Sandy's Staff Picks
"Fans of Sally Hepworth know that she likes to write about the dark side of family members – sisters, mothers-in law, spouses, and exes, among others. In Darling Girls, she examines the relationship of three young unrelated girls -Jessica, Alicia, and Nora- who consider themselves sisters as a result of being the foster children of Holly Fairchild.
The novel centers on the women as children and adults and their relationships with one another and their foster mother.
This is the creepiest of Hepworth’s novels. It leads the reader to assume that the novel is heading in one direction only to have it veer in another. The atmosphere of uncertainty for the characters as well as for the reader makes this a very absorbing novel."
"I am a long-time fan of Laura Lippman – and not just because she sets her books in and around Baltimore, my hometown. Her latest book, Prom Mom, is SO good. It will keep you guessing from the meaning of its title to the very end. This is mostly a psychological mystery that raises questions about redemption, loyalty, and truth. The characters are well drawn and the pacing is perfect. If you are new to Lippman’s writing, this book is a wonderful introduction. If you have already read her Tess Monahan series or her many stand-alone novels, you will no doubt find this one to be among her very best."
"Yellowface examines many of today’s cultural issues, including the cutthroat nature of the book publishing industry, the matter of who can tell stories about ethnicities not their own, and the power of social media to make or break a book’s sales and an author’s reputation.
Kuang also tackles her characters’ motivations, morality, and delusions in insightful and entertaining ways. I greatly enjoyed this book! It’s well written and kept me guessing the resolution until the very end."
"This is a delightful book that pulls at all of one’s heartstrings.
Cassandra is reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant (the main character in Gail Honeyman’s best-selling novel), but she is not at all fine. In fact, she is far from it and the first one to admit it. However, she develops an interesting coping mechanism – time travel – that allows her to relive and try to correct all the events and conversations that don’t go as planned. Is this a good way to live one’s life? Casandra has some interesting thoughts about this."
"The Villa is the first of Rachel Hawkins’14 novels that I have read, and I can’t wait to see what I have been missing! The story’s setting – a villa in Orvieto, Italy-is arguably a major character of the novel as it is the location of the two stories depicted in it. The first takes place in the summer 1974, and involves young musicians and a writer who hope to be inspired by the beauty and remoteness of the villa. The second story centers on two long-time best friends, one of whom is a best-selling self-help guru and the other her less successful mystery-writing friend. They visit the villa 50 years after the first story hoping to relax and finish their respective books. The two stories weave in and out and the events of 1974 begin to mirror and have an impact on the present-day lives of the visitors in ways one will find surprising."
"Romantic Comedy is a fictional behind-the scenes look at a tv show that’s a mash-up of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. Fans of those shows will notice that characters in the book may be thinly-veiled versions of Pete Davidson and Liz Lemon. Sittenfeld is one of my favorite writers as she is adept at writing both serious (Prep and Sisterland) and light-hearted (Eligible) books but this book is for fans of romance novels. It’s well-written and won’t disappoint!"
"If you are currently going through a breakup, this is not the book for you – unless you believe misery loves company. However, if you have survived a break-up, then you will find this book funny and hopeful. And isn’t that what we want life to be?
Maggie and her friends – the two Laurens and Amirah – navigate romantic relationships, professional ups and downs, and the bonds and limits of friendship in this engaging novel by Canadian writer Monica Heisey. After reading it, you will want to visit Toronto – and perhaps even move there!"
"Sally Hepworth’s newest novel makes me glad, once again, that I am not a member of her family or inner circle! She questions – and skewers - family alliances and loyalties in all of her books, but The Soulmate is particularly unsettling. Ultimately, it asks: Whom should we trust, and is one’s gut instinct reliable? I recommend all of Hepworth’s books because the characters and plots are well-developed and each book is a page-turner."
"You think you have a crazy family? Read Katy Tur’s memoir and see how yours compares with hers.
You may be familiar with Katy from her coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign and her book about it titled Unbelievable. She’s also the anchor of MSNBC’s Katy Tur Reports. Little of that figures into this book which delves into her unconventional upbringing by her pioneering helicopter journalist parents. Remember the OJ chase and the Rodney King riots? Katy’s parents covered them from their perch above the city. But this is only the beginning of Katy’s story that includes an honest look at her parents’ marriage and her estrangement from her father, who surprised Katy with his transition to a woman in his 60’s. This is a fascinating story of a family as well as a look at how news has changed since the 1990’s."
"The Summer Place is another intricately woven and character- driven novel by best-selling author Jennifer Weiner. The action is divided between her beloved Cape Cod and New York City, and the story involves multiple plotlines that come together in surprising ways. Weiner has written another absorbing and touching book that is perfect for a summer afternoon by the pool, at the beach or on your favorite couch."
"Note: That Summer is not a sequel to Big Summer!
That Summer is a book that mothers and their teen or young adult daughters might want to read together as the topic - sexual assault and its aftermath - is timely and epidemic in schools and on college campuses. The story revolves around two women named Diana whose friendship develops as a result of their involvement with the same man. The central questions Weiner seeks to answer are: Can we make up for past bad behavior by living an upstanding life, and what does it take to make a victim of sexual assault whole – and is it even possible?
Although the topic is a heavy one, Weiner’s sharp eye for detail and ability to tell a good story balance out the painful parts."
"In addition to having a provocative title and cover, this book names names and pulls no punches. Copaken's memoir mines her health crises, marriage, and financial freefall. As a reader, you might feel like a voyeur peeking into the life of someone you think is at times brave and at others foolhardy. Whether you find her whiny or a person deserving of admiration for getting out of bed most days, this is a compelling read. Copaken, a longtime journalist and photographer, also seeks to educate her readers about the inequality that's inherent in our economy and exacerbated by the lack of affordable healthcare.
This book will educate, entertain, and aggravate you, but, most importantly, it will make you think."
"Laura Lippman is a former news reporter and the wife of David Simon, creator of the tv series The Wire and Treme. They met when both were working as journalists for The Baltimore Sun. As with most of her other novels, Lippman sets this story in Baltimore -- my hometown – and bases it on actual murders that occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s. Maddie Schwartz, the protagonist, becomes involved in the stories behind the murders and talks herself into a job at the local newspaper.
Sex, race, infidelity, and women’s roles outside of the home are all part of this interesting story. When you finish it, I recommend that you read another of Lippman’s mysteries!"
"I am a fan of stories about families and this one about the Gleesons and the Stanhopes does not disappoint! Ask Again, Yes is a well-written account of two families headed by policemen in the NYPD. Both families deal with trauma that reverberates from one generation to the next. The characters are well drawn, and the plot makes the book a page-turner. I really enjoyed the book and have recommended it many times to other readers."
"I have read everything Jennifer Weiner has written, but this book is her best! It pulls you in immediately and keeps you reading because you want to know what happens to her characters, sisters Jo and Bethie. Jo is loosely based on Weirner's own mother's journey from conformity to self-actualization. Life is complicated and messy in all of Weiner's books, but this one has an ending full of compassion and reconciliation."
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"Listen to the Marriage is one of those books that stays with you long after you finish it. I was intrigued by the title and was curious to see what the author had to say.
Steve and Gretchen are on the brink of divorce and decide to go to couple’s therapy to see if there is anything about their marriage worth saving. The therapist they see has her own issues to deal with, however, she gets Steve and Gretchen to understand that the marriage they have created has its own qualities and characteristics and should be listened to. Needless to say, the idea is a provocative one and the book is worth reading!"
"Most readers seem to know Celeste Ng from having read her second novel, the best-selling Little Fires Everywhere, which was turned into a series by the same name. However, I would like to suggest that her first book – Everything I Never Told You – is the better of the two.
If you are a parent, this book is a difficult but compelling read. It deals with a Chinese-American family who has placed a great deal of pressure on their daughter Lydia, whom we find out in the first sentence of the book is dead. The rest of the novel deals with what happened to Lydia and the different ways her parents understand and process her death. I’m going to leave my recommendation there for fear of spoiling the reader’s experience. I just can’t recommend the book highly enough."
"Liz Moore is the author of the recent best-selling novel Long, Bright River. Having liked that book a great deal, I was eager to read her earlier book Heft. I ended up liking it even more than Long Bright River. Heft centers on Arthur Opp, a reclusive obese former professor and his student Charlene. Like Arthur, Charlene is battling various demons. However, her life is complicated by her teenage son, Kel, whom she is raising on her own. Arthur and Charlene commence a years-long correspondence that Kel learns about and seeks to discover the nature of. This is a wonderful story of friendship and love among a set of characters not often depicted in novels."