Male Protagonists

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

Arthur is in his late 80s and lost his wife, Nola, six months ago. He takes a bus to the cemetery every day to visit her grave while he eats lunch. He imagines the lives lived by the people buried nearby and notices a teenage girl, who is also a regular visitor. Maddy is a high school senior who is an outcast at school and finds a peaceful refuge in the cemetery. Her mother died when she was a baby, and she has a distant relationship with her father. The two become friends and Maddy calls Arthur 'Truluv" for his devotion to his late wife.

Arthur's next-door neighbor Lucille is also in her 80s, has never married or had children, and recently connected with her first love, Frank. When Frank dies suddenly and Maddy becomes pregnant, both Maddy and Lucille move in with Arthur. The three become a family of sorts and eagerly await the birth of Maddy's child. Arthur encourages both women and supports them in taking steps to overcome their fears and loneliness. Arthur is a very kind man, but for decades his world revolved around his late wife, and he finds new purpose in reaching out to Maddy and Lucille.

Though Arthur is the central character, parts of the book are written from the points of view of Maddy and Lucille. The story is simply told, warm, sentimental, and will appeal to readers who are looking for a cozy, pleasant novel. A sequel, Night of Miracles, will be published this year.

Read-alikes:
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



The Vineyard by Maria Duenas

Our story opens in 1861 as Mauro Larrea, a self-made millionaire who has made a fortune in Mexican silver mining, learns that he has lost it all in an unwise business transaction. Desperately hiding his misfortune, he tries to recoup his loss in a game of pool in which he wins a neglected vineyard in Spain. When he visits his new property to put it up for sale, widower Larrea meets and falls hard for Soledad, daughter of the house and herself a married woman. 

The Vineyard should appeal to anyone interested in Hispanic culture, men's responsibilities, or women's rights. 

Read-alikes:
Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende
Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster

Jackie Malone, Bellmore Public Library, Retired



Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

This is a coming-of-age story about a half-Mexican, 23-year-old man named Mike Munoz, who works as a landscaper and lives with is chain-smoking mother, his developmentally disabled older brother, Nate, and Freddy, his mom's boyfriend. Mike basically takes care of Nate most of the time while their mother is working, mostly by feeding him junk and sitting him in front of the TV to keep him calm. Mike perpetually struggles to get ahead and achieve the American dream, partly due to unreliable transportation and partly due to a resume that only includes working as a landscaper. Mike doesn't know what to do with himself and often daydreams about being a topiary artist and writing the Great American Landscaping novel.

Mike quits his landscaping job because he's tired of picking up dog poop and has difficulty finding work again throughout the story. When he does find work, the jobs aren't great and Mike often gets used. Through it all, Mike is trying to start a relationship with a girl names Remy and deal with his life-long friend Nick, who is becoming increasingly annoying.

The story is told in the first person with great amounts of humor and is an easy read. The dialogue between the characters seems authentic, and the cat of characters memorable and engaging. It is a very quick read with short chapters alternating between the present and memories of Mike's childhood. The story talks about real-life class struggles, immigrant lives, socioeconomic issues, homophobia, and racial issues through situations without being preachy. The story would appeal to young adults coming out of high school/college who are still trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives, as well as those who have tried to get ahead despite the many setbacks that have come their way. The author purposely wraps everything up with an ending that should satisfy readers.

Read-alikes:
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
In the Ditch by Buchi Emecheta
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Jessica Brown, Patchogue-Medford Library



Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshan

The novel is set in modern-day Israel with Dr. Eitan Green and his wife moving to Beersheeba after Dr. Green uncovers corruption at the hospital he worked at in Tel Aviv and is forced to take a less desirable position in the Negev desert. Driving home after a long shift at the new hospital, an exhausted Dr. Green takes his eyes off the road for a moment to take a look at the full moon and accidentally hits and kills a man who is walking down the road. Unable to do anything, Dr. Green flees the scene only to be found by the dead man's wife the next day after she discovers his wallet at the scene. She has an unusual demand, she will keep quiet about what happened if he agrees to meet her at night to treat an patient in an abandoned garage behind the cafe where she works. However, it isn't just one night and one patient, it's night after night and patient after patient. They are all illegal aliens who are refused medical care. These circumstances force Dr. Green to lie to everyone including his wife, the police detective assigned to the case.

This is a riveting read that you won't be able to put down.

Read-alikes:
The Fugitive Wife by Peter C. Brown
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

Kathleen Carter, Riverhead Free Library



How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom is a man with a secret. He may look 40, but he’s really almost 440. He’s got what a doctor from his past has termed anageria. He ages so slowly, it looks like he’s barely aging at all. Over the years he’s met famous people like the explorer Captain Cook and writer William Shakespeare, but who he really wants to meet again is his daughter Marion, whom he hasn’t seen in just over 400 years. As Tom searches for answers to what he is, he is taken in by the secret Albatross Society, sworn to keep people like him secret from the world no matter what the cost. Every 7 years or so, the Albatross Society relocates Tom to keep his condition hidden, but in return he has to do them a favor and try to recruit others like him. Tom is tired of the constant hiding and relocating and the promises of Hendrich, the head of the Society, to help him find his daughter. When Tom contacts Hendrich and says he wants to lead an ordinary life, Hendrich agrees to relocate him back to London as a history teacher at a private school. He must follow the rules, though, don’t tell anyone about his condition and never fall in love. Both prove difficult as Tom quickly makes friends with Camille, the French teacher, who recognizes him from a photograph taken in the 1920s. This starts a series of events that lead Tom to realize not everything is what he thought, and these changes might actually be for the better.

How to Stop Time is part historical, part fantasy, part romance, with just a touch of suspense. Tom’s memories take us back in time as we learn about his childhood, his mother, how he fell in love for the first time, and his adventures as he travels the high seas, plays the lute at the Globe Theatre, and plays piano at a jazz bar where he meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. In the present, as he teaches his students about history, most of it lived firsthand, he recreates the London of old, and tries not to talk to anyone lest his secret come out. Although an interesting premise, the back and forth in time sometimes slows down the readability of the book. Tom’s headaches and hiding become a bit repetitive and Hendrich’s tactics of keeping control of Tom are quite predictable. The ending is a bit of a surprise, but most readers will probably have figured out what’s going to happen and that Hendrich doesn’t really have Tom’s best interest at heart. How to Stop Time will appeal to both men and women with its historical references and light romance. Also recommend to readers looking for light fantasy, those who like time travel, and those who are fans of TV shows like Timeless and Forever.

Read-alikes:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Fifteen Live of Harry August by Claire North

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



Before the Fall Noah Hawley

On a foggy summer night, eleven people leave Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs, a 40-something failed painter and a four-year-old boy, JJ, who is now the last remaining member of a wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.

Except for Scott and the crew, the passengers are movers and shakers. As their public and private intrigues become known, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating frenzy of media outrage and accusations.

Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, and his fragile relationship with JJ, while the authorities try to pin down the reason for the crash. Hawley explores the questions of fate, human nature, and the ties that bind us together in this literary thriller.

Fast-paced. Gritty language. Acquired by Sony Pictures with Hawley as the scriptwriter.

Read-alikes:
The Harder They Come by T. Coraghessan Boyle
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
The Professor of Truth by James Robertson

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles’ News of the World was a nominee for the 2016 National Book Award. Set in post-Civil War Texas, this short novel is a western, an adventure story, and a beautifully written work that explores the boundaries of family, honor, trust and love.

It is 1870 in rainy, cold North Texas where we are introduced to 72-year-old widower, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd. The retired army Captain travels from town to town giving live newspaper readings to paying audiences, anxious to hear the news of the world. While in Wichita Falls he is offered a $50 gold piece to transport a young orphan to her distant relatives, 400 miles away.  Recently rescued by the U.S. army, 10-year-old Johanna had been captured four years earlier by the Kiowa Indians and raised as one of their own. She has forgotten English, eats with her hands and tries to escape at every chance. But as they travel together they form a bond that becomes impossible to break.

The chaos of the time and the difficult journey, interrupted by violent weather, bandits and Comanche raids create a sense of suspense and urgency. Most of the novel is told in 3rd person narrated by the Captain. This is a character driven story written with carefully chosen words (the author is a poet) about a journey and bonding between two strangers, the joys of freedom and the natural world, morality, and the violent and dangerous life on the frontier.

At only 213 pages, this is a brief but expansive read. The author is adept at packing a lot into a few words. With the current emphasis on “fake news” this fascinating story of a news reader reminds us of a long ago time when people had to wait and rely on expert readers to bring the news of the world to them.

Read-alikes:
One Thousand White Women - The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
True Grit by Charles Portis
The Removes by Tatjana Soli

Candace Reeder, Northport-East Northport Public Library



The Lighthouse by Allison Moore

Deceptively brief in length, The Lighthouse is a novel fraught with the psychological underpinnings of a man searching for redemption. After his wife leaves him, Futh decides that a week-long walking holiday through Germany will help him clear his head and put things in perspective. Each chapter in the book derives its title from things that spark memories for Futh - Violets, Oranges, Coffee, Camphor - and as the experiences associated with these smalls or objects have lingered and traumatized him from childhood into adulthood, the memories are, for the most part, unpleasant. The only source of comfort that Futh has is a small lighthouse-shaped vial that used to hold his mother's perfume - an object he keeps close at hand, often stroking it for reassurance. But even as the vial provides a sense of security, in the end it leads to an explosive situation - one the reader man not have seen coming, but very well may have felt coming. 

Merely 200 pages in length, this introspective novel moves slowly as it develops, but that's okay as it should also be read slowly, allowing for the digestion of Moore's deliberate and pensive prose. The atmosphere is dark, foreboding and suspenseful. More like an independent film than a Hollywood production, The Lighthouse may not appeal to everyone. But if you're interested in how past life experiences can affect the inner workings of a person's mind, this book provides much for discussion and reflection, and is a book for you.

Read-alikes:
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Sky Manifest by Brian Panhuyzen

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

This book of seven short stories centers on men who find themselves alone. They are curious, funny, and odd, telling stories of the women in their lives, real or imagined; present or past.

In Drive My Car, a widower can’t figure out why his wife had affairs while married to him. He befriends his late wife’s lover and his new female chauffeur looking for answers. In Yesterday, the narrator remembers a friend of only a few months who’d asked him to date his girlfriend because he didn’t think he was good enough for her. A plastic surgeon falls in love for the first time with a woman he can never have; an isolated shut-in looks forward to stories from his nurse (about her unrequited love in high school); after his wife divorces him, a man quits his job and opens a bar that barely pays for itself as he listens to his jazz records by himself; in a nod to Kafka, Gregor Samsa returns to being human in an empty house and must relearn how to walk, dress, eat, etc. by himself. The title and final story centers on a man’s former girlfriend’s suicide. The narrator states: “It’s quite easy to become Men Without Women. You love a woman deeply, and then she goes off somewhere.”

The men in these stories are passive. Things happen to them rather than them doing things. (Perhaps this is why the women leave?) But, it doesn’t matter how or why the women leave, just that they do, and the men are left alone and isolated, trying to figure things out how to live without women.

Read-alikes:
A Kind of Flying by Ron Carlson
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
The Appearance of a Hero by Tom Levine

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Harry August is a kalachakra, a term which refers to the Buddhist idea of the Wheel of Time.  Kalachakras are people who are born again and again into the same life, with full memory of what they have done previously. Harry is born on January 1, 1919, the illegitimate son of a wealthy British landowner. His mother dies in childbirth, and he is adopted by a childless couple living on the estate.  So much is the same, over and over again. The rest of life differs, although it often follows a similar pattern from one life to the next.

Naturally, there is a society of kalachakras, which, while the individual members are only loosely connected, has very strict rules about changing the timeline. After all, when you’re reborn knowing what will happen throughout your lifespan, there’s lots of potential to wreak havoc. The Chronus Club also has mechanisms for communicating into the past or future, which is how Harry learns that the world is ending. As he is dying for the 11th time, in 1996, he is told that the world ends in a thousand years and that future generations are powerless to stop it.

Armed with this knowledge, Harry enters his next cycle and passes this information on to other members of the Chronus Club, which embarks on a long term plan (think, several lifetimes) to figure what’s causing the end of the world and how to stop it. In the course of this mission, Harry tells us a great deal about how he’s lived his previous lives. The bulk of the dramatic drive of the book, though, comes from the question of whether Harry will be able to solve the mystery of the end of the world, before he himself is destroyed.

This engaging, lyrical work of light science fiction will appeal to readers who enjoy philosophical musings on the nature of memory and time.

Read-alikes:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
The 7 and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Thurton

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Ondaatje begins with one of the best opening lines: “In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.” That voice belongs to Nicholas, as he looks back after many decades on the strange events which began that day. Narrator Nicholas was 14 and his sister, Rachel, was 16 when their parents told them they were going away, to Singapore, for a year.  A man known as the Moth, with his unique cast of friends, became their caregivers, staying in their home and supervising their activities. Everything takes place in London just as the war has ended. “Warlight” is a major motif for the story: the city, still war damaged, slowly emerging from the enforced darkness of the war years, and the two children struggling to make their way in such confusing, shadowy circumstances. Another motif echoes this one: “Mein Herz ist schwer” (my heart is heavy) a phrase adopted by the children which well describes the pain of their nearly unreal existence.
   
Much of the story is painful, and some of it is violent. It is filled with secrets, lies and intrigue, and beautifully written. The writing is lyrical and creates a dream-like atmosphere well suited to the story told. It is character driven, peopled with unique, well developed individuals with compelling story lines. “Warlight” has an intricate plot, as the author reveals events through the memories of the now grown Nicholas. The revelation about his mother, while stunning, will not surprise the reader and pulls all the plot threads together.

Read-alikes:
God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam
The Labyrinth Makers by Anthony Price
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library

Beach Reads

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner

A delightful page-turner that has an atmospheric New England setting, family secrets, and complicated relationships throughout, The Forever Summer is a perfect beach read. Thirty-year-old Marin Bishop seems to have it all, but when her law office affair is uncovered, she and her lover are immediately fired, thereby triggering the events that provide the foundation for the rest of the story. Devastated by her indiscretion, Marin wonders how she will ever recover—professionally or personally. The first people she must face are her parents, who are harboring a secret of their own—their idyllic marriage is on the verge of divorce. And then Rachel, a complete stranger, contacts Marin claiming to be her half-sister. Now, with everything else going on in her life, Marin must face the possibility that her father may not, in fact, be her biological parent. Rachel’s on her way to meet her newly-found grandmother in Provincetown and, on an impulse, Marin joins Rachel on her excursion—if only to run away from her problems. What was to be a one-week respite turns out to be a summer of familial intrigue, personal admissions, and self-discovery.

A cast of characters as colorful as Provincetown itself comprise this easy, multi-layered read. The plot is off and running on the very first page, and the short chapters make it easy to pick up and put down at any point. Twists and turns in the plot are plentiful, sometimes shocking, and the reader will not want to put it down—particularly if they’ve ever dreamed of sorting out their life by spending a summer at the beach.

Read-alikes:
The Outer Cape by Patrick Dacey
The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

Sunshine "Sunny" Mackenzie is an online culinary star, beloved for her down-home country cooking, which she first brought to the big city and then to her millions of followers. With a Food Network deal in the works, she's about to strike it big...then it all comes crashing down. A hack by #aintonosunshine reveals all of the secrets and lies on which Sunny has built her public persona, because her carefully constructed social media life is in fact one big, fat lie. As she begins to lose her reputation, her business deals, and even her husband, Sunny beats a hasty retreat to her hometown of Montauk, forced to turn to her estranged older sister for aide.

While all of this sounds incredibly terrible, Sunny is determined to get it all back. She just needs to get in good with the East End master of cuisine, Chef Z, become his protege, and create her redemption story. Easy, right? Except coming home makes Sunny realize that maybe honesty has some upsides. She gets to know her six-year-old niece, and meets Ethan, the local fisherman, both of whom help her to come back to who she really is. At the same time that she pursues her big comeback, she also begins to realize she may have misjudged her sister, and that her single-minded quest for fame and fortune has devastated her most important relationships. It's also exhausting to keep up with the lies. In the end, she eventually finds out who hacked her in the first place, and why, and makes some surprising decisions on how to move forward. While there is no "happy ending" in the traditional sense of all being knit back together, Sunny comes through the experience better for it and looking forward to the road ahead.

Hello, Sunshine is written in the first person from Sunny's point of view. She is young and somewhat naive, with a resilience that flies in the face of the mounting catastrophes that befall her. Her voice feels almost neutral in many places, which keeps the book light enough to keep in the beach read category. The events mainly take place over the summer on the shores of Long Island, which becomes the contrasting environment that allows Sunny to reclaim some authenticity. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a quick read (I plowed through it in two days), with local flavor and an upbeat tone.

Read-alikes:
The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig 
Pretty Woman by Fern Michaels

Christine Parker-Morales, Comsewogue Public Library



The Hideaway by Lauren Denton

Sara Jenkins learns that her grandmother, Margaret Van Buren, has died and left her the owner of the Hideaway, a rundown bed and breakfast, which had once been her childhood home. She leaves her New Orleans antique shop behind and begins restoring the old Victorian house in Sweet Bay, Alabama. While cleaning out the attic, Sara discovers an old box that unveils many secrets of a Margaret she never truly knew. She realizes she longs to know more about “Mags” whom she had dismissed as eccentric and now realizes that much like her, had kept many things to herself.  

Mags had been a young socialite growing up in post-war Alabama who married the man chosen for her. After enduring his unfaithfulness for years, she escaped to Sweet Bay, Alabama, where she found the Hideaway, a bed and breakfast that became her salvation.  Now, at her death, it will reveal the many secrets she kept hidden.

In this, her debut novel, Lauren Denton tells the heartbreaking story of true love that never dies. Her characters are well-drawn and appealing. This book will please inspirational, contemporary and historical fans alike. A good choice for YA as well.

Read-alikes:
Hurricane Season by Lauren Denton
The Inheritance by Heidi Hostetter
The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy W. Harvey

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The book opens with Anna Fox spying on her neighbors through the window of her gentrified, upper-Manhattan townhouse. She follows all of the neighbors moves, has lots of opinions about what she witnesses, and is particulary taken by the new family that has moved in, The Russells. Her husband and daughter aren't with her, but she speaks to them often and recounts what she observes. We also find out that Anna is agoraphobic. She hasn't left her house in over a year and her only contact is with family over the phone, her psychiatrist who makes home visits, a physical therapist who comes weekly and a tenant in the basement apartment. In addition to her condition and spying on her neighbors, Anna is a heavy drinker who often mixes her medications with wine. She doesn't eat right, is sloppy about housework and often doesn't brush her teeth or bathe. When the teenage son of the new neighbor stops by with a gift and Anna then meets the boy's mother, she is happy to connect to actual people who are friendly towards her.

The author skillfully builds interest and suspense in the reader. When Anna witnesses a crime and the police don't believe her because of her medication and alcohol consumption, the reader is left with even more questions --- why isn't Anna's family with her; what terrible thing occurred that caused her to not want to leave her house; what the story is regarding her tenant; why does the Russells' son seem to be afraid of his father; and what did the Russells leave behind in Boston? Very little is revealed and when the truth is learned, it leaves the reader reeling with surprise. 

With nods to movies such as Rear Window, Rebecca, and Strangers on a Train, this book is full of atmosphere and Anna's favorite movies add a cinematic effect. Although Anna's unreliable narration is similar to The Girl on the Train, Woman in the Window has even more twists and surprises. Just when you think Anna can't be trusted, there's a revelation that the reader didn't suspect at all. This book is the perfect read if you want to lose yourself in a well-paced, masterfully plotted and well-written novel. It's the perfect beach read as it pulls you into the plot and makes you forget everything around you.

Read-alikes:
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanen
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Myrna Velez, Brentwood Public Library



Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Jennifer Dixon has two daughters in college and a son just starting kindergarten. When her daughters, the result of her few years as a band groupie, were in elementary school, she was class mom for a record seven years in a row. But she was much younger then. She finds herself revisiting the role of class mom with her son Max, and is highly aware of the large gap between her and the moms of Max's classmates. And that's not all Jen has on her plate. She's training for a mud run, trying to help her best friend through a crisis, suddenly reunited with her high school crush, and trying to figure out what the real story is with Max's teacher.

Jen may have settled down, married and be living a much more conventional life than when she was when her daughters were in elementary school, but she hasn't lost any of her snark. As a mother of a rising kindergartner myself, I had to imagine my reaction of I'd received emails like the ones she sends out to her fellow parents. I'd like to think I'd rush out and make Jen my new best friend, but if I'm being honest, I'd probably be a little offended. Reading about how she negotiates the class politics and deals with everything else going on in her life is very entertaining. Jen is a fun character, and her supporting cast is likable and realistic. This fast-paced book is both lighthearted and heartwarming.

Read-alikes:
Life After Coffee  by Virginia Franken
How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Other People's Houses by Abbi Waxman

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

When their parents divorced, twins Harper and Tabitha Frost, who were teens and had been so close growing up, were split. Tabitha stayed on Nantucket with their upper-crust, fashion designer mother Eleanor Roxie-Frost and Harper moved with their working-class father Billy Frost to Martha’s Vineyard. Neither twin wanted to live with their mother due to her perfectionist tendencies and high expectations so the twins threw rock/paper/scissors in order to decide thus starting the rift between them. Several years later, the rift was complete after Tabitha blamed Harper for the death of her son. Now, almost forty, Harper’s life is falling apart. She’s having an affair with a married man while dating a local deputy and everyone has just found out. Meanwhile, on Nantucket, Tabitha’s daughter Ainsley is throwing wild parties, drinking, and is completely out of control. Tabitha is also unable to move on from her son’s death causing her to not be able to form true bonds with anyone. When Billy dies, Tabitha, Ainsley and Eleanor travel to Martha’s Vineyard for the funeral and old feelings are brought to the surface again. After Eleanor falls and breaks her hip and Billy’s house needs to be sold to pay his medical bills, the twins decide to get away from the drama surrounding them on their respective Islands and switch houses. Tabitha moves to Martha’s Vineyard to renovate Billy’s home and in the process, falls in love, while Harper moves to Nantucket to deal with a rebellious Ainsley and try to salvage what’s left of their mother’s failing clothing boutique realizing she is capable for more than anyone gives her credit. Each twin then deals with what it’s like to be mistaken for the other and to live in the other’s shoes leading to a better understanding of each other and starting the healing process.

Identicals is a quick read moving back and forth between the sisters and the Islands and how their lives change once they move. Unfortunately, the characters are stereotypical, the plot is predictable and the story is repetitive with the same scenarios hashed out repeatedly. Tabitha takes after their mother, who isn’t very motherly at all, and is more concerned with appearances than feelings. She worries more about how many calories are in something and what clothes she and Ainsley are wearing over how lost Ainsley is and how bad an influence her mean-girl best friend is on her. She constantly sees everything that Harper does as a slight against her and continues to judge Harper when there’s nothing to be judged. Harper was the party girl in college and has never held down a real job so every mistake she makes plays on that. No one will let her forget her mistakes either and the people of Martha’s Vineyard are very judgmental. It’s no surprise when Harper ends up being more of a mother than Tabitha or how Ainsley does a complete turn around and realizes she has been a bad person and needs to change. Give this quintessential beach read to women looking for books set during the summer on popular tourist Islands, and/or those looking for enough drama, family and otherwise, to keep them hooked but not weighed down. 

Read-alikes:
Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank
Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Sylvie and Dan are the happy, compatible parents of twin daughters, contented with their lives and their marriage. All this begins to unravel when they visit the doctor and learn, based on longevity statistics, that they will likely have 68 more years of marriage before them! Sylvie decides that introducing surprise into their lives will help to keep their marriage fresh and contented, but “Project Surprise Me” brings, instead, stress and confusion. Misunderstandings arise, and a long-buried secret concerning Sylvie’s beloved father is revealed.

Kinsella’s characters are original, quirky and engaging. Her writing style is smooth and witty. While most of the mishaps resulting from “Project Surprise Me” are comical, Sylvie must face a serious, heart aching situation, which she does, with Dan’s help, discovering in the process new reasons to admire him. “Surprise Me” will appeal to lovers of “chick-lit “authors Meg Cabot, Jane Green and Lauren Weisberger. 

Read-alikes:
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library



On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

Thirty-two-year-old Faith Frankel has returned from living in Brooklyn to her small hometown in Massachusetts and taken a “stress-free” job at her alma mater, Everton Country Day School, where she handwrites thank you notes and meets with potential donors. Her fiancé, Stuart, is 41 and has quit his job to travel the U.S. on foot “searching for awesomeness in the everyday,” a journey he documents on Instagram.

In his absence, she purchases a small fixer-upper home on her own and begins uncovering the secrets of the previous owner (and her three deceased husbands), which include possible murders that lead to the local police excavating her cellar. She’s not alone in her new house for long, as her attractive coworker Nick rents her spare room after breaking up with his girlfriend. An accusation that she has been misdirecting work funds, the separation of her parents, her retired insurance agent father’s new career as an artist, and her divorced older brother’s struggling love life are all distractions as she decides whether to move on from her relationship with Stuart, and if Nick is the right person to move on with.

Despite some of the serious subjects, the tone is lightly comedic and witty. Though Faith is an underemployed millennial, the characters are quirky, timeless, and should appeal to a wide range of readers who enjoy comedies of manners.

Read-alikes:
How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed
Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine
Today Will Be Difference by Maria Semple

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Brit Louisa Clark is in Manhattan now, working as an assistant for a high-strung socialite while she ponders her future. This is the third book in a popular British series that follows Louisa’s adventures and loves. The setting has relocated to the Upper East Side of New York City where Louisa is working in the world of the super-rich and making new friends while still trying to hold on to a long-distance relationship with Ambulance Sam.

This is a character-driven novel about a young woman trying to find herself. It is told from the first-person point of view and it’s a fast-paced and engaging story, infused with good humor and charm. Moyes is a good storyteller and she places Louisa in situations outside of her comfort zone where she learns to maintain her integrity. Society and class is an underlying theme and librarians will love Louisa’s efforts to save the Washington Heights branch of NYPL that is in danger of being unfunded. There are several supporting characters of diverse ethnicities. This novel will appeal primarily to women who enjoy light, romantic comedies.

Read-alikes:
Bridget Jones Series by Helen Fielding
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Candace Reader, Northport-East Northport Public Library



A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

After losing her husband of almost 30 years, Alison is getting married again. Her fiancé, David has a house on Nantucket Island, where the wedding will take place. During the summer, Alison’s adult children and David’s adult children will spend time on the island, getting to know each other.

Unfortunately, Poppy, David’s daughter, is against the marriage, fearing she will lose some inheritance money, and is constantly trying to drive a wedge between the happy couple. Alison’s two daughters are going through their own family trials, and David’s son Ethan, is flirting with both women, adding to their distress and confusing them.

A beach read if ever there was one, this is an easy, breezy read that keeps you turning the pages happily, watching the children play in the sand and surf, enjoying local seafood and shopping, and trying on dresses for the wedding (dresses that Poppy refuses to wear, of course.)

Throughout all the trials and tribulations, Alison and David remain steadfast in their plans, not allowing their children to derail them, and the wedding is a beautiful success.

Read-alikes:
Jane Green
Elin Hilderbrand
Ann Rivers Siddons
Danielle Steel

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library

Coming to America - Immigration Fiction (2018)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah opens with the main character, Nigerian Ifemelu, on her way to get her hair braided. She lives in Princeton but has to go to Trenton to have her hair braided because "the few black locals she had seen were so light-skinned and lank-haired she could not imagine them wearing braids." She has just finished her fellowship at Princeton and she writes an anonymous life blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations about American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black. She has an African-American boyfriend named Blaine, but her thoughts are turning toward a young man she loved and left in Nigeria. When the book opens, she is thinking about returning home.

Americanah is told in flashback; we watch Ifemelu as she struggles in America to find a job to support herself as she goes to college. Every perspective employer seems to like her, but no one will give her a job. Thanks to a long-time Nigerian friend, she interviews with a wealthy family and is finally hired as a life-in babysitter. She is not completely alone in America - an aunt and nephew have preceded her there. Although she physically resembles me in no way, shape or form, I found myself identifying with her - the desire to reverse a decision that seemed like the right thing to do at the time but now feels like a mistake, the searching for any mention of my hometown yet being afraid to make another big move, and the feeling of not fitting in with other young women. She has a wonderful sense of humor and an interest in learning about other people.

Read-alikes:
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Kathy Carter, Riverhead Free Library



The Leavers by Lisa Ko

When he is 11-years-old, Deming's mother goes to work one day, and never returns. Deming is soon put into foster care and then adopted. We meet Deming again 10 years later, and struggling with an identity crisis. Does he want to try to be the academic his academic adoptive parents want him to be, or does he want to follow his own love of music and try to make it as a musician? Ko is more than a little heavy-handed in making the reader understand that this is something of a stand-in for his mixed feelings about being an American-born Chinese who spent half of his life in a lily-white upstate New York college town.

This character-driven story will appeal both to readers who enjoy books about immigrants, as well as those about characters searching for their own personal identity. Told through the point of view of Deming (in the third person) and his mother (in the first person), the full story of what happened to Deming's mother, both how she came to America and what happened the day she disappeared, is gradually revealed, sprinkled throughout Deming’s quest to find himself. This is a grim, but ultimately hopeful and redemptive novel that lays out the difficulties of immigration and assimilation without being overly preachy.

Read-alikes:
Across a Green Ocean by Wendy Lee
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera

Ganga grew up in Sri Lanka as an only child of a well-to-do family with cooks, maids, and a gardener. She played with her friends at school and in the gardens and river at home.

Woven through her childhood, the author writes poetically of Ganga being sexually abused, but the reader doesn’t know by whom.

After her father dies, Ganga and her mother immigrate to California, living with Ganga’s cousin and family. All Ganga knows of America is from the Tiger Beat and Teen Beat magazines and clothes that her cousin in California used to send her. She learns to style her hair, shave her legs, and use a knife and fork. Her mother works with the family at their travel agency.

She lives the American Dream, graduating from college, becoming a nurse, and moving to San Francisco. Her cousin accepts an arranged marriage, but Ganga doesn’t date and wants nothing to do with men – until she meets Daniel, an aspiring artist.

They marry and are living happily until Ganga gives birth to a daughter. Then old wounds reopen sending Ganga into a dark tailspin, where Daniel can’t reach her. Separated, she receives a postcard from him that reads: “I’ll never forgive you. I’ll always love you.”

A sad story of mental illness and the terrible things that can happen when not addressed. Much of the writing is lyrical and poetic. An easy read that is slightly suspenseful, which keeps one turning the pages.

Read-alikes:
Romesh Gunesekera
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
Jhumpa Lahiri
The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



The Mortifications by Derek Palacio

In a violent confrontation with her husband Uxbal, Soledad Encarnacion takes her children and flees Cuba in the Mariel boat-lift of 1980. Her husband remains in Cuba to support the revolution. This is how Palacio’s family saga of an immigrant family begins.

Soledad and her children travel north to Hartford, Connecticut rather than settling in Miami, because they have a family contact there. The family adapts to their new surroundings, with an irreverence for the life they left behind. Soledad secures a job as a court stenographer; her son excels in school; and her daughter has a spiritual revelation that steers her towards life in a convent. Soledad meets a local tobacco farmer and begins a torrid love affair that will sustain her through the tumult that is to come—an estrangement from her daughter and a cancer diagnosis. Then a letter arrives from Cuba. Uxbal has tracked down his family. The letter becomes a strong call to home, and one by one the characters are pulled back to their homeland.

The storyline unfolds in a dramatic fashion from the first page. Each character is thoroughly fleshed out, and Palacio employs biblical and mythological references throughout the novel—a familiarity with these themes, though not necessary, can enhance a reader’s experience. The novel ultimately raises the question “can anyone ever really escape the strong ties to their personal past, their family, or their homeland?”

Read-alikes:
A Free Life by Ha Jin
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
Broken Paradise by Cecelia Samartin

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-Eat Northport Public Library



The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Lisa See explores the lives of Li-yan, a Chinese woman and her daughter, Haley, who has been adopted by an American couple. Li-yan lives in a remote village in the Yunnan region of China. The story begins in 1988 and the first revelation is the life of the Akha tea growers in comparison to modern civilization. One of China’s ethnic minorities, they live in primitive conditions in tiny homes isolated from the world outside their village.

When she secretly has a baby out of wedlock, she defies the Akha law which dictates killing the infant. She wraps her daughter in a blanket with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling and leaves her on the doorstep of an orphanage in the nearest city. The tea cake becomes the only key to a reunion many years later.

One day a stranger arrives in the first automobile the villagers have ever seen and finds the rare pu-er tea he has been seeking. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls in the village, translates for the stranger and a deal is made which will lure Li-yan out of her village into the modern world and the business of tea. Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while her daughter Haley grows up in a privileged home in California. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her birth mother and her origins and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Living on two different continents, they begin to search for each other using the only clue they have – the tea cake which Li-yan placed with her infant daughter. A powerful story about mothers and daughters, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and explores the bond between parents and children. It is also an exploration of the lives of immigrants. First Haley and other Chinese girls adopted by Americans and then Li-yan, as she takes up residence in the United States.

The pace is slow but necessary to evoke the passing of time. An excellent choice for YA and readers of every age!

Read-alikes:
The novels of Lisa See

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Soli​, a young Mexican woman, embarks upon a dangerous journey for the chance of a better life. She narrowly avoids drug traffickers, rides the tops of trains, and endures violence at the hands of callous men before finally arriving at her cousin’s California apartment. There she is set up with work cleaning the home of a well-to-do Berkeley family and caring for their daughter -- when she finds out she herself is pregnant by a boy she barely knew. She later gives birth to a healthy baby son and manages to care for him that first year as she lives under the radar hoping not to be discovered by the authorities.

Kavya ​is a second generation Indian-American woman living relatively comfortably in Berkeley. She finds herself at a point in life where her biological clock hammers away loudly in the foreground. She and her husband, Rishi, do everything they can to conceive until it becomes Kavya’s obsession. After fertility treatments end in heartbreak they apply with the state to be foster parents, hoping to one day care for a child and maybe even adopt him or her as their own.

And then it happens. Soli loses track of her employer’s child. In a search of the area her cousin runs a red light. Sirens, a chase… and she is caught. Ignacio, her baby son, is taken from her and becomes a ward of the state. As Soli enters detention, Kavya receives a call that there is a baby in need of care. The following year traces Soli’s journey through what amounts to a de facto prison system devoid of empathy and oftentimes human decency. Meanwhile, as Kavya and Rishi care for Ignacio they fall head over heels in love with him and can never imagine one day having to give him up. Kavya embraces motherhood wholeheartedly while knowing all the while that “she’d built her love on a fault line” (p351).

Lucky Boy explores how love and the bonds we form can bring us both unfathomable joy and devastating loss. It portrays an immigration system that glances over the humanity of the people caught within it, and speaks to the indifference of our institutions. Halfway through it becomes truly compelling as events begin to accelerate. Both of the main female characters live in a sense on borrowed time, and the bittersweet ending, while not tragic, leaves one with mixed feelings about who deserves the reader’s sympathy. Written by turns in lyrical language and a quirky, relatable tone, Lucky Boy is a novel for all readers, and especially those interested in themes of motherhood and immigration.

Read-alikes:
We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Mallado
The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

Christine Parker-Morales, Comsewogue Public Library



Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven

This story caught my interest from the very first, shocking opening scene, and the “how’s” and “why’s” of that event reverberate throughout the story as the reader meets all Soliven’s characters and comes to understand the connections between them. And their secrets. We meet Manila’s very affluent Duerta-Guerrero clan, as well as the servants who make it possible for them to lead privileged, indulgent lives, lives that cause great harm to others. One of these damaged others, Amparo, is exiled, by her family, when she becomes pregnant by a scion of another wealthy Philippine family who chooses not to marry her. The other central character, Beverly, becomes a mail order bride (the mango bride of the book’s title) to escape the desperate poverty in to which she is born. Amparo and Beverly’s lives intersect in California, uniting several plot lines and revealing major secrets.

Soliven is a wonderful writer: rich, descriptive detail of scenery and cultural life make the Philippines come alive on the page. Émigré life and the longing to recover connection are both beautifully evoked. Even the minor characters feel real, enlisting the reader’s empathy. I hope we can expect a sequel from this talented author!

“The Mango Bride” would make a fabulous choice for a book club specializing in women’s issues or matters of social justice. A very helpful feature is an excellent, well thought-out Conversation Guide created by the author which includes some great questions for discussion.

Read-alikes:
America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library



The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

Carla is six when her mother leaves to try to make it to America leaving Carla and her younger twin brothers with their grandmother. Now age twelve, we learn of Carla’s hard life, the fear every time she leaves the house and the once-a-week phone calls with her mother, who sends some clothes and as much money as she can to try to help. After her mother pays for her brother Carlos to be brought across the border and her grandmother gets sick and passes away, Carla must figure out a way to save both herself and her remaining brother Junior and get them out of a town where it’s not safe to leave the house and everyone has taken to sniffing glue to get through the desperation of day-to-day life.

Meanwhile, Alice has a nice life in Austin, Texas with a loving husband and a barbecue restaurant that’s beginning to make it big. However, the one thing Alice really wants, but can’t have due to having cancer in college, is a baby. Alice and her husband Jake have just suffered the loss of adopting a baby boy and having him for one night before needing to give him back when the birth mother changes her mind. Alice is at a crossroads having so much love to give and no outlet to share it.

Told in alternate chapters, The Same Sky is the story of Carla, who is trying to escape the poverty and desolation of her small village in Honduras and of Alice, who is unable to have children but wants one with all of her heart. Each has a strong will and has to endure many hardships before there is any chance at happiness and each one does with as much grace as possible given the difficult situations they are in. The story is not a happy one, but there is happiness and hope throughout. Alice is easy to relate to while Carla is easy to sympathize with and the novel is written in a simple language that keeps the reader turning the pages to find out how each character’s story will end. This book would be great for book groups and readers who like authors like Jodi Picoult and Sue Miller.

Read-alikes:
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

Mysteries (2017)

Memory Man by Amos Decker

Amos Decker’s NFL career was over before it began when he was seriously injured in a “helmet-to-helmet” collision during his first play. While he eventually recovers from his injuries, he is left with two side effects: “hyperthymesia, which means [he] never forgets anything,” and synesthetes – he counts in color, “sees” time and sometimes associates color with people or objects.

Twenty years after his wife, daughter and brother-in-law are murdered, Amos is called back in to help his former police colleagues investigate a horrific crime. Are the two incidents related? Is the man who confessed to killing his family truly guilty?

Memory Man is riveting. Baldacci aptly balances the description and dialogue and will keep your attention till the very last page.

This book will appeal to Baldacci fans and those who like a fast-paced thriller with an urban tone.

Read-alikes:
The Amos Decker Series by David Baldacci
The Kendra Michaels Series by Iris Johanson
The Lucas Davenport Series by John Sandford

Sue Ketcham, B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library, LIU Post



Deadfall by Linda Fairstein

This is the 19th and most recent entry in the Alexandra Cooper series, all but one of which are set in the Metropolitan New York City area. Cooper is an assistant DA working as the Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit of the NYPD, but she often finds herself involved in a murder investigation with her longtime friends and colleagues: NYPD Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace. All of the Fairstein books feature a particular part of New York City of which she gives a history of that location...in Deadfall, that location is the Bronx Zoo and the crime is trafficking, both of exotic animals and drugs. Working without the guidance of her mentor District Attorney Paul Battaglia, and still recovering from her own kidnapping, Alex joins the investigation of the murder of her boss.

Linda Fairstein was the first head of the Sex Crimes Unit and brings authenticity to her mysteries. The history and background of the different areas of New York City is interesting and makes the books more enjoyable. For readers who like action, police and NYC history.

Read-alikes:
Patricia Cornwell
Kathy Reichs
Lisa Scottoline

Kathy Carter, Riverhead Free Library



The Night Bird by Brian Freeman

As the novel begins, roommates Lucy and Brynn are stuck in a traffic jam on a San Francisco bridge. Lucy has an extreme fear of bridges, so the moment traffic will move again can’t come fast enough for her. Suddenly, Brynn begins to scream and flail about maniacally. She exits the car and, ultimately, jumps off the bridge. Why is a puzzlement—to Lucy, to Brynn’s boyfriend, and  to her family. Enter Frost Easton—the detective assigned to the case. As his investigation proceeds, other deaths with similar characteristics—a psychotic episode followed by suicide—come to light. Each takes place as a particular song plays somewhere in the background, and with each incident a person wearing a macabre face mask is noticed lurking nearby. The most significant similarity is that all of the victims are former patients of psychiatrist Dr. Francesca Stein. A doctor renowned for administering a controversial and apparently successful method of erasing a patient’s memory of a traumatic incident—an incident that manifests itself in a lasting and extreme phobia. Detective Frost makes the connection between the doctor and the victims, but the doctor’s reluctance to share confidential information makes the investigation a race against time before the next victim is claimed.

An extremely suspenseful read, The Night Bird is a psychological thriller that will keep a reader guessing throughout. With a roster of possible suspects, the characters are fully developed, and as complex relationships develop, we learn about their own personal fears and secrets. Freeman’s style of writing creates an element of tension that will engage the reader from the very first to the novel’s provocative conclusion. Though some bizarre crime scenes are depicted, they are more creepy than hard-core, making this a palatable read for a general audience.

Read-alikes:
J.T. Ellison
It Takes One by Kate Kessler
Cold Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff

Deb Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

We meet Private Detective Cormoran Strike just as his luck is about to change. Battered and tired, Strike has just broken up with his fiance and resolved to living in the office of his agency, which is also in dire straits. Despite his service in the Special Investigative Branch of the Royal Military Police and the war in Afghanistan, for which he lost a leg, Strike currently has a lack of clients and and a growing debt. Enter Robin Ellacott, the unexpected secretary and John Bristow, the wealthy new client. Robin, a fortuitous arrival from a temp agency, proves to be an enthusiastic, resourceful and intuitive partner to Strike’s sleuthing when his next big case is presented to him by John Bristow, the brother of a childhood friend.

Bristow is also the brother of supermodel Lula Landry, whose lethal fall from a third floor window, covered heavily by the press, was ultimately ruled a suicide by police. Refusing to accept this verdict, Bristow hires Strike to reopen the case, thrusting Strike into the world of the rich and famous.  Although Strike himself is the son of well-known singer Jonny Rokeby and supergroupie Leda Strike, the glitz and glamour of fame is unfamiliar to him. As Strike brushes shoulders with the likes of musicians, fashion designers, film producers, drug addicts and supermodels during his investigation, the secrets he uncovers about Lula, her social circle, and her family are much darker than what appears on the surface.

Galbraith draws this mystery to a satisfying close, with an ending that is both surprising and completely logical once it is revealed. Fans of this novel will be happy to learn this is the first in a series. The second book, The Silkworm, and the third, Career of Evil, are available to read now, with a fourth book, Lethal White is in the works. The series is also quite enjoyable to listen to on audiobook, with Robert Glenister providing the narration. Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, the BBC series Strike has been picked up by HBO for broadcast in the United States.

Deception also surrounds the author of this book. Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for none other than Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Galbraith’s writing is suspenseful and descriptive; his characters Strike and Ellacott immensely likable. This page-turner is recommended to any reader who enjoys a mystery, and has an interest in celebrities and Hollywood. Fans of entertainment news shows like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood and those who enjoy gossip magazines would like this book as well.

Read-alikes:
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George
Tonight I Said Goodbye by Michael Koryta

Jill Wylie, Hauppauge Public Library



The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

After his last case, recounted in Nesbo’s tenth Harry Hole thriller titled “Police”, the Oslo detective is physically and emotionally exhausted. In fact, he has left the force with the firm conviction that he must concentrate only on protecting the family he loves from experiencing further horrors because of his dangerous career. This resolution falls away when Harry learns of a serial killer who targets Tinder daters, a monster whose MO reminds Harry of an old nemesis only Harry can stop: the story of how he does makes this one of the darkest Nordic noir reads ever!

This serial killer is a vampirist, so the story is certainly not for the faint of heart. Victims are bitten to death (with a metal set of teeth), and, yes, the killer drinks their blood. The story is very dark.  Several of the “side” characters are villains of different sorts: Harry’s boss Police Chief Mikael Bellman who blackmails Harry to lead the investigation, and academic expert Hallstein Smith who consults regarding vampirism. Further, Harry’s beloved wife Rakel becomes seriously ill during the course of what may well be the most difficult case of Harry’s career, made all the more difficult by Harry’s constant inner demon and alcohol battles.

Read-alikes:
The Lisbeth Salander Series by Steig Larrson
The Kurt Wallander Series by Henning Mankell
The Harry Hole Series by Jo Nesbo

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library



Though This Be Madness by Penny Richards

1881, Chicago. In the second of her Lilly Long Mysteries, Richards has Lilly assigned to her second case as a Pinkerton agent. Lilly still needs to prove herself—both as a novice detective and as a woman in a man’s world. Agent Andrew Cadence McShane needs to redeem himself for conduct unbecoming to a Pinkerton—a grief-driven drunken brawl. As if their forced partnership wasn’t bad enough, the agents must pose as husband and wife servants in the troubled household of a wealthy New Orleans Cajun family, the Fontenots.

Once in the Fontenot mansion, the detectives uncover secrets, betrayal, voodoo curses—and murder. Lilly and Cadence must work together to expose the true villain in this case and rescue the hapless Patricia Ducharme, a Fontenot, thrown into an insane asylum by her husband in order to get at her share of the Fontenot fortune.

The plot is intriguing with humor, drama, suspense, and a very satisfactory ending. Richards makes use of historical details and vocabulary of the Gilded Age to enrich the narration. The third book in the series, Murder Will Speak is due in April 2018.

Read-alikes:
Alice and the Assassin: An Alice Roosevelt Mystery by R.J. Koreto
Murder at Chateau Sur Mer by Alyssa Maxwell
What the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson
An Untimely Frost by Penny Richards

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



Golden Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport, who’s been with the Minneapolis BCA for the last several years, makes a shift to the U.S. Marshalls after he receives an offer from the Presidential candidate, whom he helped save in the last novel. Part of his new job is being able to pick the cases he wants without interference from bureaucracy and red tape so when a drug cartel killing happens in Mississippi that includes the death of a six-year-old girl, Lucas decides to get involved especially when he suspects the killer is a fugitive the police have been after for more than a decade.

Lucas is a hardened cop through and through and has the “shoot first ask questions later” attitude to go with it. He gets the job done and doesn’t have a problem helping other cops and asking for help in return. As he travels from Mississippi to New Mexico trying to not only track down the killers but also the cartel hitmen who are after the killers, he encounters mutilated bodies, money, gold, and a ton of trouble. The story line moves quickly and Lucas’ dry wit is evident as he gets in and out of trouble time and again. Other than his family, Virgil Flowers is the only other reoccurring character from previous books who makes a brief appearance so those looking for interactions between his old team may be slightly disappointed although it doesn’t detract from the story or from Lucas’ personality. 

The book is action-packed with shootouts, manhunts and a final showdown in the New Mexico desert when the killers try to cross the border into Mexico. The story moves as the reader follows the multiple storylines of Lucas’ investigation, the killers trying to escape and the cartel’s hitmen trying to retrieve the stolen money and avenge the death of their people. Great for guys, those who love hardened cops and aren’t very squeamish and anyone who enjoys the process that goes into solving a case and tracking the criminals until the end no matter what.

Read-alikes:
The Harry Bosch Series by Michael Connelly
The John Corey Series by Nelson DeMille
The D.D. Warren Series by Lisa Gardner

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

The Kept Woman opens with a murder. It's a bloody scene with Angie Polaski cradling the body of a stabbed woman, the daughter she abandoned as a baby. The killer is just at the door to the room in the warehouse where Angie is hiding. Slaughter build suspense with detailed descriptions of the blood-soaked room and the noise of the approaching killer. It is a difficult novel to put down even if gritty murder mystery isn't your first choice. 

Will Trent is called to the investigation because a former Atlanta cop was found dead at a construction site near the warehouse. The construction site is a former nightclub that belongs to a professional basketball player who Will investigated for rape and who beat the charges with high profile attorneys. Sara Linton, the medical examiner, is called to the scene. She happens to be Will's girlfriend although no one knows this.

Slaughter gives details of the medical examiner's examination of the crime scene as well as details to the investigation. The reader is drawn in to how the evidence is reviewed and used to piece together what could have happened at the crime scene. A gun is found and traced to Angie Polaski, who is Will's estranged wife. Blood samples from the scene are taken for testing. Will fears that the blood is his wife's and even though he has been trying to file for divorce, he still cares about her. 

Slaughter creates complicated plots and subplots with many surprise results. Her characters are drawn with depth and complexity. While a character may seem despicable, Slaughter makes the reader see other sides to their character, which may make for a redeemable side to them.

There are several story lines in the novel to keep the reader intrigued. There is the love triangle between Will, Sara and Angie. There is the interest in how the pro-basketball player may be involved in the murder. There is the death of the cop and Angie's husband who is implicated in other crimes as well. There are many loose ends that Slaughter manages to tie up all the while keeping the reader wondering what will happen to the main characters in the end.

This type of gritty mystery may not appeal to everyone. The plot takes may turns and the reader will meet violent and tough characters. But the surprise plot turns and clues make putting the novel down difficult. The reader will want to know how it all ends. This book is recommended for readers who enjoy fast-paced, plot-driven mysteries and do not mind a little violence and tough characters.

Read-alikes:
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Myrna Velez, Brentwood Public Library