Climate Fiction

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Set in the not too distant future, the southwestern region of the United States as we know it has become a wasteland. Taking place mostly in Arizona and Texas, the majority of fresh water sources have dried up leaving the inhabitants thirsty and desperate. Most of the big cities have fallen and turned into dust bowls.

The story is told by several characters with different viewpoints. There is journalist Lucy Monroe who is warned by law enforcement not to write about the murders in town, but after her best friend Jamie, a lawyer at the water department is tortured and killed, she writes a piece that makes her a target for the corrupt politicians and water brokers. The antagonists are Angel Valasquez, a hired gun. He is called a water knife, a person who threatens the citizens of a town in order to get the rights to their water supply. And Catherine Case, for whom he works, who's a narcissistic water czar using her pipelines to pump water away from cities and towns only to re-direct them to Las Vegas to support the arcology, a self-sustaining protected community structure she created. Along the way we also meet two young women who are polar opposites but soon become friends. Maria works as a house cleaner in a hotel and Sarah, a once vulnerable girl, is forced into becoming a prostitute. Together they come across a supply of water they try to sell for enough money to leave the horrible town they're stuck in.

I did not like this book at first, buy the voices of the well-developed characters urged me to read on. It's dark and depressing especially when the characters conjure memories of what life was like before the drought took hold. Bacigalupi's story-telling is overwhelming as he describes the horrors of daily living in the throes of a climate-changed world. The details and delivery of each chapter and the desperation that the characters express is heart breaking. The pace of the second half of the book really picked up becoming a fast-paced mystery thriller with several scenes that were difficult to get through and suggestive of the current US border crisis of today. Overall, I would recommend this book but would caution as it is graphic and distressing.

Read-alikes:
Warriors of the Altaii by Robert Jordan
I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Karen McHugh, Harborfields Public Library



The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes

In the not too distant future, a city is divided into two contrasting communities - the South End, where life goes on with all of the amenities always had; and the North End, which has been ravaged by the effects of climate change and industrial pollution - an environment that resembles the dystopia portrayed in the Mad Max series. The people of the North End are living day-to-day, isolated, scraping together what they can from the remnants of their lost homes, neighborhoods, and way of life. The government has virtually abandoned the prospect of aiding the North End of the city, and even proposes shutting off the water and electricity in an effort to drive the remaining population out of the area. It is made clear that had the government heeded the warnings of the people and environmental groups in the first place, these conditions could have been avoided. But industry and profit prevailed over common sense and precaution.

A few thousand people remain in the North End of the city. They're clinging to their limited possessions, their memories, and in the case of our journalist narrator, running from their inner demons. And while simply struggling to survive, the community is hit by one of the most powerful storms it has ever seen, leaving nothing but further and complete destruction in its wake. Levees collapse and local highways are flooded, stranding thousands of people. In the face of this catastrophic event, a community that seems to have lost all hope comes together to help each other overcome this devastation. In doing so, a sense of community is renewed, kindness prevails, and hope is restored.

Eric Barnes' timely novel draws the bleak picture of an apocalyptic future that both the environment and society are heading for if the warning signs are ignored. The author's use of dark, vivid descriptions of the desperate conditions that humanity is doomed to endure are extremely realistic and frighteningly plausible. Any reader that enjoys immersing themselves in a novel that allows them to experience Armageddon vicariously will enjoy The City Where We Once Lived.

Read-alikes:
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Above the Ether by Eric Barnes
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Outbreak by Davis Bunn

Theo Bishop is an economics professor who also runs a biomedical equipment company. His brother Kenny, the head of a biomedical research company, discovers that an outbreak of an unknown disease has taken place in West Africa and is being covered up by the authorities. The brothers travel to West Africa to investigate the origin of the outbreak before it spreads to other countries.

They encounter biomedical researcher Avery Madison, who has been sent by his employer, to piece together exactly what happened, having long feared this kind of ecological disaster. Together they find the waters full red algae thick enough in places to stand on. Although it soon begins to disappear, they fear that the real danger hasn't disappeared - it has just moved on.

When parts of the Caribbean  start turning a familiar red right before the onset of the hurricane season, the implications are clear. If Avery and his colleagues can't convince the world of what is about to happen, toxic destruction could be loosed on America soil.

A book for readers of all ages who enjoy a story about natural disasters especially one brought about by the warming of the planet. This climate change fiction feels very much like non-fiction.

Read-alikes:
Above the Ether by Eric Barnes
Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise by Paul Briggs
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Grave O'Connor, Retired Librarian



American War by Omar El Akkad

By the 2050s, climate change has cause ocean levels to rise to such a degree that Florida is underwater, as is most of the eastern seaboard. The Mississippi River has become an inland sea, wiping out New Orleans, and continues to grow. The Inland Migration has taken over the Midwest, and the US capitol has been moved to Columbus, from which they ban the use of all fossil fuels. Southerners are so outraged by this that Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia secede in 2074, kicking off the second American Civil War. Somehow the Southwest becomes a Mexican Protectorate but that's incidental to the story and the details are unclear.

Beyond the changed geography, climate change doesn't get much discussion. The focus is on arat Chestnut, born in Louisiana by the shores of the Mississippi Sea. Her father is killed in a homicide bombing when she is six, and she and her mother, brother, and twin sister are forced to move to Camp Patience near the border of the Free Southern State in Mississippi. It is there that she learns what it means to be a "Southerner" and her insurrectionist tendencies are honed.

The bulk of the book is the story of what Sarat does, and what happens to her. It's not a light read. It is very creatively written, though, in that the tone echoes very closely books about the actual American Civil War. Here the South's desire for independence shows itself through their defiance of the ban on fossil fuels, but it feels just exactly like it might in a work of historical fiction. Kudos to the author for being able to pull that off, even as he weaves in modern and advanced technology.

Read-alikes:
Splinterland by John Feffer
After the Flood by Kassandra Montag
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

After Dylan's grandmother and mother die a few months apart from each other, Dylan is left at loose ends. His family has always run the art house theater in Soho and lived in the apartment above, but now the theater is being foreclosed on and he has nowhere else to go. That is until he finds a note from his mother about a caravan she bought with cash that the bank doesn't know about. It's in the Scottish hills where his grandmother is from, and both his grandmother and mother want their ashes scattered there. So Dylan packs his mother and grandmother's ashes into two Tupperware containers, since the urns won't fit in his suitcase, and starts the journey to Scotland.

While this is happening, the weather is slowly getting colder and colder with the Arctic ice caps melting sending a giant iceberg heading towards land. People everywhere are trying to get out of the cold climates and head toward warmer weather only to find those places aren't all that warm anymore either, and airports are being shut down. As Dylan settles into the new caravan, he makes friends with the people on Ash Lane including a mother and her newly transitioned daughter, Constance and Stella respectively, along with a cadre of odd balls like Barnacle Bill, a local porn star, Satanists, and more. Dylan is also dealing with the guilt of losing the family theater, even though it wasn't his fault, and falling in love with Constance, who is a free spirit with two other lovers. Not to mention that Constance might just change her mind about Dylan if she finds out the secret that Dylan has uncovered about his family's past. As the months change from fall to winter and the temperatures continually drop all the way down to -58 degrees, the people in the caravan park, as well as the small town of Clachan Falls and the world, worry about heat, light, food, freezing to death, and going stir crazy.

 Although this book deals with climate change in the form of melting ice caps and freezing temperatures with the worry of having enough food and staying warm, this is not its main focus. The story is really about the characters and the bonds they form during these trying times. Dylan is moving on and finding himself now that he no longer has his mother and grandmother, Stella is trying to transition into a girl worrying about her voice deepening and growing facial hair while dealing with small-minded townspeople who aren't as accepting as they should be, Constance is trying to support herself and her daughter the best she can while fighting a small-town system that doesn't understand what Stella needs or who she is not that she's not a boy names Cael anymore.

The Sunlight Pilgrims is an insightful book about family, those you're born into and those you make. It's about identity and how you see yourself versus how the world sees you. And it's about surviving, whether it be from depression, life in general, or a potential ice age that may not have an end in sight. Overall an interesting book with witty dialogue and a wide cast of characters. It's definitely not a mainstream book to be given to the general public, but for someone who thinks outside the box and doesn't mind a side of quirky to go along with the potential end of the world.

Read-alikes
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



The Frostlands by John Feffer

The year is 2051 and the small northern Vermont town of Arcadia is under attack. The Arcadian community may have deliberately walled itself off from the rest of the world to become a "farming paradise," but its members are still capable of defending themselves against assaults from paramilitary forces.

Rachel Leopold, a scientist who once studied ice but now works toward finding a solution to global warming, discovers that CRISPR International is behind the latest attack. As time is running out before the next attack, Racehl works frantically to get information that can be used to stop CRISPR.

Highly recommended for all readers who enjoy apocalyptic science fiction. Though the tone of the story is bleak, this is a fast-paced read with plot twists. Frostland is a stand-alone sequel to Splinterlands.

Read-alikes:
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Alienation by Ines Estrada
Splinterlands by John Feffer 

Sue Ketcham, LIU Post



The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The unnamed narrator of this story opens on the eve of the birth of her first child. By the fourth page we also learn that quickly rising sea levels are forcing the move of everyone withing the "Gulp Zone," turning an entire modern city into a flood of refugees. Our new mother flees with baby Z, her husband R, and his parents, to an isolated home in the country, where they are able to subsist for a time on their supplies. News from the world outside comes in a small trickle, and eventually R, N, and G need to start making runs for supplies. One day, they return without G. One day, R returns alone.

The small family then moves into their car. Illness forces them to find a hospital, and eventually a camp. Mom and baby Z adapt well, but it is too much for R, who leaves rather than staying with so many people in close quarters. On their own, mom and Z befriend another mother O and her child C. When they receive word that their camp is soon to be overrun, they flee and end up on an isolated island with a few others. Later, as the waters recede, our narrator decides to return and make her way back home.

The author's writing is both spare and lyrical. I was amazed at her ability to convey the entire series of events in as few words as she did (136 pages total). Everything is told from the mother's perspective, which creates a spot-on parallel between early motherhood and the isolation of the environment as they try to survive. Larger events almost seem to be taking place in another world, and much is never directly experienced. In the meantime, time passes as marked by baby Z's milestones - her first smile, her first laugh, her first step. The action is clearly meant to parallel baby Z's growth.

Interspersed with the narrative are quotes from religious scripture and world mythology that allude to endings and beginnings. While you never quite know the main characters enough to feel what they might be feeling, the text is compelling (I read it in one sitting). The ending didn't make a lot of sense to me in terms of dystopian narrative, but it could be seen instead as a metaphor for the rebirth of humanity following climate-induced disaster.

Read-alikes:
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
The Wall by John Lanchester
After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

Christine Parker-Morales, Comsewogue Public Library



After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

After the Flood is a 2019 novel about life on Earth after most of the land we know today is underwater. The main character is Myra, a young woman determined to provide for her daughter Pearl, seven years after her husband disappeared with their other daughter Row. At the beginning of the novel, Myra learns that Row is still alive and may be on what's left of Greenland. Throughout the book, Myra and Pearl try to get to Greenland ("the valley"), suffering through shipwrecks, raiders (a modern equivalent of pirates), loneliness, hunger, and more in hope of reuniting with the long-lost Row. They succeed and Jacob, Myra's husband is there, but Rown had been cremated just days before after succumbing to the bubonic plague. Despite Jacob's morose news about Row, Myra and Pearl grow immensely, both as individuals and as mother and daughter during their journey.

Montag doesn't give much by way of time period setting, but one character describes the Gaia Hypothesis as happening 200 years in the past - this was a real hypothesis that was developed in the 1970s. 

I enjoyed this book as a whole. I typically don't read for pleasure anything with the slightest hint of fantasy/unreality because I often find it too complicated; After the flood is an easy, engaging read. Montag's writing feels intentional and polished, though I must say that some parts, while well-written, do not mesh with the rest of the novel. For example, there are a few abrupt sex scenes; Myra is portrayed as intense, strong-willed, and independent until several strangers come into her life, when she suddenly turns starry-eyed and trusting. 

A good audience for After the Flood is fans of non-series action, adventure, and suspense, who either see out or do not mind sexual content. I would also recommend After the Flood to readers, who, like me, tend to shy away from non-realistic themes.

Read-alikes:
The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Then the Floods Came by Clare Morrall

Wendy Ambrozewicz, Patchogue-Medford Library



The Overstory by Richard Powers

This 500-page literary tome concerns environmentalism. It is specifically about our trees and how they communicate with each other and with us, if we listen.

The book begins with eight short stories. Some begin in the early 1800s, some are current, and some stories go through generations until we get to the character that is central to the book. These stories and characters are male and female, young and old, professional and white-collar workers, artists and writers, couples and singles. Some have never given trees a thought, while others have lived in them, researched, and written about them.

After the eight introductions, we move on to the story in which nine characters develop feelings for the world's threatened forests. Five of the nine come together as activists against a timber company. Two end up in jail. One dies in an activist fire.

This is a novel that "approaches trees and the threats facing them with wonder, reverence, and an urgency that could be enough to change minds." This is what the author hopes for. "To have these humans fall in love with that tree and want to protect it with their lives and fail to do so. That's something that a reader who's completely tree-blind might sit up and take notice."

The Overstory is not a page turner. It is filled with fantastical descriptions whereas I didn't know if the narrator was describing an actual person, event, or tree. There are hundreds of names of trees and parts of trees. I also had trouble remembering who was who. It was a slow start, but as more characters were introduced, I found myself looking forward to reading more.

This is not a book I would recommend unless you love literary fiction, but I think it's a book that I will remember for a long time.

Read-alikes:
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Flight of Birds by Joshua Lobb
Trees by Ali Shaw
Doomstead Days by Brian Teare

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby

Struggling with the aftermath of a family tragedy, 30-year-old painter Cooper Gosling is accepted for a one-year assignment to South Pole Station as part of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists and Writers program. Lost in her personal and professional life, Cooper finds comfort and acceptance among the misfits at South Pole Station. While the bitter cold and close quarters do not inspire her, the social hierarchy between the Nailheads (construction crew), Beakers (scientists), and the artists do. Dr. Frank Pavano arrives riling up the scientists with his climate change skepticism. When Cooper helps Pavano with an unauthorized experiment and is maimed in an accident, congressional outrage, an investigation, a global warming scandal, and an interference with funding threatens the station's future.

This story was boring. I kept waiting for the plot to start, but the first two thirds of the book felt more like short stories about the quirky characters' backgrounds than an actual storyline. Some chapters would be in the point of view of a different character, but it would be several pages in before I knew who was talking as the timeline would also flashback without warning. There was lots of scientific jargon between the scientists that I glossed over because it made no sense to me. The final third of the book is where some action took place, but even more so, I was not connected with any of the characters enough to care about what was happening. Other reviews about this novel stated it was funny, but unless the blandness of the story is the joke, I missed it. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is a real place in the geographic south pole. I found the information about life there fascinating. After doing a little research, I discovered that the National Science Foundation does have an initiative called the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program with a purpose to "enable serious writings and arts that increase the understanding of the Antarctic and help document America's Antarctic heritage." The talk about the layout of South Pole Station and the discussion about the brutal cold of Antarctica was interesting, but it was not enough to make this a worthwhile read.

Read-alikes:
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Where'd You God, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bleaker House by Nell Stevens

Nanci Hammer, The Smithtown Library - Nesconset Building



Thirst by Benjamin Warner

Thirst is a debut novel about how a community of people respond when they are suddenly without fresh water. It centers around Eddie Chapman and his wife Laura. The story opens with Eddie deciding to abandon his car and run home to find hid wife rather than sit in a huge, unexplained traffic jam. The power is out, bushes and trees have been singed, and the steam is just a bed of sand. There are ashes everywhere. On his way home, Eddie remembers seeing a boy but is not sure if he was dreaming or not. When Eddie does dream, it is about the boy. The power is out at his home too, and there is no running water anywhere. Laura returns safely to the house and witnesses Ediie being threatened by a man called Bill Peters who followed and harassed Eddie for liquids to give his supposedly sick son. No one in the neighborhood has any idea what has happened and they are trying to survive the situation.

Eddie becomes increasingly paranoid throughout the few days and nights without power and water. He and Laura rely on drinking liquids from canned goods and anything else consumable. The summer heat combined with the constant thirst and dehydration leads to delusional and irrational thinking. Buried pasts emerge and guide decision making among Eddie and his wife. Eddie ends up stealing a five-gallon jug of water from an elderly neighbor and burying it. He fashions a bayonet because he thinks people are going to come after him for the water, and eventually kills Bill Peters and buries him under a tarp in the backyard. Eddie and Laura's neighbors become increasingly volatile as their son becomes ill due to dehydration. While most of the neighbors decide to leave the neighborhood to seek help (non has come at all), Eddie and Laura decide to make their way to Laura's parents' house thirty miles away because they use well water. As they journey through the woods, they come across different factions of people doing what they have to do to survive, some resorting to prostitution in order to secure drinking water. Many deaths occur throughout the story and ultimately Eddie is left to survive on his own. He does eventually find the boy and they try to find water ans safety together; however, it is unknown if the boy was ever really there.

The setting of the story is a suburb set apart from main highways and the city. The actual geographical location was not revealed. The author did an excellent job describing what each scene looked like and made you feel really immersed in the story. The descriptions of how the body was feeling and breaking down without water were explicit; the author effectively illustrated the different types of liquids and how the characters reacted when they tasted each one. A lot of unthinkable actions were performed in the story as people tried as best as they could to survive, which really helped to elucidate how desperate their situation was. It is unknown how much time had passed; however, it was probably about a week.

Thirst would appeal to fans who like climate fiction and survivalist stories. Readers who enjoy wondering hoe people would survive in these situations rather than figuring out why a situation happened might also gravitate to this story. There isn't much character development through dialogue; however, the author does give a realistic insight into Eddie's inner workings as he deals with his fears of loss and survival.

Read-alikes:
The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes
Drop by Drop by Morgan Llywelyn
When the English Fall by David Williams

Jessica Brown, Patchogue-Medford Library



Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

We meet Luz Dunn within the first few words of this slow-paced novel that takes place in a version of California that has been hit with a severe drought, devastating the land and deserted by a majority of people.

Luz, former poster child of this new California, and her boyfriend Ray, a veteran of the "Forever War," are squatting in a celebrity's abandoned home in Los Angeles. They make due with rations ans scavenging. While at a bonfire, a toddler with a soiled, makeshift diaper approaches Luz. She is clearly not being taken care of or supervised properly, as the adult in her group are high on drugs. One of them asks Luz and Ray to watch the toddler and Luz quickly agrees. After a bit of time goes by, they decide to take the child and we witness their transition from being a couple without a care int he world to a family with responsibilities of keeping a child safe, warm, and fed. They now have a purpose and decide to head East where they've heard life is better...

Throughout the nove, Watkins paints a picture of how the world has been forever altered (both by the planet and its inhabitants) due to climate change and our mishandling of it. While the environment that we know has changed, our main characters do not. Luz and Ray don't turn unto wonderful parents or inspirational people. By the close of the novel, they are still who they were at the beginning of the books. The "action" in the story that takes place after they decide to leave LA doesn't make up for this lack of develpment.

Read-alikes:
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
California by Edan Lepucki
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Jessicca Newmark, The Smithtown Library - Smithtown Building

Adventurous Reads

Shadow Tyrants by Clive Cussler

Shadow Tyrants is the 13th book in The Oregon Files series. This series follows Juan Cabrillo - also known as The Chairman - and his team, a private organization that take on difficult missions for the CIA, as they ride on The Oregon, the most advanced spy ship ever built. Two thousand years ago, an ancient Indian ruler possessed the Nine Scrolls of Knowledge, which could be used towards world domination if they fell into the wrong hands. The scrolls were broken up separately and now belong to the Nine Unknown Men, who are trying to achieve total domination. Eight of the men have built Colossus, a bio-computer fed by plankton with highly advanced artificial intelligence that could control any computer connected to the internet. One of the unknown men; however,  has broken off with his own plan to destroy Colossus and wipe out all technology in the process as he builds up Vajra, an electromagnetic pulse weapon for India's military. His goal is to dominate humanity by freeing them from the tyranny of computers. While the Nine Unknown Men engage in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, the Oregon crew try to thwart them at every turn.

The story mainly takes place in and around India, including the Indian Ocean and surrounding islands. The Oregon crew follows the villains on board sea vessels, sneaks their way onto airplanes by hiding inside luxury cars, sidesteps security on an island holding people hostage from a fake plane crash, and even survives an active volcano. This story reads like you're watching a fast-paced action movie at the box office. The situations are outrageous, the villains make incredibly impossible demands, and the good guys use super-cool gadgets as they stealthily invade enemy territory. The dialog between characters is believable and keeps the plot moving along. This story would appeal to fans of big budget action movies, fast-paced action sequences, and over-the-top characters.

Read-alikes:
Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin
The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston
Scarecrow Returns by Matthew Reilly

Jessica Brown, Patchogue-Medford Library



Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik

American foster care veteran Lily Bushwold is 19-years-old and living out of her backpack in Bolivia. With no roots or home, she steals to get by and runs around with other hopeless, homeless, young adults in the city of Cochabamba.

One night, while drinking with friends, she meets Omar, a native Bolivian from the Avechero village. For the last ten years he has been working in the city as a mechanic but he misses the jungle and his family. The two fall in love. One month later, Omar is called home to hunt the jaguar that killed his four-year-old nephew, and Lily joins him holding onto a romantic notion of the jungle. 

It is five days away by boat. No running water. No electricity. No gas. No bathrooms. No markets. The men are gone anywhere from two to four weeks hunting food for the community. The women clean and gut the animals, prepare plants, wash clothes in the Amazon River, and try to hide whenever poachers come. And when Omar is out hunting, Lily is left to her own defenses. 

The book is a literary thriller; the descriptions of the jungle bursting with sound and color. The story almost takes a backseat to the nuances of the jungle, the language, and the political and environmental climates. What makes this book even more interesting is that the author started writing it based on the ten years her friend spent in the Amazon.

Read-alikes:
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
Ruthless River by Holly Fitzgerald
The River of Doubt by Candice Millard
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu

"And I shall love my sisters/for-ev-er-more" sing the five main characters before embarking on a kayaking trip that will test their civility and survival skills while reshaping all of their lives...forevermore. Alternating between the days surrounding a traumatic event at Camp Forevermore and vignettes of the main characters' lives, we are immersed into each of their worlds with several blocks of chapters surrounding an individual girl, punctuated with scenes of them as a group of young teenagers working together to endure a situation that no one could possibly be prepared for: their counselor unexpectedly passes away, leaving them alone in the wilderness with the knowledge that no one back at camp knows their whereabouts.

The camping trip that goes awry is not the biggest adventure the five girls go on in this book, as the author proves that life itself is humankind's greatest undertaking. We get to endure navigating school, family, relationships, loss, success, failure, and many other experiences that mold a woman alongside Nita, Andee, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan. The reader will become easily engrossed due to the author's palpable storytelling.

Audience: Adult. Be wary about recommending for teens based on the title and premise. This book contains language, sex, and sensitive content.

Trigger Warning: Attempted sexual assault and sexual assault of minors.

Alternate Format: The audiobook version is performed very well. Each character's voice, both as a child and as an adult, is done believably (especially when all of the characters are conversing) due to the use of multiple, talented voice actors.

Read-alikes:
Garden Lakes by Jamie Clarke
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
All Souls by Christine Schutt

Jessicca Newmark, The Smithtown Library - Smithtown Building



Denali's Howl by Andy Hall

In 1967, twelve experienced young mountain climbers mounted an expedition to climb Denali, aka Mount McKinley, Alaska's highest peak. Approaching the summit, seven were trapped by an unexpected storm which they did not survive. This is a fascinating account of the disaster written by Andy Hall, the son of the Park Superintendent at the time. It should be of interest to anyone who ever wondered about the attractiveness and realities of climbing.

Read-alikes:
The Ghosts of K2 by Mick Conefrey
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Buried in the Sky by Peter Zuckerman

Jackie Malone, Bellmore Public Library, Retired



The Flight by Dan Hampton

Today we talk about going to Mars. A little over 50 years ago we talked about going to the moon. Just shy of 100 years ago, the ambition was a non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. The potential for commercial air flight was recognized by many, so a French hotelier offered a prize of $25,000 to the first person to make such a flight. Although a two-man flight had already successfully crossed the Atlantic (from Newfoundland to Ireland), Lindbergh's flight from New York to Paris would be almost twice the distance and flown solo. Several people had perished in similar efforts, by Lindbergh - a "wing-walker," a parachutist, and an air mail pilot, among other aviation-related positions - had the mechanical expertise and a personal resolve that would allow him to design the aircraft needed to accomplish this unprecedented feat.

On May 20, 1927, a 25-year-old pilot took off from a smaller air field on Long Island (Roosevelt Field to be exact) - literally on a wing and a prayer. Through meticulous research and with a background in aviation, author Dan Hampton conveys the perilous endeavor that a young man from the Midwest took to advance the future of aviation. Hampton's narrative is so descriptive and thorough, it's as if you're in the cockpit with Lindbergh as he faces the elements, the darkness, the exhaustion, and a multitude of unknowns during the flight. From sitting in a wicker chair to calculating fuel consumption in his head; not to mention the absolutely blind navigation across the ocean once darkness fell; a reader will fervently turn page after page, hoping he makes it - even knowing, of course, that he does.

There are quite a few passages in this book that are quite technical and pertain to the mechanics and physics of flight, but readers should not let that deter them. The humanity depicted, the tenacity demonstrated, and the enormity of the accomplishment by this passionate and determined historical figure will linger long after you read the final pages. Skim through these technical passages if you like - comprehension of these details is not necessary to appreciate the totality of this exhilarating account of Lindbergh's heroic achievement. It certainly opened the door to the all-but-casual transatlantic flights that so many of us take today without giving it a second thought.

Read-alikes:
The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Chasing the Demon by Dan Hampton
Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger
Fly Girls by Keith O'Brien

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker

Fr. Anton Starzman's adventure begins when the Nazi army arrives at his Catholic school for children with special needs. It is the beginning of an adventure which Fr. Anton Starzman neither sought nor wanted. The soldiers remove all the students, strip him of his religious orders as a Franciscan Friar, and marshal him into the German army. His guilt at not having tried to save his students will haunt him until an act of defiance frees him.

Anton becomes a paratrooper but fakes an injury after his first jump and is discharged from the army. He answers a newspaper solicitation from a widow looking for a man to help her raise her three children. Although Anton plans to resume his priesthood after the war and Elisabeth is devoted to the memory of her husband, they agree to marry in name only. With children to care for a scarce resources, they struggle daily to feed and clothe them. Anton learns how to be a father and a devoted helpmate to his wife. Elisabeth slowly allows herself to care for him.

After some months, Anton makes the decision to fight for his deepest values. He joins an underground group, the Red Orchestra, and begins to carry secret messages to partisans in nearby towns. Their plan is to assassinate Hitler by poisoning him. The SS discovers the plot and Anton orchestrates a final act of defiance that may cost him his life. 

Highly recommended for all readers of historical fiction and adventure from Young Adult to Senior. At the end of the book, Hawker reveals that her husband's grandfather was her inspiration. These events actually happened to him during the Second World War in Germany. 

Read-alikes:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



The River by Peter Heller

Wynn and Jack are best friends who are close to graduating from Dartmouth. Both skilled outdoorsmen, they have undertaken a lengthy canoe expedition in the northern Canadian wilderness. The trip takes a bad turn when they spot a huge, fast-moving forest fire in the distance while they are still far from civilization, with no way to contact anyone. Soon after, they meet two creepy, drunk men who seem unconcerned by the news of the fire.

Traveling on, they hear a man and woman arguing on the shore, though they can see nothing though the thick fog. After a few hours, Wynn and Jack decide to go back to warn the couple of the fire but find no one. A day later, they meet an oddly acting man who claims his wife left their tent in the middle of the night and never returned. They search for and find the woman, Maia, badly hurt, but the strange man has disappeared. The woman is at first unable to tell them what happened to her, and Wynn and Jack realize that, if Maia's husband is responsible, they are the only thing that may prevent him from getting away with murder. It starts to become a real possibility that they are now being hunted with only one way down the river back to civilization.

The two close friends, who must rely on one another more than ever, begin to struggle to trust each other. In the past, their strengths and weaknesses have balanced each other, but the two men start to clash. Wynn sees the good in everyone and cannot fully believe that Maia was left for dead by her husband. Jack, still struggling with memories of a childhood tragedy, thinks that they must go on the offensive and kill or be killed.

The descriptions of fishing, camping, etc. are very detailed and would appeal to wilderness lovers. Readers looking for an action-packed adventure story might find some earlier sections of the book slow-moving. Though it is a fairly brief read, this would be a good book discussion title. The River was a March 2019 LibraryReads pick.

Read-alikes:
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
Descent by Tim Johnston

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



The Last Wild Men of Borneo by Carl Hoffman

The Last Wild Men of Borneo by Carl Hoffman is an exciting story about two men, Michael Palmieri an American adventurer and art dealer Bruno Manser, a Swiss traveler and environmentalist. Both men share an unwavering longing to explore exotic lands. However, Manser ultimately winds up trying to save the Borneo rain forest from extinction and to protect the people known as Penan and their way of life. Palmieri, on the other hand, seeks only to sell Indonesian art and artifacts to private collectors. The story begins in the 1970s when Palmieri, to avoid the draft, leaves for Europe and ultimately finds his way to Bali where he stumbles into life as an art dealer. Manser leaves his native Switzerland, also to avoid a mandated draft, and becomes a sheep herder in the high hills of Switzerland before landing in the caves of Borneo. It is said that he became fascinated with the Penan people after seeing after seeing a picture of a tribesman in a library book. The author tells us that Manser learned their language, hunted with them, and spent many years living with them before he decided to walk into the jungle and was never heard from again. This was the spring of 2000 and no one knows for sure what happened to him. Some suspect that he may have been murdered.

Michael Palmieri was a pioneer in the business of native art collecting. He made many trips back and forth to Borneo beginning in the 1970s and many of the pieces he brought out of the country can be seen in local museums today. He forged a trusted friendship with the Penan and Dayak people. Both men met just once in 1990 according to the author, who takes his own journey into the Penan territory.

This was a good book, well written by NY Times writer Carl Hoffman, based on personal interviews with Michael Palmieri and the journals of Bruno Manser. Each man's story was explored and there were many details to digest, some of it not sol palatable like the time Palmieri's legs became covered in leeches after he walked through a shallow river. The alternative storylines for each character was jostling at times. The author took great effort to research and fully describe the location, the people, and the rich culture of the Penan, and the neighboring Dayak tribe. The book offers insights into the government and logging industry that were responsible for the deforestation where the locals once lived. Finally this was a story about two men whose love and passion for the Borneo region was legendary.

Read-alikes:
Finding Eden by Robin Hanbury-Tenison
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Jungleland by Christopher S. Stewart

Karen McHugh, Harborfields Public Library



The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

"There's this rule of three," I said, picturing Byrd walking ahead of me on the trail, telling me about the rule.

"Bad things happen in threes?" Nola said, frowning. "I think we should stay optimistic."

"Not that rule of three. The survival rule of three. There's room on either side, but generally people say you can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without air."

"Three seconds without faith," Nola said without pause.

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens is a novel of survival, coming of age, sacrifice, friendship, and suspense. The novel opens with a letter from a father to his college-bound son. He feels his son is old enough to hear the tale of the five grueling days that he spent lost on a mountain in the freezing cold without food, water, or shelter with three strangers when he was younger than his son is now.

Wolf (Wilfred) Truly has had a difficult upbringing. His mother tragically died when he was young. His father is a low-life philandering drunk who falls short on employment, personal responsibilities, and parenting skills. When he was 13, Wolf's father gambled away his house and the pair move from Mercury, Michigan to the Tin Town section of Santa Sophia, California to live with is aunt and her many children. In his time since moving to Tin Town, Wolf befriended Byrd who introduced him to hiking and climbing. The pair spent more hours on the mountain than anywhere else.

On his eighteenth birthday, a year after the tragic accident that robbed him of his best friend, Wolf Truly, a seasoned hiker took the tram to the top of the mountain without food or supplies, prepared to take his own life at Angel's Peak. Atop the mountain, Wolf meets the three Devine women. Nola, a widow who came to commemorate her anniversary for the first time since her husband passed; Bridget, Nola's daughter. Blond, stick-thin, a bit self-absorbed, and training for a triathlon; and Nola's granddaughter Vonn, who's working through her teenage rebellion, dealing with family obligations, and an urge to escape her past. A series of missteps strand these four hikers. They must work together, learn from each other, and forgive one another in order to survive. Most of all, they must believe they will survive. As hope is lost, the will to go on is lost as well. As one day passes into the next, misadventures turn into nightmares and four broken souls form an unbreakable bond. The three who make it home alive will be forever changed by their terrifying days on the mountain.

This novel was fantastic! The story is told by Wolf and moves between the current situation on the mountain and Wolf's past leading up to the fateful day of his hike to Angel's Peak. The novel is broken up into seven parts: Before, The First Day, The Second Day, The Third Day, The Fourth Day, The Fifth Day, and After. The novel is a true page turner. You want to know each hiker. Lansens peels back the emotional layers of each characters' lives, revealing fears and regrets, personal history and family secrets, hopes and dreams, and love found and lost. There were no gory descriptions of violence or injury, but the author made it clear when it had happened and I felt the pain of each character. I could feel the loud wind and bitter cold, and lived in fear of the bitter cold and frostbite. There is a passage that alludes to sexual assault. Highly recommended to those looking for an adventure.

Read-alikes:
Girl Underwater by Claire Kells
The Cage by Audrey Schulman
Wilderness by Lance Weller

Nanci Hammer, The Smithtown Library - Nesconset Building



The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler

The Secret Token is a 2018 history of efforts to solve the longstanding riddle of the vanishing English settlement at Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. Roanoke, the first English settlement in the New World, comes alive at the hands of author Andrew Lawler. Sometime around 1587, over 110 colonists left Roanoke without much of a trace - the first discoverers of their disappearance found the letters C R O A T O A N carved into a tree, but there is still much debate over the origin and intention of that carving. Describing this book via its characters is not especially useful; Lawler includes a three-page Cast of Characters featuring 37 historical figures but there are dozens more lesser characters.

Sometime while I was in middle school, I had an American history textbook that introduced me to Roanoke, but only with one short sentence. That sentence developed my interest, and Lawler discusses at length why the disappearance at Roanoke still captivates people 400 years later. I felt intimidated by the lengthy book at first (lists of characters given before the actual text do that to me…) but found it accessible and engaging. It is ideal for those interested in but unfamiliar with early American history; Lawler defines and introduces important people and events impressively. Of course, no conclusive answer is objectively given, but the book is entertaining and makes a great pick for a substantial adventure read.

Read-alikes:
The Search for Atlantis by Steve Kershaw
The Lost Ark of the Covenant by Tudor Parfitt
The Curse of Oak Island by Randall Sullivan

Wendy Ambrozewicz, Patchogue-Medford Library



Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

The year is 1812 and 16-year-old Arabella Ashby loves her life on Mars. She couldn’t be happier than when she and her brother test the skills their Martian nanny has taught them against each other at night, or when building automata with her father in his study. Unfortunately, her mother doesn’t share her enthusiasms, and eventually insists that Arabella and her younger sisters return to England with her so that they can be raised as proper English ladies without the “heathen” influences on Mars.

Unfortunately, before many months have passed after their return, they receive word that Arabella’s father has died. Unable to recover from her grief, Arabella is sent to a cousin’s house in the hopes that a change of scenery will help. But that cousin is bitter because the entail on the Ashby fortune precludes his inheriting any of it, and decides to strike out for Mars himself in order to kill Arabella’s brother so that he can inherit.

Naturally, Arabella is the only one who can stop him, so she disguises herself as a boy, gets passage on the Diana, a ship bound for Mars, and is off on her adventure. Along the way, she must learn all about aerial navigation, fight off space privateers, and defeat a mutiny, all while keeping her gender hidden. When they finally make it to Mars, there has been a native uprising, which Arabella must calm, virtually single-handedly. And practically before she can take a breath, she also must work out with her brother how to defeat the entail on the property so that she herself can inherit.

This is a great entry in both the steampunk and adventure genres. The action is non-stop (although it takes a couple of chapters for things to get moving) and the technology is very imaginative. Any steampunk enthusiast will love it, although the average reader looking for an adventure book may be turned off by the alternative history aspect. First in a trilogy.

Read-alikes:
The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez
Larklight by Philip Reeve
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

If anyone had told me that I'd be grabbed by a book classified as science and that I wouldn't be able to put it down, I would have told them that they obviously did not know me very well. Science was not my best subject in high school and I had no desire to read about it on my own. Well, I was wrong! I was hooked on Underland as soon as I started it. I could not put the book down. Not only did I read it, I bought two copies and had one sent to a friend in England.

There was a clue to this book, which of course I missed because all I wanted to do is dig into the book, it is in the subtitle: A Deep Time Journey. The British writer Macfarlane pursues the subsurface of today's major environmental changes, following what trickles down into the Earth and what migrates upward from beneath. We can see they physical evidence of past thriving civilizations in a way that doesn't come through as clearly as the old textbooks. I regret that I cannot do what this man does. I don't have the bravery or the thin body type.

Read-alikes:
Horizon by Barry Lopez
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Under the Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell
Outpost by Dan Richards
In Search of Monster Fish by Mark Spitzer

Kathy Carter, Riverhead Free Library



Marah Chase and the Conqueror's Tomb by Jay Stringer

Marah Chase is a disgraced archaeologist. After losing her fellowship to school in London, Marah turns to tomb raiding to support herself. Needing the money, she’d rather rescue artifacts and sell them to collectors who will appreciate them than have them destroyed by religious fanatics called Visitologists and extremists. When the book begins, Marah is on the run from one such extremist group who wants a statue she’s found. One dire straight leads to another until Marah finally makes her way over the Israeli border only to be picked up by their version of MI6 and put in jail. Once there; however, things take a turn. An actual MI6 agent approaches her for help. The Visitologists as well as the extremist group are looking for Alexander’s Tomb and the world-destroying weapon supposedly hidden within. MI6 wants to use Marah off-book to help find Alexander’s Tomb, which has been missing for centuries, and retrieve the weapon so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. In exchange, Marah will be paid a hefty sum and have her credibility restored giving her a chance to finish her degree and get a real job in her field. Along the way, Marah has to deal with an ex-girlfriend, a secret society, the crazy religious cult, and political extremists all while wondering if she can really trust MI6 to keep their word.

Marah Chase and the Conqueror’s Tomb is non-stop action from page one where Marah is in the middle of the desert on a motorcycle quickly running out of gas while being chased by men with guns to the end where there are plane crashes, fist fights, and attempted assassinations. The story moves quickly with short chapters and characters always on the move. Because there are so many characters, though, it can sometimes get confusing keeping them all straight especially since some of them switch sides throughout the book. The history about Alexander the Great is interesting as well as the information about Egyptian gods and other mythology, but it’s often quite a lot of information so having a general knowledge would probably have been helpful. Marah is a flawed but likable character and the reader can’t help but root for her to pull through every tight spot she gets herself into no matter how far-fetched. Give this book to women who enjoy strong female leads (think Lara Croft) or men who appreciate action-packed scenes, shoot outs, and car chases.

Read-alikes:
Old Bones by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston
The Dirk Pitt Series by Clive Cussler
The Sigma Force Series by James Rollins

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

Retellings, Adaptations, and Continuations of the Classics

The New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

You know you're getting to the end of one of Shakespeare's tragedies when the bodies start piling up, and Othello is a typical example. But what happens when the characters become 6th graders and the drama takes place on the playground, instead of a military barracks? That’s the question anyone who has read Othello will be asking themselves as they open New Boy. Surely the ground won’t be littered with 6th graders?! Or will it… Tracy Chevalier is a masterful writer and the reader is left guessing until the very end, and beyond.

She takes Shakespeare’s play about racism and jealousy in the Venetian army of the late-16th century and sets it on an elementary school playground in the late 1970s. The time period makes the racism much more pronounced, whereas in Othello, jealousy seemed more in the forefront, although racism definitely played a part. Chevalier’s main character becomes Osei (“O”), a Ghanaian diplomat’s son, starting his 5th new school in 6 years. He immediately hits it off with Dee, one of the most popular girls in the school.  To the shock and dismay of their classmates and teachers, their romance blossoms almost immediately.

Enter Ian, who, unlike Iago, is a known playground bully. He doesn’t exactly want Dee as his own girlfriend, but he certainly doesn’t want this black newcomer to have her either. So he manipulates a similar cast of characters as in the play to drive O and Dee apart (Desdemona’s handkerchief is replaced with a pencil case embossed with strawberries) and the plot follows similar lines to the play.

Like Othello, the action in New Boy is very compressed, happening all in a single day, giving the reader a slightly claustrophobic feeling. Unlike Othello, where Desdemona is the outsider in a military setting, in New Boy, O is the outsider, being literally the new boy in school. There are many other minor differences and similarities to the play, with the result being that anyone who’s read Othello will clearly see the play in the story, but the book is able to stand on its own, without having to rely on being a “retelling”.

Read-alikes:
Putney by Sofka Zinovieff (similar theme)
Hogarth Series (Shakespeare Retellings)

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett

Miranda is twelve years older than the last time we saw her in The Tempest. She, her father, Prospero, and Uncle Antonio have returned to Milan from exile and Prospero once again reigns while Miranda plans to move to Naples to marry Ferdinand.

Unfortunately, Miranda is left a virtual prisoner in Prospero's castle with no friends or family. All the servants hate and fear her. She is not allowed to show her face or go anywhere. Her only confidant is Dorothea, her servant witch. Together, they fall in love and discover the mystery of Miranda's mother's death thirteen years earlier and the treachery and betrayal of Prospero to his public and his daughter.

Filled with magic, ghosts, love, fear, and ruthlessness, Miranda in Milan is a fun sequel to Shakespeare's The Tempest. The language is not of the 17th century (narrative nor dialogue), the setting lacks description (except for the tunnels under the castle), and the characters could be better developed, but for a 200-page novella, an inventive imagining of Miranda's story. Not a page turner, but a relatively quick read.

Read-alikes:
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Cinderella)
Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton (Henry IV)
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Pride and Prejudice)
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Taming of the Shrew)

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library 



The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

Have you read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca? Don’t worry, it’s not a prerequisite. Besides, there’s a new Rebekah in town. Is she the unnamed protagonist of the story? Read and find out. Set on an exclusive island off Long Island near the luxurious Hamptons; a young woman, her fiancé and his daughter struggle with buried secrets, past lives, and unavoidable consequences.

The unnamed narrator arrives to Asherley; an opulent, secluded mansion; with her new, wealthy, politically charged, recently widowed fiancé. Never knowing luxury before, meeting Max Winters, was a fluke at best for this sunburned Cayman Island native. But living at Asherley, full of its memories of the first Mrs. Winters, and Max’s teenage daughter, Dani, sulking around the grounds angry and resentful; not only poses uncertainties about the estate’s secrets, but of the relationship between the future Mrs. Winters and Max Winters.

What do you do when the happiness you thought only existed in fairytales, becomes your life and there is a force determined to make it all come crashing down?

Full of a lot of detail and foreshadowing, The Winters is good, but not amazing. It’s worth the read if you haven’t read the classic Rebecca or if you have and don’t mind a loose, modernized “retelling” of an old favorite.

I wouldn’t say The Winters is a suspenseful read. Certainly, the psychological aspect is there, but not as significant as expected. I knew what was going to happen. I could anticipate the action; due to good writing and a well set up structure, I suppose.

Was the book as dark and ominous, as a psychological thriller intends, no, not really. But the encircling and tiptoeing of characters around one another added a creepy factor without pushing you over the edge. In more than a few spots I wondered who the crazy was in the story, which added mystery. I was pulled along, sometimes lulled by the writing, but in the end, there was no jolt, gasp, or frantic frenzy of trying to figure out how it all happened. Throughout the book I found myself screaming in my mind “NO!”, because I already knew the outcome and was just waiting for the story to prove me right.

I suggest going into reading The Winters with an open mind. Though I finished it and liked it enough to do so, it didn’t move me. I didn’t ask questions throughout it. I simply read it for the pleasure of reading, which is never a bad thing. Overall, I would give the book three stars. It was entertaining when not comparing it to its retelling.

Read-alikes:
Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman
Alena by Rachel Pastan

Jocelyn Kaleita, Brookhaven Free Library



Hyde by Daniel Levine

Hyde is a 2014 retelling of Robert Lewis Stevenson's 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson tells his classic story through a rotating third-person narrative; major characters Henry Jekyll, Edward Hyde, Gabriel John Utterson, and Poole are shown to be unique individuals invested in the horrific changes occurring among themselves, while Levine's novel begins as a dual first-person narrative - equal explanation is given to both Jekyll and Hyde's thoughts, experiences, and memories. As the story progresses and Hyde begins to dominate Jekyll's personality and respectable 19th-century London life, so too Hyde begins to dominate Levine's narrative. By the end of the book, Hyde is the sole narrator, narrating his suicide. The book takes place over four days and is an engaging retelling and adaptation.

I believe I would have enjoyed Hyde more if I were not previously familiar with the original story. I found Levine's story confusing and overly complicated. There were several characters I felt were not properly introduced, the period language felt inauthentic, and the buildup to Hyde's death was not nearly as grandly theatrical as Stevenson made it. This book is a good pick for patrons seeking quick gothic and historical thrillers, but I would not recommend it to fans of the original Strange Case or those seeking easy reads.

Read-alikes:
The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough
Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty 

Wendy Ambrozewicz, Patchogue-Medford Library



Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Seventeen-year-old Cat Morland, the daughter of a vicar living in the English countryside, is offered the opportunity to travel to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with her wealthy neighbors, the Allens. (“The Fringe” is the world’s largest arts festival, lasting nearly a month. In 2018, it featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows.) Mr. Allen is a successful investor in London theater, and easygoing Cat will be company for his wife, Susie.

In Edinburgh, Cat meets Bella Thorpe and her brother Johnny, who, it turns out, are friends of Cat’s older brother, James. When James turns up, Cat is struck by the growing romantic relationship between James and Bella, and finds herself too often in the company of Bella’s brother, an irritating blowhard. She is thrilled to meet the Tilneys: the handsome, intelligent Henry and his charming younger sister, Ellie. An invitation to the Tilneys’ vast historic estate, Northanger Abbey, follows. Cat, an avid reader of horror novels, is excited to discover the secrets she is certain the Abbey conceals and to spend as much time as possible with Henry.

The novel is a witty romance that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Jane Austen’s original and are curious about how the story translates to the 21st century. It would also be appropriate for young adults unfamiliar with the original. The setting is clever and the conniving Thorpes are remarkably similar to Austen’s characters. However, Cat, though she has been home-schooled and lived a sheltered life, is a little too naïve and fanciful for a girl her age. A subplot that has Cat wondering if the Tilneys might be vampires is sometimes treated as a joke, but occasionally as something Cat truly believes.

Read-alikes:
Emma by Alexander McCall Smith
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
By the Book by Julia Sonneborn
Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller is an exciting retelling of Greek legends and lore. Circe, daughter of the mighty God Helios is a strange girl and seems to be born without any particular powers unlike her brothers and sisters.   

Repeatedly shunned from her powerful father and manipulative mother, Circe turns to mortals for friendship and companionship. She soon realizes that she possesses the power of witchcraft and uses it to transform lovers and rivals into their true selves. After one such transformation she is banished to the deserted island of Aiaia by her father and Zeus.

During her time there, she is visited by many well-known figures known in mythology such as the Minotaur, Daedalus and his son Icarus, the dangerous Medea, and the persuasive Odysseus.
Spending year after year alone on an island, cultivating her herbs and potions, Circe welcomes the god Hermes, whose visits are full of news. He is a pleasant distraction for Circe, but even that grows wearisome.

Finally, Circe must choose between living a life with mortals or with the gods that made her.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I’ve always been fond of mythology so this was a pleasant trip down memory lane. Madeline Miller does a fine job telling this exciting story using just the right amount of poetic prose. The characters are vivid especially the articulate and cunning Odysseus, who Circe falls in love with. This retelling seems to bring home the point that whether we are gods or just ordinary people we all will experience the joys and sadness that life has to offer. The story of Circe reminds us to stay strong and constant for all things do pass with time. 

Read-alikes:
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin
House of Names by Colm Toibin

Karen Cognato, Harborfields Public Library



Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Boy, Snow, Bird is a modern retelling of Snow White. It centers around Boy Novak, a twenty-something young woman from New York who can’t keep from noticing her reflection whenever she sees it. Growing up without a mother she knows nothing about, Boy flees to Massachusetts to escape her abusive father who catches rats for a living. While in Massachusetts, Boy tries to find her way by meeting new people and working several different jobs, hoping that the rat catcher will never find her. She begins dating a widower named Arturo Whitman who has a daughter named Snow. Everyone loves Snow and constantly dote on her. Over time, Boy and Arturo marry and have a child they name Bird. When Bird is born, she is noticeably African American, and her birth exposes the Whitman family, who have been passing as white for years. Because the story is set in the early 1950s, Boy is met with criticism and hate for having a black child. Boy begins to resent how much everyone loves her stepdaughter Snow instead of her baby daughter Bird, so Boy sends Snow away to live with other family members. As Bird grows up, she becomes more curious about her sister Snow who she doesn’t remember. She begins to correspond with Snow through letters and they become very close without ever meeting, especially over the fact that both girls don’t see their reflections when they look into mirrors. When Snow finally comes home for Thanksgiving, tensions run high among the Whitman family as the issues of race and vanity finally come up, as well as between Boy and Snow as they meet for the first time in years. As Boy’s father comes to find her all these years later, Boy finds out where she actually came from. 

This story is character driven with a fast almost magical pace. It is told in separate parts between Boy and her daughter Bird’s point of view. Snow’s voice is also evident as she writes letters to Bird. The setting of 1950s and 1960s Massachusetts still has an air of being racially intolerant as witnessed by the Whitman’s matriarch trying to give Bird away to her darker-skinned aunt, along with bullying at Bird’s school. While the setting of Massachusetts is discussed, the story tells more about what was happening culturally at the time. I think this story would appeal to readers of fiction who enjoy fairy tales, as well as readers who enjoy thought-provoking stories. 

Read-alikes:
Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville
Picking Bones from Ash by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

Jessica Brown, Patchogue-Medford Library



Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern-day reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice set in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is the fourth book in the Austen Project, a series that couples contemporary novelists with Jane Austen’s novels. 

Liz is a magazine writer in her thirties living in New York City. She is clever and responsible, the most insightful member of the generally hopeless Bennett family. Her older sister Jane is a 40-ish yoga instructor who also lives in the City. They return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help out after their father has heart surgery. Once there, they find that the sprawling Tudor house they grew up in is falling apart just like their family.

Mrs. Bennett’s snobbery and self-pity are intact, but in this retelling, she is also a lover of trash television. Her current preoccupations include an addiction to a reality show called “Eligible,” featuring hunky bachelors.

Mr. Darcy has evolved into a pompous neurosurgeon. In one of the classic scenes in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth that he loves her while also listing the reasons he shouldn’t marry her. In Eligible, Darcy is even more insensitive: “You’re not beautiful, and you’re not nearly as funny as you think you are,” he says to Liz. “Sorry,” Liz replies, “but I still consider you a jackass.”

Sittenfeld, according to the New York Times reviewer, excels in her “clear, clean writing… in her general amusement about the world, her observations about behavior, character and motivation.” A witty, enjoyable read for women and men of all ages.

Read-alikes:
Emma by Alexander McCall Smith
Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
The Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Grace O'Connor, Retired, West Islip Public Library



Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Always in trouble at home, always in trouble at work, Kate Battista is an incorrigible pre-school assistant that has strong opinions on everything—this is Anne Tyler’s version of Shakespeare’s “shrew.” Kate’s father, a scientist doing self-aggrandized research, asks her to marry his assistant to avoid his deportation due to an expiring visa. Kate resists with every bone in her body. The two men conspire and work on Kate with pre-planned encounters and staged shenanigans until she eventually softens and seems to realize that marrying could actually give her a freedom that she has never known before.

This re-telling of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew by Pulitzer Prize winning Anne Tyler (author of The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, A Spool of Blue Thread, et al.) is a light-hearted, easy read that can be devoured in one sitting. It’s not a deep or complex novel, but sometimes an effortless read is all that is required to satisfy. This is a softer version of the work by Shakespeare, which was not his most popular or well-received. Fans of Tyler’s other works may be disappointed. Tyler admits that she hates Shakespeare—and The Taming of the Shrew most of all—but she accepted the challenge to contribute to a series of re-tellings of the bard’s works. If you’re looking for a light read that is not too demanding, nor time consuming, this may be the book for you.

Read-alikes:
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (The Tempest)
Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson (The Merchant of Venice)
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (The Winter's Tale)

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Solsbury Hill by Susan Wyler

Eleanor Sutton Abbott receives a call from her aunt’s friend Gwen telling her that her aunt Alice is dying and would like to see her; on the same night Eleanor finds out some disturbing news about her boyfriend Miles. At first Eleanor isn’t sure what to do. Her clothing business in New York is just taking off and things with Miles are at a crossroads, but she’s drawn to her aunt Alice who lives in England. Even though Eleanor hasn’t seen her since she was a little girl, Alice is the only family she has left. Wanting to know more about her mother, Alice’s younger sister, and her family, Eleanor makes the journey to the Moors of England and the house she will inherit once her aunt passes on. It is at Trent House that Eleanor learns about her family, her legacy, and who she really is as a person. She also meets Meadowscarp (Mead), an orphan that her aunt took in after his mother died and his father couldn’t raise him. As Eleanor speaks to ghosts, including Emily Bronte, explores Trent House, and discovers the secrets of her past, she must make the decision on whether to go back to New York and her old life with Miles or to stay in England and take a chance on a new life with Mead.

Inspired by the classic novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Solsbury Hill has the same atmosphere found in the original without the drama and angst. Although the setting is the same and parallels can be drawn between the orphans Heathcliff and Mead and other parts of the novel, most of the story is about how Eleanor is a descendant of Emily Bronte and is trying to break the curse that has plagued the women in her family – choosing the wrong man to love when two options are available – as well as trying to find out about her heritage and hopefully find herself in the process. Both Miles and Mead are much nicer than their counterparts in Wuthering Heights and Eleanor doesn’t bring any of the drama that Catherine surrounds herself in. The story is a romance, without the timeless quality of the original, wrapped up with a happy ending. Give this to women looking for a quick, beach read or general romance rather than someone looking for a continuation of their favorite classic.

Read-alikes:
Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights by Alison Case
The Lost Child by Carol Phillips
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library