlie thinks of them as a powerful, king of the mountain type of group that will open the gates to the best universities and careers imaginable for their members. Once an A, always an A for life. I’m thinking the A’s would do everything to help their members get away with anything. Even murder.

Take the case of Jake Griffin, Grace’s first love. He attended Knollwood along with Charlie’s father Alastair but when asked about Jake, Alastair pretends they were never close and just classroom acquaintances which is weird since Charlie found a picture of them in an old year book with their arms around each other and smiling into the camera. It turns out that Jake was being initiated into the A’s along with Alastair.

Jake was found dead in the river, having jumped from the ledge that was where Knollwood’s elite hung out. He got caught stealing the answers to a test and felt so horrible about it that he took his own life, something that Grace never believed. They’d know each other since they were children. She knew Jake inside and out. He never would have killed himself. But then she goes on to meet and fall in love with Alastair and they marry and fall in love. Seven years into her marriage, suspicions started popping up about the man she married and who he really was.

Told in the alternating voices of Charlie, Grace, and Alastair, this book has mysteries inside of mysteries. It’s a damn inception of a book and I couldn’t write all that I wanted to write about it without giving too much away. I will say that Charlie finds out more than she bargained for about the A’s. She begins to realize that they’re a more self-serving group, punishing those who displease them: even punishing a teacher who rebuked the amorous advances of a student. And if an initiate fails a test, they are set up to be kicked out of school. Charlie also realizes the kind of person she wants to be.

Filled with enough twists and turns to give you motion sickness, All These Beautiful Strangers tells the story of a broken family and its past, of a young woman searching for answers while searching for herself, and is a reminder of how nothing is as it seems. Go on, read it. Devour it like I’m devouring this family sized bag of Cheetos.

Spot-Lit for April 2021

Rejoice! It’s not every month that offers new fiction from 20th-century maestro Marcel Proust, or a pertinent novel on race and policing by Richard Wright from 1942 that only now is getting published, or a new translation of what is described as the most accessible novel by Brazilian phenom Clarice Lispector.

In terms of local color, Willy Vlautin’s latest looks at greed, hardship, and gentrification in Portland, and Joanne Tompkins’ intense Washington-set debut focuses on loss and connection.

April also brings us new titles by Haruki Murakami, Jhumpa Lahiri, Helen Oyeyemi, and Paula McCain along with much-buzzed debuts from Kirstin Valdez Quade, Sanjena Sathian, and Donna Freitas.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2021 Debuts

Spot-Lit for March 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2021 Debuts

Spot-Lit for February 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2021 Debuts