Author Kristin Hannah has a knack for creating vast sweeping sagas spanning multiple generations in a family’s story. In The Great Alone, Hannah crafts the story of teenager Leni Allbright who is growing up the the Pacific Northwest in the early 1970s. Leni’s father, Ernt, has just returned from the Vietnam War and is struggling with his life back in the United States. Her mother, Cora, attempts to cope as best as humanly possible, but struggles with trying to navigate a new life with her husband and growing daughter. Soon after Ernt returns from the war, he is informed that one of his soldier friends, who was killed in Vietnam, has left him a large swath of land in Alaska. Without much forethought, Ernt announces to his wife and daughter that they are packing their van and heading from Washington state to Alaska.
After arriving in Alaska, the trio quickly realize that living in the wild will not be as easy as they initially thought and they are woefully unprepared. They befriend a group of folks, some Alaska natives and some with the same dreams as they did upon their arrival, to live on their own terms. It soon becomes clear that the scars of war are still affecting Ernt and his mental health continues to deteriorate as the dark and cold winter approaches. Before too long Leni and Cora become isolated, both mentally and physically, by Ernt. When a small dispute arises with the neighbors and escalates, Leni has to choose sides, with possibly treacherous results.
Although the story is set in the 1970s, many of the issues facing the Allbright family align with events that are current in today’s world. The Great Alone isn’t always an easy read and the characters face choices that are part necessary and part catastrophic. In the end, a novel that is well worth the investment.
A non-fiction work that reads like a fast paced fiction novel, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal, is the story of Theranos, a start-up company in Silicon Valley run by a charismatic young entrepreneur whose fraud, arrogance and lies make for a stunning story.
Carreyrou leads the reader through the rise and fall of Theranos, a Silicon Valley medical company started by Elizabeth Holmes when she was a student at Stanford. According to her claims, Theranos had developed a blood testing device that was simpler, more cost-effective and could test a person for hundreds of diseases with a single drop of blood. Holmes promised to revolutionize the entire medical industry with the invention. In addition to the above claims, Theranos had amassed a large number of wealthy investors and was initially valued at nearly $9 billion, with Holmes being named by Forbes magazine as the youngest self-made billionaire, with a net worth of $4.5 billion. Theranos and Holmes were everywhere – magazine covers, television stories and other high-profile places. Simultaneously, a handful of their 800 employees were beginning to realize that the claims being made about the testing device were simply not true – it did not work.
Carreyrou’s book, which grew from an earlier Wall Street Journal story, details how the company defrauded and lied to employees, corporations and investors. His article, in part, set Theranos on a downward trajectory with the deception exposed. Presently, the United States attorney’s office in California has filed charges against Elizabeth Holmes and another executive. They have pleaded not guilty.
Initially, I was not sure if I would enjoy this book coming from a non-medical background, but I quickly became engrossed in the story and the massive deception that occurred within the company. A highly recommended read!
Cross Her Heart is another hit for author Sarah Pinborough (after another great novel, Behind Her Eyes). Written in alternate chapters by different characters, Cross Her Heart is a fabulous addition to the psychological suspense genre. Taking place in present day Britain, single mother Lisa is overly cautious and very protective of her teenage daughter, Ava. Ava is annoyed at her mother’s clingy nature, which only increases when she is in the company of her friends, whose parents are much more trusting of their own children.
Lisa’s life consists of work and her home life with Ava. Her nights out are few and far between and they are usually with a close co-worker, Marilyn, and her husband, Richard. But, unbeknownst to anyone who knows her, Lisa’s life is starting to unravel when glimmers from her past begin to emerge. She wakes up every day with panic that her past will come back to haunt her carefully constructed life. But Lisa isn’t the only one with secrets. Ava has also been keeping secrets from her mother and is involved with someone older who says they care for her, or do they?
While attending a town festival, Ava rescues a toddler from a near tragedy and the fanfare that develops around Lisa and her daughter has catastrophic results for the two of them. Someone recognizes Lisa and the life she has built for herself and her daughter is in jeopardy. Both Lisa and Ava are at danger and Lisa leans on her trusty friend Marilyn for support. With asking Marilyn for help, also means that Lisa has to be completely honest with her which could put everyone at risk.
The twists and turns in Cross Her Heart are fast and jaw dropping. If you love this genre, Sarah Pinborough is a great author to check out.
An Act of Villainy is the fifth book in the delightful Armory Ames Mystery series written by librarian Ashley Weaver. The series of mysteries jet-sets across Europe in the 1930s with amateur sleuths Armory Ames and her husband, Milo. In this installment, Armory and Milo find themselves back at home in London and during a night on the town, the couple runs into old friend and playwright Gerald Holloway.
Holloway invites Armory and Milo to a dress rehearsal of his latest play and the couple readily accepts the chance to be among the first to see the production. It is only when they arrive at the theater do they realize that Holloway has cast his mistress, Flora Bell, in the leading role. The duo quickly find out the real reason for the invitation to the dress rehearsal is that Ms. Bell has been receiving threatening notes slipped under her dressing room door. The anonymous author has detailed her demise and Holloway needs their help, imploring Armory and Milo to investigate and find out who is threatening his lady-love. Time is of the essence when the threats increase and Flora Bell’s life could be in danger. It is clear that many others have motive to cause harm to the rising starlet and Armory and Milo are bound and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery before opening night.
Ashley Weaver has created two clever and enchanting characters, whose banter with each other has the ability to sting. I have enjoyed the complicated relationship between Armory and Milo and their growth and development throughout the books from newlyweds to established couple and, at times, everything in between. Weaver brings Armory to life with her stylish wardrobe, wealthy hobbies and pampered lifestyle. If you are a fan of cozy, traditional mysteries with two adventurous personalities, try the Armory Ames Mystery Series!
Elin Hilderbrand’s books are the perfect combination of complex drama and noteworthy characters. Her latest book, Winter in Paradise, is the first book in a planned three-part series. At the beginning of the novel, we meet Irene Steel on a cold and snowy New Year’s in Iowa City. Patiently waiting for her husband, Russ, to return from his business trip, she decides to meet a friend for an early dinner. Irene’s world is turned upside down later that evening when she receives a cryptic phone call telling her that her husband has been killed in the Caribbean island of St. John in a helicopter crash.
Irene is blindsided with the news of her husband’s unexpected death. Not only did she think her husband was only a few states away for work, she had no idea why he would be on a small island in the Caribbean. Irene, along with her two grown sons Baker and Cash, gather from across the country and make their way to the island to make the necessary arrangements.
Upon their arrival, Irene and her sons begin to learn the magnitude of Russ’ deception and delve unwillingly into his secret life. The pieces of the puzzle all start to come together when the trio befriends various residents of the island and learn more about the husband and father that they thought they knew. Along with the ripple effect of his death, the three must come to terms with secrets in their past too. Just when the reader comes to end of the book, another exposed secret throws everything into a state of flux, setting the stage for the next book in the trilogy. With the cliffhanger at the end of Winter in Paradise, I am anxiously awaiting book two in the series, which will hopefully be released this year!
Every year in the late summer or early fall, I anxiously anticipate a new mystery by Louise Penny in her continuing Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series set in Three Pines, a small village in Quebec. The fourteenth book in the series is Kingdom of the Blind and it is clear that Penny’s writing is as strong as ever. I usually listen to the audiobook version of Penny’s books. The narrator is Robert Bathurst, a former character on Downton Abbey (Edith’s suitor Sir Anthony Strallan) and his voice brings the Canadian inspector alive. If you are new to the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, start with Louise Penny’s first book, Still Life.
The book begins with Armand Gamache, the former head of the Surete du Quebec, who is waiting to hear the verdict concerning his botched drug raid, which was a complete disaster. As the case hangs over his head, the drugs that eluded his squad begins to snake through the streets of Montreal with deadly precision. Gamache also learns of the betrayal of one of his “second chance” recruits, who has slipped back into addiction.
While waiting for the internal investigation to end, Gamache, along with friend and Three Pines resident Myrna Landers, have learned that they been named as executors of a woman’s estate whom neither of them know, along with third man who is a stranger to them. Why would this woman, who referred to herself as “The Baroness” appoint Gamache and Myrna as two executors when she was an outsider to their close-knit group in Three Pines?
After one of her beneficiaries is found dead in The Baroness’ dilapidated former home, Gamache is determined to find out more about the self-proclaimed royal and her family secrets. The case of the Baroness runs parallels with Gamache’s fate in the drug raid and its consequences. But, the Baroness is not the only one with secrets. Gamache has secrets of his own that will be revealed when all the pieces fit neatly into place.
I am a huge fan of mystery and psychological thrillers and Watching You by Lisa Jewell is a fabulous addition to the genre. The twists and turns in this thriller will keep you guessing until literally the last paragraph. The book begins with a murder in an affluent English town but the reader does not know the who, what, when, where or how. With an opening such as this, the tension grows and every character’s motivations are suspect until the true killer is revealed.
Newlyweds Joey Mullen and her husband Alfie have just moved to the exclusive neighborhood of Melville Heights in Bristol, England. Unable to afford rent on their own, they take up residence with Joey’s brother and sister-in-law. As a newcomer in the neighborhood, Joey befriends Tom Fitzwilliam, the beloved local school headmaster who lives two doors away and her initial friendship turns quickly from infatuation to obsession. But, unbeknownst to Joey, someone is watching through their photographic lens. It is Tom’s teenage son, Freddie, who documents the goings on in Melville Heights and sees the blossoming relationship his dad is starting with Joey.
But Joey isn’t the only person in this neighborhood who is obsessed with Tom Fitzwilliam. Bess, a young student at the school, is observed slipping in and out of the headmaster’s office by Jenna, another teen in the neighborhood and the speculation grows. Does Tom have secrets to hide? To add to the intrigue Jenna’s mother is convinced a group of neighbors, headed by Fitzwilliam, is stalking her. Young Freddie and Jenna join forces and with their prying eyes discover a decades old suicide which will bring motivations for murder to light. Everyone has a reason, but who is willing to kill in order to keep a secret and enact revenge?
About half way throughout the book I thought I knew the ending, but I was completely shocked at the culprit and the twisted motivations behind the killing. I highly recommend Watching You for suspense and thriller fans!
With the New Year, it seems like everyone is making a resolution. One popular resolution is to get rid of the many possessions that you no longer use, which many believe will lead you to fill your home and life with items that are meaningful to you. Popular blogger Joshua Becker’s new book, The Minimalist Home, is a guide to only filling your home with things that create a simpler life. The author guides you from room to room within your home, helping you to decide what to keep and what to discard. He addresses not only the easy stuff – the chair that is being used as storage in the corner – but even the most difficult things to part with – the items that have sentimental value. He speaks as to why so many Americans have so much stuff and how accumulating items begins in the first place. His advice is practical, straightforward and helps with the tough questions that are bound to arise when discarding possessions.
One of the beneficial parts of the book is how the author came to be a minimalist by sharing his story. Before Becker discovered minimalism, he was very similar to many others before their journey of owning less. A casual conversation with a neighbor led him to question why he owned so many items when it was distracting him from what really mattered in life. In his case, this was spending quality time with his wife and son and enjoying their time together. After converting to minimalism, he boasts that he and his family were able to be more generous with their time and live a simpler life, surrounding themselves with things they use and truly enjoy.
The author’s main takeaway is that the reader can create their own journey of minimalism, making it unique to them. Becker’s book supplies the framework to help readers make the journey. Even if you do not decide to get rid of nearly everything you own, The Minimalist Home will make you think more about how you view the objects you possess in your home.
Taking a long trip this summer? Check out a great resource available to you from the Davenport Public Library. We are pleased to offer Recorded Books OneClickdigital, an online service that allows patrons to download a wide range of audiobooks, including best-sellers, Recorded Books exclusives, classics, selections for children and young adults and much more.
Davenport Public Library patrons have free access at home or on the go! The titles are all multi-access, so there is no need to place any holds. OneClickdigital is compatible with all popular listening devices and mobile apps are available for iPhone, Android and Kindle Fire. OneClickdigital features an easy-to-use interface with streamlined navigation, fast downloads and automatic software updates. Free technical support is available too!
Visit www.davenportlibrary.com and click on “eBooks & More” for access to Recorded Books OneClickdigital or contact the Reference Department for more information.
WILBOR has a new look and now it is even easier to enjoy your favorite eBooks and eAudiobooks! A few of the highlights:
-An icon in the corner of a book cover will tell you whether the title is an eBook or an eAudiobook. If the icon is black, the title is available. If it is gray, the title has a wait list.
-Click on “Borrow” to choose your title.
-After you have logged into your account and accessed your “Bookshelf” you will be given the option to download your selection or return your title (once you download your selected format, you may only be able to return the title via the software). Clicking the “Download” button once will allow you to select your desired format.
–Overdrive Read is available for select titles, which allows you to open your eBook selection immediately and read from a browser on your computer or mobile device.
Questions? Contact the Reference Department!