Oprah Book Club Pick – June 2020

Oprah has just announced her latest book club pick: Deacon King Kong by James McBride! Oprah is one of the celebrities featured on our Best Sellers Club. If you would like to make sure that you don’t miss a single one of Oprah’s book club picks, be sure to join our Best Sellers Club today!

Deacon King Kong by James McBride is her latest pick. A work of domestic psychological fiction set in 1969 in a housing project in South Brooklyn.

Need more information? Check out the information below provided by the publisher:

In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .45 from his pocket, and in front of everybody shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range. The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride’s funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself. As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters–caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York–overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion. Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club – July 1st

On Wednesday, July 1st at 2pm central time, the Virtual Book Club will be discussing Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. Information on how to join is available at the end of this blog post. We are using GoTo Meeting which will allow patrons to talk with the librarian about the book!

Want to know what the book is about? Check out the following blurb provided by the publisher:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Taken in by the splendor of her surroundings Jules accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind. She is drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems, that the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her– and the next day she disappears. Can Jules discover the truth– and escape before her temporary status becomes permanent?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club
Wed, Jul 1, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/406198773

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (669) 224-3412

Access Code: 406-198-773

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/406198773

That’s What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell

Making friends as an adult is difficult. Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell talk about the delicate balance between friends and enemies, as well as the different lengths that people are willing to do to in order to make friends in their newest book, That’s What Frenemies Are For. Hidden motives abound for all in this novel that grabs you by your private school, Manhattan socialite education and refuses to let go.

That’s What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell talks about how easily influence and cache in different groups can change as readers follow the life of a Manhattan socialite who finds the next biggest craze in the form of a peppy spin instructor and an underperforming fitness studio. Her decision to rehabilitate the studio and the instructor in order to impress her friends and get back her social cache proves to turn into more than she can handle.

Julia Summers has it all: two children who love her, an adoring husband with a successful job, an apartment in the city, and a house in the Hamptons. Having finally made it to the top of her friend group, Julia influences almost everything the group does. Nothing happens without her approval or without her knowing about it. As a result, Julia is stunned when she finds others in her friend group suddenly vying for her position of power and cutting her out of decisions. When everyone starts to head to the Hamptons for the summer, Julia’s family is stuck in the city when catastrophe hits their Hamptons’ house.

Stuck in the city for the summer, Julia is desperate to reinvent herself before her friends come back. Looking for the newest fad, Julia finds Flame. Flame is the biggest new elite fitness craze that has the possibility to be even better if they just changed a few things. While going to Flame, Julia takes classes from Tatum, a giggly, energetic instructor who Julia decides to transform in the guise of improving Flame’s profit margin and helping to get the word out about the business.

Julia takes on the task to overhaul Flame and Tatum, but in a sneaky way that she hopes isn’t completely obvious to everyone around her. Things slowly start to spiral out of Julia’s control when she discovers that Tatum isn’t as docile as she initially thought. Julia’s comeback doesn’t go as expected and Tatum starts to take over everything herself.

With Julia’s relationships with her friends in turmoil, Julia turns to her family for comfort. Much to her surprise, her husband’s business goes belly up in a most unexpected way. Left with almost no support system and friends who have completely turned their backs on her, Julia has to rethink everything that she had previously held so dear. What does she really want out of life? What is most important to her? Is her perfect life worth it?

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

The cover of this book caught my eye. Flipping through the book, I realized that it revolves around the New York City theater world during the 1940s. I looked into the author and discovered that this Elizabeth Gilbert was the same author who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, among other fiction and non-fiction titles.

City of Girls  by Elizabeth Gilbert tells the story of Vivian Morris. After receiving a letter from a male friend’s daughter asking for Vivian to finally explain to her what her relationship really was to her father, Vivian uses City of Girls as a long-form letter to the woman. Ninety-five-year-old Vivian looks back on her youth with a mix of sadness, regret, pleasure, and passion. Through this book, Vivian learns about her body, sexuality, and female promiscuity. She learns how to heal from various wrongs done to her and wrongs that she has committed.

In the summer of 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York to live with her aunt. Having been kicked out of Vassar College, Vivian, along with her suitcase and sewing machine, is relegated to New York by her parents who just don’t know what to do with her. Luckily for Vivian, she soon finds lodging and employment at her Aunt Peg’s dilapidated theatre, the Lily Playhouse, as the seamstress. Vivian learned how to sew from her grandmother and is good at making something out of nothing. By just looking at someone’s body type or looking at an outfit/type of fabric, Vivian can figure out what is wrong, what needs to be changed, and what would look best on someone.

Vivian quickly becomes the talk of the showgirl community as word circulates that she can make glamorous costumes out of seemingly nothing. The longer she stays at the Lily Playhouse, the more interesting characters she meets. Vivian meets showgirls, sexy actors, a famous actress, a disgruntled writer, and her aunt’s friend who serves as the stage manager trying to keep the Lily Playhouse alive. Vivian’s new life brings another new and exciting chapter of discovery: sex. Vivian discovers what makes her happy and that she has the power to make herself happy no matter what other people think.

When Vivian makes a personal mistake that threatens to ruin both her personal and professional lives, she is forced to start a new life again. The consequences of her actions will take her years to unravel and understand. The new life she makes for herself will lead her down a path she never imagined for herself: a life where she understands what she actually wants and how she has to behave/act/live in order to have it. Vivian also meets the love of her life while she is making a new name for herself. This love is completely different than anything else she has experienced before, but it proves to change her the most.

City of Girls is a glittery and glamorous look at ninety-five years of life. Vivian is able to look back at her life and acknowledge how the actions that she made changed the course of her life forever. Her life would have shifted to a more traditional role and been completely different if she had chosen one different path. Vivian was never afraid of what life threw at her. She was able to live an autonomous life that was not available to many women who grew up during the same time period as her.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Pregnancy is a taboo subject alongside conception in today’s society. Even though this is something that people go through on a daily basis, anything surrounding pregnancy is seen as something to be kept hidden and not talked about. Joanne Ramos takes this topic and expands upon it in her debut novel.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos feeds upon the desire of wealthy women to have a baby, but still be able to keep their figure, work full time, and not have to rely on a partner to have a baby. Mae Yu, an ambitious businesswoman looking to find her way in the business world, proposes a new plan to give these women what they want: Golden Oaks. Golden Oaks is a luxury retreat nestled, and somewhat hidden away, in New York’s Hudson Valley. This retreat caters to basically every woman’s pregnancy need: massages, personal trainers, meals catered to their exact nutritional needs, and a community of pregnant women going through the exact same process that they are. Sounds perfect, right? There has to be a hidden secretive side at Golden Oaks and sure enough it starts to surface.

The women at Golden Oaks aren’t just regular surrogates: they are ‘Hosts’ at ‘The Farm’ as they call themselves and Golden Oaks. These hosts are promised a very large, lucrative payday when they deliver their children for the clients. The downside: they are trapped at Golden Oaks for the full nine months, they cannot leave the grounds, their movements are monitored 24/7, and they are completely cut off from their former lives. Sure, they have access to computers and video chats with their families and friends, but those calls are monitored and visitors are not allowed. Despite all these restrictions, and partly because they are not disclosed up front when hosts are brought to Golden Oaks, some residents choose to dedicate their lives to the Farm and carry multiple babies for the same women.

Struggling to provide for her daughter, Jane is having trouble holding down a job. When she hears of Golden Oaks through another family member, Jane soon finds herself signing up to carry someone else’s baby, despite the fact that she has a very young daughter at home. Jane, a young immigrant from the Philippines just trying to find a better life, commits to being a ‘Host’ at Golden Oaks and finds her new life to be structured in a way that makes her uncomfortable. As she begins to doubt her choices and wants to go back to her former life, Jane realizes that she must reconnect with her family on the outside. Facing the possibility that she could lose the fee she was promised with the safe and healthy delivery of the child she is carrying, Jane is forced to go to the extremes to get what she wants.

This novel forces readers to question what we consider to be motherhood and all the messy moral, monetary, and reproductive questions that circle the ability to get pregnant. The topic of what women are willing to do to become mothers and how far businesses are willing to go in order to help them happily fulfill their futures is a major component of this book. Give this book a read (or listen) and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Force by Don Winslow

I find most of my reads while I’m looking through journals at work or when patrons suggest authors to me that I should try. Don Winslow came to my attention both ways. One day I saw his newest book in a journal I was flipping through. The next day a patron came to the desk and, through conversation, suggested I should try one of his books. As I’m a believer in coincidence, I knew I needed to give him a try.

Wanting to start with a standalone first to see if I liked him before I dragged myself into yet another series, I decided to start with Winslow’s newest standalone, The Force . This book is a fantastic representation of Winslow’s crime writing abilities. He is a gifted crime writer, proving that he really understands the subject matter that he chooses to write about.

In The Force, readers are brought into the world of Denny Malone and the mean streets of New York. Malone says at the start of this book, ‘Our ends know our beginnings, but the reverse isn’t true’. If you knew how your life, your job, or your relationship was going to end at the beginning, would you change your decisions? What about at the end of your career? If you could go back and change, would you? At the beginning of this novel, Malone finds himself contemplating all the decisions that he has made throughout his life. This book serves as a glimpse into everything that happened in Malone’s life that led him to where he is now.

Denny Malone just wants to be a good cop. When he started work as a police officer, all he wanted to do was make a difference for the public that he served. Now Malone is the king of Manhattan North. Working as a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant has changed Malone from the straight and narrow cop that he started out to be to his current position as the real leader of what is known as ‘Da Force’. Malone is a cop who knows that there are lines that, once you cross them, can never be uncrossed. Knowing that doesn’t stop him from crossing those lines, a little at first and then bigger and bigger. People in Manhattan North, cops and the public alike, know not to mess with Malone or his team because he isn’t afraid to use his position of power to get what he wants.

While Malone is working to clean up Manhattan North from drugs, guns, and gangs, there is decidedly some shady activity going on behind the scenes. While Malone and his team are credited with the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history, some(okay A LOT) of their actions surrounding said bust were not 100% legal. Since that bust, Malone and his partners have stolen millions of dollars worth of drugs and cash. If word got out of what they had done, they would all be in a great load of trouble.

Malone is going about his daily life surrounded by other corrupt cops, politicians, lawyers, and judges just struggling to provide the best for the public, his family, and himself. Called into a meeting that quickly turns sour, Malone is faced with a choice that, no matter where he turns, will end badly. He finds himself balancing on a thin tightrope being pulled in multiple directions. Malone must choose who to betray: his family, the woman he loves, his partners, the police force, or his brother. Will he end up betraying them all? While Malone finds himself going through this struggle, the city he loves so dearly, New York, is on verge of collapse. A racial confrontation between the police and the public could destroy the city, let alone the nation.

The topics covered in this novel are incredibly relevant to today.  Several of the events discussed within happened in real life. I really enjoyed how Winslow pulled events from today’s headlines and incorporated them into the fictional world that he created for Winslow and his fellow police detectives. Read this book and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats:

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

What would you do if you were stuck in a remote lodge in the middle of winter for a long weekend? This lodge has hiking trails, a library, fireplaces, and other outside activities. Sounds pretty idyllic, right? I thought so! Author Shari Lapena takes every bookworm’s dream weekend getaway and turns it into a nightmare in her newest novel, An Unwanted Guest. Fans of murder mysteries will want to read this book as Lapena crafts a book with descriptions similar to an Agatha Christie novel.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena tells the story of a group of people headed to a cozy mountain lodge named Mitchell’s Inn in the Catskills for a perfect weekend retreat. Things start to turn dicey on the drive to the lodge as a winter storm starts to barrel down on the area. Once everyone is settled at the lodge, they all settle in for various romantic, relaxing weekend activities. As events unfold, it becomes obvious that each person is not what they seem. When planned activities come to a screeching halt as the weather increasingly becomes worse and worse, the guests are forced to rely on each other for companionship.

As more and more guests arrive at the inn, they greet each other with interest, wondering about their reasonings for being there, but not wanting to get involved. The weather keeps guests and limited hotel staff stuck inside the Mitchell Inn without any hope of rescue from the outside. Waking up to a horrifying scream the next day, guests discover a dead body laying at the foot of the stairs. As the weekend progresses, the situation further deteriorates out of control with a frightening new truth coming to light. There’s a killer in their midst. None of them can escape. There is nowhere to run. They’re trapped, desperate for help, and finding that their trust in others is quickly slipping away. Searching for the truth, tensions run high as they all try to find out who is the killer and, most importantly, stay alive!


This book is also available in the following formats:

You Belong to Me by Colin Harrison

I tried expanding out of my comfort zone to read a nonfiction book and quickly fell asleep. Perhaps I shouldn’t have started it before I went to bed… As a result, the next day, I turned to the next book on my list, a suspenseful thriller by Colin Harrison called You Belong to Me. This book started out slow for me, but quickly picked up. If you decide to read it, I urge you to stick with it. This piece of literary fiction tells the tale of old maps, immigration troubles, lost loves, hit men, obsession, murder, and betrayal. I loved it. It was riveting.

Paul Reeves works as an immigration lawyer, a fairly successful one at that. His boutique firm handles cases for famous people, successful businessmen, and large companies working with foreign nationals. Paul may like his job, but his real love is maps. His passion is collecting old maps of New York. Seeing the city change throughout the years through a print record gives him chills. As he’s walking the streets or looking at his maps, he can see, in his mind’s eye, New York growing, changing, and morphing into the city that he lives in today. Paul can frequently be found at auctions throughout the city bidding on different New York maps. He attends an auction one afternoon with his neighbor Jennifer Mehraz. Jennifer is the beautiful young wife of an Iranian financier-lawyer, a man who has the best things in life and knows what he wants. Jennifer’s husband knows how to complete deals and expects his life to keep going the way that it is. Halfway through the auction, a man in soldier fatigues appears and Jennifer’s entire demeanor changes. She abandons Paul and takes off with this mystery man.

This man who showed up out of the blue to see Jennifer is a long-lost love from her past, from when she used to live in Pennsylvania. His arrival sets off a frightening chain of events that entangles Paul, Jennifer, her husband, the mystery man, and a wide variety of other people in a messy dangerous game. Jennifer, remaining somewhat tight-lipped about this mystery man, leaves those close to her very confused as they try to figure out just who he is and how they are connected. Her husband, being Iranian and very important in his chosen work field, feels her dalliance with this mystery man as a major embarrassment and wants the whole situation to disappear, no matter the consequences nor the expense.

Paul has more than Jennifer and her possessive husband to deal with though. He is desperate to get his hands on one of the world’s rarest and most sought after maps. Paul thought it was out of his reach until he was directly contacted by the seller with an offer for him to buy it. Before he can put in his offer, another buyer swoops in and buys it right from under Paul. He’s furious about this incident and is desperate to figure out who this mysterious buyer is. Paul will do anything to get that precious map into his possession, especially since it was promised to him and therefore should belong to him.

I enjoyed this book, even though it took me a few chapters to get hooked. The characters are very compelling and developed well. There are multiple story lines throughout this book that kept me hooked while I was reading. Every character has their own personal problems to work through, but they each remain entangled together. I enjoyed watching each character’s story grow as the plot developed.  Harrison has written several older books that I’m hoping are just as riveting as You Belong to Me was. I’ll let you know!

Escape by Barbara Delinsky

What would you do if one day you woke up and realized that the life you were living was not the life that you wanted for yourself? Walking into work and having that one bad day, that one interaction, that pushes you over the edge? How would you handle it? Would you try to work through it? Talk to your significant other? Would you take a much needed vacation? Quit your job? Start all over in another city with another job and another family? All of these are questions that Barbara Delinsky tackles in her novel, Escape.

Escape tells the story of Manhattan lawyer Emily Aulenbach. She is 32 years old and has been married to another lawyer, James, for the last seven years. Emily has become increasingly frustrated with her life, both professionally and personally. In law school, she dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse and campaigning for the little guy. Always the idealist, she hoped to brighten the world. Now she sits in a cubicle alongside hundreds of other lawyers in their tiny cubicles, a headset plastered to her ear, talking to victims of tainted bottled water. You’d think that this would partly be Emily’s dream, except for the major fact that she is on the bottler’s side, NOT the victims.

After a particularly devastating interaction with a victim, Emily has had enough. She packs up, leaves town, and just drives. Looking for a purpose in her life and an escape, she meanders aimlessly and eventually ends up in the place that gave her great joy ten years ago. This small New Hampshire town is rife with good and bad memories. Emily has to find a way to deal with both, interact with the people from her past, and convince her husband and family that she’s okay and not crazy. By putting her happiness first, Emily’s selfishness reverberates throughout all the lives of the people that she knows. She must work to find her center and to decide what she actually wants. Add in an animal refuge, a former lover, and someone in desperate need of legal advice and Emily’s escape brings up some dilemmas that she cannot run away from.

This book did not go the direction that I thought that it would, for which I am very grateful. I have read too many novels where the main character decides that she needs a complete do-over and throws her entire life into shambles trying to find herself. Delinsky goes another route of self-discovery that still hits all of the necessary emotional highs and lows, but thankfully misses all of the predictable actions. This was my first Delinsky read and I am quite ready to pick up another! There was nothing that didn’t delight me within this novel.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Black Irish by Stephan Talty

I have a fascination with serial murderers, the grislier the better. I snatch up books about them as quick as I can, but veer away from television shows because they seem too formulaic and predictable. The books that I have read/listened to recently have all been reliably gritty and suspenseful. I stumbled upon Black Irish by Stephan Talty a week ago and loved it.

Black Irish is delightfully gruesome and mysterious. Absalom ‘Abbie’ Kearney is a detective in South Buffalo. Even though her adoptive father is a revered cop, Abbie is considered to be an outsider in this working-class Irish American area because of her dark hair, druggie mother, mysterious father, Harvard degree, and a myriad of other reasons. Her troubled past makes her current life in South Buffalo difficult as she works to earn the trust and respect of everyone in ‘the County’. The County is full of fiercely secretive citizens who look out for their own and shun outsiders. Digging for the truth or trying to find out about her past is nearly impossible for Abbie without the help from accepted local Irish good-ol’-boy cops and detectives. Because of this, Abbie works even harder to prove herself to be more than capable and worthy of her badge, much to the chagrin of the locals.

When a mangled corpse is found in a local church’s basement, the very church that Abbie herself attended, the County finds itself unnerved. A message seems to sweep through the area. While Abbie is the lead detective on the case and is running the investigation, she finds that other detectives, and more importantly the locals, are taking it upon themselves to solve the case. The code of silence and secrecy that began in Ireland still exists in the County, making Abbie’s search for the killer even more difficult. This secrecy stonewalls her everywhere she goes, even at the Gaelic Club which her father frequents. Shaking down leads is difficult and Abbie soon finds herself receiving vicious threats and warnings.

The killer has a clear signature and with each passing day, Abbie thinks she is getting closer. With more people murdered, Abbie finds this case consuming her. While working to solve these crimes, the killer is slowly circling closer and closer to Abbie, until finally dropping into her life. Abbie is left to dig into her own past, her family’s past, how everything is related to the County, and also how the County’s secrets just may end up destroying everything in which the whole community believes.

This book hooked me from the start. The narrator uses different accents for each character which made them all easy to follow. Stephan Talty has woven a masterful examination into the cone of silence in closed off neighborhoods, even when that code hides dangerous, murderous pasts and people. I greatly enjoyed this book and can’t wait for more.


This book is also available in the following formats: