Book buzz: families full of drama

There was gasoline to set a house on fire, a wronged wife, a dead husband and a sister in danger, with suspected crooked law enforcement agents and politicos galore, so nobody could be trusted. At this critical point in the story, my audiobook loan inconveniently expired. My book was deleted from my app’s bookshelf, leaving me waiting in suspense while several people behind me with holds finished their borrowing and my turn came up again.

I’m probably foolish to tackle listening to a nineteen hour audiobook with only a grand total of forty minutes of commuting time each day, but a good, twisty plot-driven novel sometimes just fits my mood. Karin Slaughter’s “Pretty Girls” fits the bill. I have to say I had absolutely no trouble picking up the audiobook’s plot right where my last bookmark left off. (Did you know that our downloadable audiobook and e-book apps retain bookmark and progress information in case you want to pick up a prior loan and complete your book? This has been a lifesaver for my short commutes, since I rarely finish a book before my loan ends.) Reader reviews of “Pretty Girls” have been mixed in our catalog, and I do share some concerns about plot believability. Putting those misgivings aside was definitely worth it to get caught up in the action. I recommend going along with Slaughter for this very wild ride.

Family drama comes in many fictional varieties. While listening to “Pretty Girls,” I also picked up three advance reader’s editions of forthcoming bestsellers to recommend here for summer reads.

Who doesn’t have a dream about reinventing the life we’re living? Terry McMillan has a new novel coming in early June, “I Almost Forgot About You.” Approaching her fifty-fifth birthday, successful Dr. Georgia Young’s life is in a holding pattern. How should she get back in touch with who she really is? How to plan and make a different life? By connecting again with her past, can she cobble together a future? A crazy idea unfolds: to find all of her ex-loves, let them know how they’ve touched her heart, and hopefully learn more about who she is, inspiring new dreams and plans. Georgia’s extended family and friends are flawed, loving, squabbling, quirky, and as wrapped up in their own lives as Georgia is in hers — totally believable and human. I was pulled into McMillan’s web of interconnected lives and read this book quickly to find out how rediscovering herself and love would turn out for Georgia. I found hope and humor to carry with me. I’m doubly fortunate to have been gifted with a personalized copy, pictured in this post, with the very wonderful and appropriate message, “Yes to you!” from the author.

Another title which puts a modern spin on love and family roles is hot off the presses on April 19. “Eligible: a Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld takes a well loved story into the twenty-first century. You’ll recognize the trappings and foibles of this Bennett family, as the adult unmarried daughters return to the family manse to attend their father who has had a health scare. Unexpected complications unfold as the Bennetts maneuver to marry off whichever daughter possible to the eligible bachelors in their old hometown. Contemporary details and humor abound in this updated version. From matchmaking apps on smartphones to paleo crabcakes, these women and their fixations, interests, concerns, mistakes and confessions ring true, reflecting people I know. In this fresh retelling, I found absolutely the right degree of snootiness, condescension, ego, class prejudice and ambition balanced with caring, connection and affection. The writing is witty and entertaining, the characters are well portrayed, and Sittenfeld wraps modern social issues seamlessly into the story. Curtis Sittenfeld is our featured guest and speaker at the annual Booklovers Luncheon on Wednesday, April 27. The conversation promises to be sparkling.

Finally, another noteworthy novel about a family in danger and at crisis point will be released this May. “Boar Island” is number nineteen in Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon suspense series, but reads perfectly as a standalone mystery. A cyberbullying attack on a teenage girl prompts Barr’s park ranger/ law enforcement agent to bring a family needing protection with her on her latest National Parks assignment to Acadia National Park in Maine. You’d think that the family here would be safe in a house perched high on a rock cliff on a remote island reachable only by boat, but as Anna’s friend, Heath, her elderly aunt Gwen, and her daughter, Elizabeth find out, you can flee but you can’t hide. While the stalker continues to threaten Elizabeth, dark happenings on Boar Island and a murder in Acadia National Park bring danger to this remote location. Both plots move forward with creepy details from two sets of family pasts unfolding and overlapping satisfyingly and building tension. Barr readers will recognize and empathize with characters from “Destroyer Angel” appearing here. New fans will want to pick up the back story with this earlier book in the series.

Each of these books offers the reader (or listener) an opportunity to escape reality and to inhabit the lives of some decidedly unusual and slightly off-kilter families. Enjoy. Here’s to summer reading escape!

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