I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Books told from multiple viewpoints have a way of tearing at my soul. Seeing the same storyline through different characters lends additional compelling layers of emotion, backstory, and meaning that readers wouldn’t have through only one character. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal is a young adult novel told from two viewpoints over the course of one night.

Atlanta high school seniors Lena and Campbell, one black and one white, want to be normal teens. After a football rivalry escalates into a riot one Friday night, the two are forced to rely on each other to survive. From two very different backgrounds, the two girls are unexpectedly thrown together when chaos erupts at their school. During that night, Lena and Campbell must travel through the violent race riot that has enveloped Atlanta as they try to get home.

Lena knows what she wants out of life. With an awesome boyfriend, amazing style, and big plans for her future, Lena is determined to make a name for herself. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to survive. Being abandoned by her mother and starting her senior year at a new school in a new town with her dad is not how she imagined her life turning out. Campbell just wants to make it through the school year.

When the two head to the football game, they have plans for what they expect the night to be. When a rivalry with another school turns into a riot, Lena and Campbell are thrust together into a fight for survival. They aren’t friends. They barely know each other and don’t understand what the other is going through. Racing through town, their differences matter less as the city goes up in flames and people riot in the streets.

This book is also available in the following formats:

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Some of my favorite books to read when I’m searching for hope, yearning for positive thoughts, and trying to find a purpose are young adult books. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo was my latest young adult read that gave me a glimpse into another life. This book focuses on family, friends, love, and the struggle to figure out your future.

Emoni Santiago is a teen mom. Pregnant with her daughter during her freshman year of high school, Emoni works hard to overcome the judgment she faces from strangers and her fellow students. Knowing that she has to provide for Emma, Emoni does whatever needs to be done to help support her daughter and her abuela. Her life is stressful, but Emoni is grateful for what she has.

When she needs a break, Emoni heads to the kitchen and whips up some magic. She is able to look at ingredients and know what will fit well together. Whenever she shares her food with others, Emoni knows that it makes them think of memories, of home, of long-lost family and friends. As much as she would love to become a professional chef, Emoni knows that her family must come first. Now a senior in high school, she is struggling to figure out what to do with her future. Her counselor, friends, and family have all been asking what she wants to do.

Hoping to push her in the right direction, her counselor tells her she should take the new Culinary Arts class. Emoni is beyond excited. Once she starts cooking in that class, she lets her talent free and has to deal with the consequences. Her dreams of working as a chef are so close she can almost taste it.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart – American Mystery Classics

The Haunted Lady  by Mary Roberts Rinehart is enjoying a new rebirth thanks to Otto Penzler and his American Mystery Classics series.  Originally published in 1942, The Haunted Lady is one of a handful of reprinted mysteries hand selected by Penzler for a new generation of mystery readers.  Even though the American Mystery Classic series includes a multitude of vintage authors, the reissued titles have a common theme in their beautifully modern covers that give the books a uniform look and feel.  The cover of The Haunted Lady is exactly what drew me to the book in the first place.  Known as “the American Agatha Christie”, Rinehart apparently lost popularity after her death in the 1950s.  Penzler provides a short history of the author’s work at the beginning of the book.  Featuring nurse Hilda Adams, The Haunted Lady is one of three books featuring Adams.  Even though this book is the second in the series, picking up the book without reading the first in the series was seamless.

When we meet Hilda Adams, she has been recruited by Inspector Fuller to insert herself into the wealthy Fairbanks household to look after the elderly matriarch Eliza Fairbanks. Mrs. Fairbanks is convinced someone in her household is trying to kill her by initially feeding her arsenic and then by driving her mad with loose bats in her bedroom.  Nurse Adams charge is to keep an eye on Mrs. Fairbanks and report back to Inspector Fuller.  She meets a cast of characters in the Fairbanks family, and almost immediately more odd occurrences happen.   After a murder is committed in a seemingly locked room under Nurse Adams watch, she and Inspector Fuller team up to uncover the baffling truth.

For fans of early 20th century mysteries and cozy mysteries, I recommend The Haunted Lady as well as other novels in the American Mystery Classics series.  At the time, Mary Roberts Rinehart was  a very popular mystery writer and although not well know today, her mysteries still hold the reader’s attention and keep them guessing as to the culprit.  This series reintroduces vintage authors to an entirely new set of readers in today’s world.

 

 

 

 

Virtual Book Club – ‘Good Girls Lie’ on September 23

On Wednesday, September 23rd at 2pm,  Virtual Book Club will be discussing Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison. This book club meets virtually every week to discuss a book using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is provided at the end of this blog.

Want to learn more about Good Girls Lie? Read the following description provided by the publisher.

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous. In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. When a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide. But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club – Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
Wed, Sep 23, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/230386885

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (224) 501-3412

Access Code: 230-386-885

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/230386885

A Fire Story by Brian Fies

How do you cope with trauma? How are you dealing with the news? I tend to search out books as a way to help cope. Since August 2020, the news has been broadcasting stories about fires all over the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, among others. It’s hard for me to grasp the severity of a situation over the news, so I always seek out other sources of knowledge: informational studies, interviews, books, magazine articles, etc. In an effort to learn more, I went searching in the library for information about California wildfires.

Wanting to read a firsthand account, I found A Fire Story by Brian Fies, an author and illustrator whose home was destroyed by a wildfire in 2017.

This graphic novel began as a webcomic right after Brian, his wife, and their two pets evacuated their California home in the early morning on October 9, 2017 due to a massive wildfire. These wildfires burned through Northern California, eventually resulting in 44 fatalities and the complete destruction of 8,900 structures, including 6,200 homes. When Brian and his family evacuated, they didn’t think they would be gone for long, so they only grabbed a few items. In the days that followed their evacuation, Brian bought what art supplies he could find and started to draw an online comic that would become viral and turn into the full-length graphic novel, A Fire Story

In addition to focusing on what happened to Brian and his family, this graphic novel also talks about environmental factors that played into the fire, as well as helping readers gain a better understanding of how this disaster occurred. Brian also portrays the stories of others that were affected by this disaster.

While this story by no means gave me a full and complete understanding of wildfires, it helped me discover terminology and location information that has helped me learn more about the current wildfires happening on the West Coast. This graphic novel has provided me with a starting point to learn more, as well as a look at a firsthand account of the devastation these fires had on residents.

Edinburgh, San Francisco, Dublin: Classic Novels of Place

When life has me stressed, there are a lot of books I can’t read. Anything emotionally intense will only make me feel worse – which means my options for reading material narrow down a lot. Lately I  find myself taking a very particular prescription at times like these: what I think of as “novels of place”. These are books centered in one particular city or region, where the goal is to give a glimpse into the everyday lives of many people who live there. I love the opportunity to see how different people navigate their daily routines, and I like the immersion into a city I’ve never been to. Best of all, there’s not enough violence, romance, or angst to be intrusive. If you want to try this genre, here are a few of my favorites and why they work (for me).

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall-Smith launched a popular series, with the latest installment published in 2017. Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, the novel centers on the residents of the apartment building located at (you guessed it) 44 Scotland Street. The book opens when Pat, a twenty-year-old on her second gap year, moves out of her parents’ house and into a shared apartment in Scotland Street. Hijinks ensue as she meets her roommate Bruce, neighbor Domenica, and the family downstairs including 5-year-old prodigy Bertie. I like this book because it immerses you into all the good and bad things about living in Scotland, introduces you to realistic but quirky characters, and is liberally sprinkled with insightful comments on life, parenthood, attraction, and art. Most fascinating for me was the moral ambiguity of characters like Bruce the narcissist and Irene the pushy mother. I didn’t root for them, but I am intrigued enough to want to know what happens to them, and they make me think about self-awareness and what kind of person I want to be.

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin is very similar to the Scotland Street series: it started as a serialized novel (published in installments in the newspaper), launched a popular series, and is centered on the residents of an apartment building. In this case, however, the setting is 1970s San Francisco, and the apartment building is 28 Barbary Lane. Also like Scotland Street, the book starts when a young woman moves into the building: Mary Ann Singleton, a young secretary from Ohio. This is where the similarity ends, however: Tales of the City leans fully into the bohemian diversity of the San Francisco scene, and the domestic dramas involve less art and politics and more intrigue and debauchery. This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, partly because of its unapologetic diversity, and partly because its soap-opera storylines are perfect escapist reading!

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy is a favorite of both mine and my mother’s. Set in Dublin,  Ireland in the early 2000s, it follows Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather as they open a catering business together and it completely transforms their lives. This book has more of a cohesive plot than some of the others, along with a good mix of warmth, humor, and domestic drama. While this isn’t part of a series, like the others, if you can’t get enough of Binchy’s Dublin, you can also read its companion novel featuring some of the same characters: Quentins. The best thing about Maeve Binchy’s work, as evident in these books as well as many of her others, is that despite the unfortunate things that happen to her characters – the doomed relationships and betrayals – there’s an equal measure of friendship, true love, and hope to balance out the scales. And isn’t that what we all want to know?

I think that’s the main draw of all these novels for me – the wholesomeness, the strong sense of community and friendship, and the sense that the world keeps turning through all the petty, inconvenient, or unpleasant things that happen. Life goes on, and given time people grow, change, and heal. Oftentimes healing and growth happens because of the people who walk alongside us: friends, neighbors, and even strangers. In some cases, we’re helped by animals, which leads me to my last recommendation: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot.

Originally published in 1972, this is a true classic, but a perfect gentle read for the stressful times in life, especially for when you’re feeling lost. This biographical work tells the story of a young veterinarian who moves to the Yorkshire region of England to join a new practice. This rural, rugged region of England is full of unique characters, challenging terrain, and many animals. The young vet must treat livestock and pets alike while struggling to earn the respect of the locals. Despite the enormous challenges faced, the book shines with hope, humor, and deep love for animal life. If you’re an animal lover, this book (and its sequels) is a great choice.

Reese Witherspoon September pick – ‘The Last Story of Mina Lee’

Every month Reese Witherspoon releases a new pick for the Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine book club. She has announced her September pick: The Last Story of Mina Lee  by Nancy Jooyoun Kim.

If you want to make sure that you don’t miss any celebrity book club picks, join our Best Sellers Club and have those automatically put on hold for you.

Curious what The Last Story of Mina Lee  is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

Margot Lee’s mother isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown and finds her mother dead under suspicious circumstances. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the facts of Mina’s life as a Korean War orphan and undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello!

How is your reading going this month? Have you been able to squeeze in some reading time? Reading is a great way to escape for a bit, but in this especially crazy time sometimes there just isn’t room for long, leisurely afternoons spent with a book. If you’re finding this to be the case, why not try a movie? A couple hours of relaxing can do you a world of good and won’t absorb all of your time. Here are a few that fit into our “You’ve Got Mail” rom-com theme this month.

Ghostbusters. Bill Murray. Ghosts. New York Public Library. Who you gonna call?

When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron. Meg Ryan. Billy Crystal. That iconic scene at Katz’s Deli.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Finding yourself. Falling in love. A crazy family.

13 Going on 30. Jennifer Garner dances to Thriller.

Coming to America. Eddie Murphy. African prince finds his match in Queens, New York.

Say Anything. John Cusack. That’s a boom box kids. That’s how we used to listen to music.

Mamma Mia! Amanda Seyfried. Meryl Streep. Way too much ABBA music.

The Proposal. Sandra Bullock. Ryan Reynolds. Fake wedding. Alaska. Betty White being raunchy.

Notting Hill. Hugh Grant. Julia Roberts. Just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

Princess Bride. Robin Wright. Cary Elwes. Inconceivable! Prepare to die! As you wish.

Groundhog Day. Bill Murray. Andie MacDowell. Don’t drive angry!

Four Weddings and a Funeral. Hugh Grant. Andie MacDowell. Gorgeous flowers and charming churches.

And of course, You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Sweet, funny and Bentley the dog! It doesn’t get any better than this.

Virtual Book Club – ‘The Institute’ on September 16

Have you joined the Virtual Book Club yet? On Wednesday, September 16th at 2pm, Virtual Book Club will be discussing The Institute by Stephen King. This program meets virtually every week to discuss a book using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is listed at the end of this post.

Curious what The Institute is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents, telekinesis and telepathy, who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, like the roach motel, Kalisha says. ‘You check in, but you don’t check out.’ In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don|t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute. As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club – The Institute by Stephen King
Wed, Sep 16, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/792093261

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (224) 501-3412

Access Code: 792-093-261

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/792093261

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt was too young to remember the terrifying time she spent at Baneberry Hall, the expansive Victorian mansion her parents purchased in rural Vermont nearly 25 years earlier.  Maggie, along with her parents Ewan and Jess, lived at Baneberry Hall for only three weeks before sheer terror drove them to flee in the middle of the night.  Now nearly 30, Maggie has to face the reality of not only the recent death of her father, but yet again she has to face the skepticism and criticism regarding his best selling book, House of Horrors.  Her father’s book detailed the paranormal activity and deep secrets of the home’s history.  Author Riley Sager merges the past and present as well as the suspenseful and supernatural in Home Before Dark.

On her father’s deathbed she learns that she is the new owner of Baneberry Hall.  As a restorer of old homes, Maggie’s goal is to make the needed updates and sell the home as quickly as possible.  Upon moving into the house temporarily, Maggie begins to  doubt that her father invented many of the stories detailed in House of Horrors.  She begins to meet many of the townspeople portrayed in his book.  They have long memories and still harbor mixed emotions toward her family and the book.  As odd occurrences begin to spook Maggie, she begins to question everything that she has doubted her entire life – are there sinister evil spirits in Baneberry Hall or did her father invent the phenomenons that he claimed were true?

Home Before Dark is the second Riley Sager book that I have read and have thoroughly enjoyed both titles.  I would highly recommend his books if you enjoy the psychological suspense genre peppered with a little horror and supernatural elements.  In addition to the print book, Home Before Dark is also available as an eBook through Overdrive.

 

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