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

Family Saga

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

Once upon a story within a story, located off the coast of Italy, was a tiny island named Castellamare. The island was so small, it was often unvisited, and thus its inhabitants thought to rule themselves. The island’s remoteness lent it to power struggles, deeply rooted family drama, and many rumors turned age-old-tales. It is the perfect setting for a great saga.


In 1914 meet Amedeo Esposito. He is 40-years-old and arrives on Castellamare. Seeking a place to call home he becomes the island’s doctor, and so his story begins. Amedeo is a lover of stories – ones of miracles, of adventure, of history passed from teller to listener – and because of his love of stories he records stories, those he is permitted to, in a red notebook, he is rarely without. Page after page Amedeo’s life is written; from meeting and marrying the love of his life, Pina, to the birth of their three children, to building a café and bar business in the house at the edge of night. Like anyone with a life to live, Amedeo dreams, plans, expects, endures disappointment, and feels immense joy. His life’s story is so full it amounts to almost a century’s worth of tales.  


Amedeo’s story is a sweeping, four-generation saga – part love story with the island, with the characters you meet, with the house at the edge of night – part tragedy in choosing the right path, in doing the right thing for yourself and those you love. Written compassionately, vividly, and so lyrically, you will be transported to Castellamare and won’t want to leave. Amedeo’s story ensnares your thoughts with possibility. You’ll feel the saw dust under your feet at the bar and hear the wind blow through the town, you’ll mostly likely smell the sea through the house at the edge of night as you read. Amedeo’s family will pull you right into their lives. You’ll recognize the want and hope for a simple life and the complications rerouting your dream caused by the uncontrollable outside world.


House at the Edge of Night is a timeless story; told honestly and easily. Before you know it, you are fully involved in generation after generation of Amedeo’s family and will want to know more. There is no turning back, like with any family, once you are in, you are all in.

Read-alikes:

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Nbue
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton


Jocelyn Kaleita, Brookhaven Free Library


The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a sweeping family saga set in New York City’s Lower East Side, beginning in 1969. The four Gold children become preoccupied with the idea of death after seeking out a fortune teller who claims to know when each of them will die. These prophecies follow the siblings for the next fifty years. Each chapter focuses on one sibling, as they travel diverse paths and deal with their looming death date. The distinct journeys propel the characters into different paths, such as Simon and Klara who believe in the prophecies and make life choices accordingly, as opposed to Daniel and Varya who do not. Three of the siblings all die on their predicted dates and the novel ends before revealing the fate of the fourth sister.  


This is a complex story immersed in Jewish lore and covering decades of American history from the San Francisco Aids crisis in the 1970’s to the ethical questions concerning animal research. The novel is told from a third-person omniscient narrator who presents one character’s point of view in each part of the story. Each character takes a different path as they approach their fate and fulfill their own idea of a meaningful life. Despite their diverse journeys, the siblings shared Jewish upbringing binds them together in a meditation of how family ties can both hurt and heal.  

At the heart of this novel is the question, how do we shape our own destinies? Is it fate or choice that determines our future and how can different people interpret the same event in such varied ways? The power of belief is a core theme, and this includes magic, faith, and storytelling. But it is the pull of family that holds the novel together in a mesmerizing saga. I highly recommend this thought-provoking story for a book discussion group.


Read-alikes:
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Eternal Life by Dara Horn
The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer

Novels by Donna Tartt or Celeste Ng


Candace Reeder, Northport-East Northport Public Library



America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo



Elaine Castillo’s impressive debut tells the story of Geronima (“Hero”) and her extended family, both in their ancestral Philippines homeland and in 1990’s Milpitas, a San Jose suburb inhabited by many immigrant cultures. Once part of a wealthy, socially prominent family, Hero, an aspiring doctor, renounced her old life to become a field doctor for a guerrilla revolutionary group called the National People’s Party. Tortured and held captive for years, Hero is eventually released, disowned by her parents, and travels to America under the care of her aunt and uncle, Pol and Paz. Paz is the quiet heroine of the story, working double nursing shifts to support their large extended family, in Milpitas and in the Philippines. The daughter of Pol and Paz is the third generation of the tale. It is Hero’s contribution to care for Roni, their seven-year-old daughter. Hero grows to love her niece, and to make friends at a community restaurant where she eventually works. There she meets Rosalyn who becomes central to her life.



The story is character driven, and stylistically complex, as it moves back and forth in time and in Hero’s worlds. The writing is richly descriptive, filled with Filipino cultural detail, in descriptions of language, food, and garage band music. 

Read-alikes:

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas



Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library








The Balcony by Jane Delury

“What if our homes could tell the stories of those who lived there before us?”
This debut is comprised of ten short stories connected by a house in Benneville, France.  Unfortunately, the manor doesn’t tell any story. The stories are connected by the characters who live or have lived in the manor for over 100 years.

None of the characters seem to love the house or have any feeling for it. They all hate Benneville because it’s such a small town where nothing ever happens, and the stories are depressing, dull, and uninspired. There is nothing new here.

Indeed, if the house could talk, we would’ve gotten some great stories: suicide, Jews hiding from the Gestapo, ex-courtesans, brothers who aren’t really brothers (we never find out if they’re told at Christmas), affairs, etc.

I loved the idea of this book and in the first story, when the woman of the house threw herself off the balcony, I was excited to see how the balcony played into each story. Unfortunately, it never did. There were too many characters to keep track of and I couldn’t remember who was related to whom from another story. Beautiful writing, but slow reading. Not a page turner.

Read-alikes:
The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
The Life She was Given by Ellen Wiseman

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



Meadowlands by Elizabeth Jeffrey

Three days after the elaborate silver wedding celebration of Sir George Barsham, MP and his wife Lady Adelaide, Britain declares war with Germany (August 4, 1914). 

Over the course of the war, we follow the lives of the Barsham children, twins James and Ned and their sisters Millie and Gina. Both boys are sent to Flanders, James in the Army and Ned as a conscientious objector stretcher bearer. Millie learns how to drive an ambulance and ends up in Flanders as well. Only Gina remains at home and it is through her interactions with the local townsfolk that we see the effects the war has on those on the home front.

The story moves at a quick pace yet it is filled with historical details. The circumstances that each of the characters find themselves dealing with throughout WWI are vividly brought to life. Jeffrey’s characters are fascinating, realistic, and detailed. The children are down to earth, the servants “below the stairs” and estate workers are true to form, and Lady Adelaide is the typical lady of the manor … ‘I didn’t bring you up to do the work of a servant, Georgina,’ she remarked when Ruby had left the room. ‘Have you no respect for your position?’

Settle in with a good strong cuppa and a couple of biscuits for an engaging read.  

Read-alikes:
We That Are Left by Clare Clark
For Better, For Worse by Elizabeth Jeffrey
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson


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



The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas

When Joseph, the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father, receives a surprise package from his late father, he leaves Berkeley and goes to Cairo to uncover the history that binds the two sides of his family. He finds he is a descendant of generations of watchmen at the Ben Ezra synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor Ali, a Muslim orphan who nearly a thousand years earlier was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary--perhaps magical--Ezra Scroll. 
The story of Joseph's family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 travel to Cairo from their places at Cambridge on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a story of the tangled relations that exist between fathers and sons, religion and love in places like Cairo marked by diversity, and the forces of love that try to bring them together.

Read-alikes:
The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado
The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

Grace O'Connor, Retired



Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

With its cast of seemingly thousands, Kwan keeps the reader's interest throughout the 500+ pages. The characters are wild, crazy, extravagant, bizarre, fanciful...you get the idea. Crazy Rich Asians is more than a book about how ridiculously rich people sometimes spend their money ridiculously. It offers thousands of gems of history and more than a few surprises. Don't be intimidated by how many characters are in the book, you'll figure out early on which ones are the most important. 





Read-alikes:
The Windfall by Diksha Basu
The Garden Party by Grace Mazur
What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan
Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Kathy Carter, Riverhead Free Library



A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

This story is told simultaneously by three sisters, Lady, Vee, and Delph Alter. They say it is their collective suicide note. Suicide apparently runs in their family (they have a chart), as their great-grandmother, great-grandfather, grandfather, aunt, and mother have all killed themselves (gunshot, overdose of morphine, defenestration, cyanide, and drowning being the respective causes). Having collectively survived one round of cancer, divorce, and being widowed, with the onset of Vee’s second round of cancer, the sisters have decided to poison themselves and go all together.

The sisters’ apartment is crowded with the ghosts of these suicides (not actual ghosts; there’s nothing supernatural about this book). Delph has tattooed on her leg the biblical quote about the sins of the father, although there’s some disagreement about what the sin in question is. The prevalent theory is that they’re all paying for their great-grandfather’s development of mustard gas and Zyklon, but it’s possible that suicide itself is the sin.


And then the ghost walks in (again, not an actual ghost). Will this blast from the past and all the revelations that follow in her wake cause any or all the sisters to reconsider their suicide pact?


This dark, metaphysically heavy book is definitely not for the faint of heart. There’s really nothing cheering in it, although it is escapist in its own way.


Read-alikes:

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Nix by Nathan Hill
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh


Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore

Castle Deverill stands on land stolen from the O’Leary family and given, along with a title, to Barton Deverill in the 1600s for his loyalty to King Charles II. Maggie O’Leary cursed the family, and every Lord Deverill is doomed to remain between worlds, haunting the castle until an O’Leary returns to live on the land. Kitty Deverill knows this is true, because, like her grandmother, she can see and speak to the ghosts of all the previous Lord Deverills. Kitty was born in 1900 to a cold and unloving mother, and a father who is good-natured but preoccupied with hunting, fishing, and his mistress. She is closest to her grandparents, her cousin Celia, who visits every summer, and especially to Bridie Doyle, daughter of the castle’s cook.

As the girls grow up, Kitty falls in love with local boy Jack O’Leary, becomes involved in the Irish independence movement, and is eventually forced to leave the country she loves for her own safety and join Celia in London. Bridie also falls in love with Jack, and is crushed when she finds out he is in love with her best friend, Kitty. Tragic circumstances force her to leave Ireland as well, and she travels to America, where her fortunes reverse completely and she becomes a woman of means. Secrets, betrayals, affairs, WWI, the Irish independence movement, and assorted tragedies impact the lives of every member of the Deverill family. When Kitty and Bridie return to Ireland years later, their friendship seems like it might never recover and the future of Castle Deverill is uncertain. 


This novel is the first in a trilogy and would be a good pick for readers who enjoy Irish fiction, historical fiction, and stories that center on women’s friendships. It is lengthy, but action-packed and moves very quickly. There is a strong sense of place, and the world of Castle Deverill and the nearby town of Ballinakelly is well-developed.

Deverill Chronicles:
The Girl in the Castle
The Daughters of Ireland
The Secret of the Irish Castle

Read-alikes:
Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict
Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor Bradford
The Girls of Ennismore by Patricia Falvey
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library




The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

A good race horse is the product of a strong genetic heritage. Might the same hold true for people? Are we simply the result of a genetic pool, or do we have the free will to determine our own destiny? 

We follow the evolution of three main characters—Henry Forge, his daughter Henrietta, and Allmon Shaughnessy, a bi-racial groom—from their familial roots to the present day. Treatises on everything from American history to domestic abuse to slavery and, eventually, horse racing are interjected as a reflection of the hierarchy of society. The Sport of Kings (to quote one review) “is no more about horseracing than Moby Dick is about whale hunting.”

For generations, Henry’s family has always been in the agricultural business. But Henry has a different idea. He’s wants to raise thoroughbred horses.  Henry’s daughter, a victim of sexual abuse, also rebels—by hiring a young black ex-convict to work on the farm then having a torrid affair with him. Allmon Shaughnessy comes from a broken, inter-racial family, lives in the grips of poverty, resorts to a life of crime, and spends time in jail. All three hang their hopes and dreams on a promising filly named Hellsmouth. The ways that each of these characters deals with the consequences and limitations into which they were born demonstrates that we all have more in common than we may realize.

This vast and complex novel, shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, is not a quick read. It can actually feel overwhelming. Morgan incorporates classic literature, mythology, and much more in extensive “interludes” throughout. Her writing style is reminiscent of classic writers such as Melville, Faulkner, and Shakespeare. Readers will be rewarded if they persevere. What starts out as a straightforward family saga evolves into an all-encompassing epic. There are many points of discussion for a book group if the readers are willing to commit to this sweeping novel.

Read-alikes:
Applehouse Supreme by Emeliye Akdjali
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

At Franny’s christening, Bert Cousins, who is married to Teresa and has 3 kids with one on the way, is introduced to Franny’s mother Beverly Keating and is instantly in love, or lust as some people might think. After sharing a kiss, the two go their separate ways eventually marrying over a decade later leading to a lot of hurt feelings and resentful kids. Beverly and her husband Fix have two daughters, Franny and her older sister Caroline. Once Beverly marries Bert, she takes the girls and moves from California, where Fix is, to Virginia, where Bert grew up. Neither girl wants to move since they both love and side with their dad, but they don’t have a choice. On the other side, Bert’s ex-wife Teresa decides to stay in California with their four children: Cal, Holly, Jeanette, and Albie. Every summer the Cousins kids visit their dad in Virginia and find themselves thoroughly ignored and on their own. When tragedy strikes one summer, secrets are kept and lives are changed. This one event changes everyone for better and worse and each character flounders or flourishes in his or her own way.   



The book is told back and forth in time starting with the meeting of Bert and Beverly then moving to the present with Franny visiting her dad who is dying of cancer. The reader learns about the past from Fix’s stories and flashbacks as well as through the eyes of the now grown children. Most of the story focuses on Franny and how lost she was for many years. Commonwealth becomes a book within the book as Franny tells her life story to an author she admires who then uses it to write a best-selling novel called Commonwealth. 

The novel is about family, both the one you’re born into and the one you make. It’s about connections to people, blood related or not, and how one small thing can change the direction of your life. It’s about how divorce and absentee parents can affect their kids’ lives and how not all kids are the same and thus need different treatment. 

Patchett’s writing is solid but the story meanders in spots. The reader mostly learns about Franny with small sections given to the other kids, but no one is completely fleshed out. The secret of what happened that one summer in Virginia shaped everyone’s life, but it takes a long time for the reader to find out what happened and because of some misdirection, the actuality of it is a bit disappointing. Commonwealth would be a good read for a book group as there’s a lot to discuss and is best suited for readers looking for a book with weight that doesn’t always have a happy ending but does show the ups and downs of a family. 

Read-alikes:
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Three Junes by Julia Glass
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

According to Lionel Shriver, The Mandibles is about the “dystopic economic future” - these three words summarize the novel very well. For most of the book, the Mandible clan is composed of Douglas and his recent wife Luella, his children Carter and Enola, their children Florence, Avery, and Jarred, their children Willing, Savannah, Bing, and Goog, Florence’s partner Esteban, Avery’s husband Lowell, and Carter’s wife Jayne. Important but less active characters include Douglas’ first wife and children’s mother Mimi and Florence’s tenant Kurt. Throughout the novel, these 16 characters adapt to rapidly-changing domestic times in unique, deep, and remarkable ways. Set between 2029 and 2047, the book begins with U.S. president Dante Alvarado’s declaration that the national debt has been renounced and set to 0. Spurned, the rest of the world develops a global currency, the bancor, excluding the U.S. from all outside commerce. The country quickly goes downhill: the price of a cabbage soars to over $100, squatting becomes rife, and all legal, societal, and monetary laws and rules are disregarded. Nonetheless, the book is a hearty family saga, with generational angst, betrayal, love, animosity, and drama abounding.

Although I do not have a background involving finance, I found the plot accessible and engaging. Because much of the dialogue dissolves into terms I had to look up or infer; it detached me from the human, familial struggles presented in the novel. I believe this book will be most enjoyed by an audience with an interest in economics. 

Read-alikes:
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Before This Is Over by Amanda Hickie
When the English Fall by David Williams

Wendy Ambrozewicz, Patchogue-Medford Library



We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

This story chronicles the family saga of Eileen Tumulty, born in 1941 to Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens. Growing up in a house fueled by alcohol, failed ambition, and loss, Eileen dreams of a calmer life. She marries scientist Ed Leary who seems different in every way from all the men she grew up around, however she quickly discovers that her desire to achieve the American dream is not something that Ed necessarily shares. As Eileen continues to prosper in her career, she encourages Ed to want more for himself, more money, a better job, a nicer place to live, a bigger yard, etc. which he does not appear to view as important as she does. This ultimately brings conflict throughout their relationship, especially as it seems part of a deeper psychological issue with Ed. As their son Connell grows up, Eileen strives to give him more than she and Ed ever had, all this while everyone tries to hold onto what they think their ideal life should be like. The story continues to follow their complicated lives through good times and dark times as they deal with financial issues, struggles to find their own identities, and growing up in a changing world. 

While this story mainly focused on Eileen and how she handled life, it did touch a lot on Connell and how he interpreted things growing up in a dysfunctional household. It had great character development as you see how Eileen felt about her parents and their actions and how they shaped her growing up and becoming a wife and mother. The story touched on many issues including the ever-changing culture and ethnicities within New York City, as well as the pressure of fitting in with different socioeconomic groups. This would appeal to readers familiar with growing up after WWII. 

Read-alikes:
Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe
Within Arm's Reach by Ann Napolotano
Golden Age by Jane Smiley

Jessica Brown, Patchogue-Medford Library