Julie's Staff Picks
"I like the Rubicon women! Lana (a smart but emotionally challenged real estate tycoon), Beth (Lana’s daughter who’s built a good life for herself in a quirky beach town), and Jack (adventurous 15-year-old daughter of Beth) have a strained relationship, but are now living together in Beth’s small house.
What follows (dead bodies, potential romance, misunderstandings, various forms of family drama, and more) is propelled by snappy dialogue and a clever mystery. I want to spend more time with the Rubicon’s, so I’m really hoping Simon has another book on standby."
"Whitehead does such a great job of creating a 1970s vibe. From the descriptions of Harlem during a particularly dark time in NYC to the dialogue and pop culture references, he places the reader right in the middle of the action.
But more than that, he tells a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant story of personal relationships—familial and otherwise. If you read Harlem Shuffle, you’ll recognize some of the characters. But if you haven’t, don’t worry…this novel stands on its own."
"Two women meet in Paris. One protects the other from harassment on the street. They appear to form a bond. What happens after that is surprising, occasionally horrifying, somewhat confusing, and even a little funny.
Schulman does a great job of differentiating the voices of the two women. One verging on stream of consciousness and the other blunt and forceful. Ultimately, the book is about power, trauma, and the complicated relationship between two women with troubled pasts."
"In 1960 London, while working in a rare book shop, Hazel encounters a manuscript that’s nearly identical to the stories she told her little sister, Flora Lea, when they had to leave the city during World War II. Only Hazel and her sister knew those stories, but Flora disappeared—presumed drowned—when she was 5. Is Flora still alive? Is she the author of this manuscript? Did someone else know about their secret? This novel tells the story of Hazel and Flora’s life in a sweet village during the war living with a loving family and the tragedy and mystery of sudden loss without real closure."
"With a nod to Little Women, Hello Beautiful tells the story of four sisters and one man who enters their circle in the 1980s. Told as a love story and a family saga spanning several decades, the novel features complex characters and excellent plotting. Napolitano does a great job of delving into the minds of each of the main characters with alternating chapters told from differing perspectives."
"Three siblings, along with their spouses and children, gather to celebrate the first Christmas after their mother dies. The story shifts perspectives among all of the adults, providing glimpses into how they see each other, themselves, their children, and their deceased matriarch. This beautifully written book pulled me into the stories of this surprisingly familiar family of grown children who love-hate each other, continue to struggle with grief, and aren’t quite sure of their roles without their mother."
"This book has it all: epic storytelling; characters who range from charming, disarming, and charismatic to alarming, confusing and nefarious; and writing that’s at the same time down to earth and uplifting.
The story centers around two brothers and their circuitous attempt to start a new life after the abandonment of their mother and death of their father. They encounter, travel with, and learn from strangers, acquaintances, and friends who offer them life lessons and opportunities to make choices—both good and bad.
I really can’t say enough good things about this novel. It’s taken a place at the top of my list of favorite books!"
"I read the prologue to this book—a beautiful, heartbreaking poem—while standing in the middle of this store. And then I read it again. Bought the book before I went home and read it in a day. It’s the story of Antonia Vega. Her husband has died suddenly and she’s trying to figure out the rest of her life. As she’s confronted with various hurdles and encounters, she begins taking the first steps on the journey to what’s next."
"If you haven’t read Ann Cleeves before, I recommend that you do (and watch the BBC shows that have been made based on her books Shetland and Vera). The Long Call begins a series centered on reserved detective Matthew Venn, his artsy husband, and the other detectives who work with him. In this first installment, the murder of a man with an albatross tattoo returns Matthew to his estranged family and strict religious upbringing. As with Cleeves’ other books, the characters are nicely developed and the plot provides intrigue and opportunities for reflection."
"Astrid Strick, her three children, granddaughter, and assorted friends and small-town characrers are the heart of this sweet and funny book. It all begins with a fatal acciddent, which triggers a snowball effect of retrieved memories, revelations, and life-changing decisions. The dialogue is quick and snappy and the writing is perfectly paced for a quick read."
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"I really wasn’t prepared to like this book so much. It’s the story of Benedict Stone—an overly predictable, stuck in a rut jeweler—and the completely unpredictable daughter of his estranged brother, who shows up on his doorstep in the middle of the night. The relationship they forge and how they change each other’s lives is the heart of the story, but they also encounter several charming, quirky characters who make up the town of Noon Sun. Oh, and you’ll learn a lot about gem stones! Now it’s time for me to read Patrick’s first novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper."
"Fun! This book is fun. A whodunit on multiple levels, this novel within a novel is both an old fashioned English mystery and a more contemporary suspense novel. You’ll get your fix of rustic pubs and suspicious vicars, along with a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at the writing and publishing biz. I highly recommend this one. Settle in with a cup of tea or glass of sherry…and enjoy!"
"This is science the way I like it. A deep dive into a subject that's just a little quirky, told with respect and a sense of humor. In Stiff, Mary Roach explores what happens to the body after death and how cadavers have been used over the centuries to give us insights about the human condition, solve mysteries, and further the ends of medicine and science. I've liked all of Mary Roach's books/ Every one of them is thoroughly researched and well written. Give Stiff a read. You'll chuckle and learn lots of cool facts that you won't be able to stop yourself sharing with friends and family."
"Three stories come together in this English mystery. One is the story of Alice Lake and the amnesiac man she finds sitting on the beach in her English seaside town. The second involves Lily Monrose in London whose husband has gone missing. And twenty years before, a tragedy struck a family during their holiday. I really enjoyed how all of these stories and characters converged, not really knowing until the end who to believe or trust and wondering how I’d feel when the truth was revealed."
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"This is a book about family, fame, and loyalty, but not in any sort of overly sacrificial way, though sacrifices are made. Tomasina Daulair has been the personal assistant to famous children’s author Mort Lear for most of her adult life, living with him and protecting him. After he dies, she finds herself the executor of his estate, including his literary canon. Before Mort died, a movie about his life was in the works. The actor slated to play him comes to stay with Tomasina to learn more about him. Together, along with other characters important to them—and Mort—they make discoveries about themselves and the choices they’ve made. Beautifully written."
"This is the story of Dolores Price—from age 4 to 40—as told by Dolores herself. Her story is complicated, sad, and funny all at once. She’s both a victim and a heroine, both incredibly annoying and incredibly lovable. I’m a huge Wally Lamb fan, and this is the book that made me fall in love with him. For me, his writing is nearly perfect and he’s a genius storyteller. And don’t be put off by the fact that this is a book about a woman written by a man. Wally has a great talent for telling the stories of women."
"This is the story of the Birdsey twins—Dominick and Thomas. One a former teacher and now divorced and resentful housepainter, the other schizophrenic. As is typical of Wally Lamb, he reveals the story of these brothers through detailed flashbacks. And while their tale is full of tragedy, Lamb makes room for humor and hope. I recently saw Wally Lamb speak at the Philadelphia Free Library, where he announced that this book will become a short TV series starring Mark Ruffalo as both Birdsey brothers. The series which aired from May to June of 2020."
"As with most of Wally Lamb’s novels, The Hour I First Believed is full of story, including flashbacks and what some may call distractions but I find illuminating. He combines actual (Columbine and Katrina) and fictional events to tell the story of a complicated couple. Maureen survives Columbine only to suffer PTSD, drug addiction, and prison, while Caelum struggles and stumbles to sort it all out. You’ll find Lamb’s writing to be very straightforward, but also nuanced and engaging."