Books to Film/TV

 

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

Get ready for another plot-twist book! Perfect and posh Emily and stay-at-home mom blogger Stephanie become best friends after their young sons form a bond at school. They drink wine and share secrets…but not every secret. It’s commonplace for Stephanie to watch Emily’s son at times, so when the phone call asking for a simple favor due to a work emergency comes in, nothing seems out of the ordinary. However, Emily doesn’t show up that evening to get her son, can’t be reached on her phone and no one knows where she is. Days pass and there is still no sign of Emily. Stephanie and Emily’s husband, Sean, begin to fear the worst. But things aren’t always as they seem…
This convoluted story is told from each of the three main characters’ point-of-view and the run-of-the-mill pacing is broken up by the inclusion of Stephanie’s blog posts. This book might appeal to those who enjoy a plot-twist/unreliable narrator story where none of the main characters are likable, like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. 

A film of the same name was released in 2018, starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. In this adaptation, the natural charm and likability of Anna Kendrick does make Stephanie a more appealing character and Blake Lively’s acting prowess definitely aids in Emily being a lot more captivating. This is one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the book!

Trigger Warning: Incest 

Read-alikes:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks

Jessicca Newmark, The Smithtown Library -Smithtown Building




Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Virgin River by Robyn Carr is the first book in a 21-book series with the same name. Melinda (Mel) Monroe is a nurse practitioner and midwife living in Los Angeles. Mel is ready to escape the stress of her job at a dangerous inner-city hospital and more importantly escape the pain of tragically losing her husband almost a year ago. Without so much of a thought, Mel accepts a job offer in Virgin River; population 600, beautiful, remote scenery, and housing included. Upon arriving in Virgin River, Mel realizes she may have jumped too quickly. The free housing is not the beautiful cabin she was promised, but one that is unlivable; and the local doctor does not welcome her help. Realizing this was a bad decision Mel plans to leave, but the pouring rain and muddy backroads keep her for one night. She plans to leave the following morning, but fate has other plans. A baby abandoned on the doorstep of Doc’s office causes Mel to stick around a little longer. The bar owner and former Marine, Jack Sheridan may be the one to make her stay.  

Jack Sheridan came to Virgin River for some good fishing after retiring from the Marines and never left. He opened a bar where his friend Preacher is the cook. That first night Mel walks into the bar, soaking wet from the rain Jack immediately feels drawn to her and wants to do what he can to persuade Mel to stay. Quickly Jack becomes the rock Mel relies on while she struggles with her grief.

Virgin River is located in the middle of nowhere California. The closest hospital is a few hours away. There is a small town feel, but it is not picture perfect. While there are characters that are quirky, they are also flawed. There are groups of illegal pot growers that live in the woods and some people who are up to no good. This made the book feel more realistic. There are other smaller storylines throughout the book including a budding teenage love story between Ricky, the 16-year-old employee Jack has taken under his wing, and Lizzie, the promiscuous 14-year-old sent by her parents to stay with her aunt because she is out of control.  

This is not a fast moving book. You get to know Mel and Jack, as well as a number of other residents of Virgin River. While this is a contemporary romance novel, it borders on a women’s fiction genre. You see the growth in Mel as a character. She finds herself on the other side of her grief, and finds love along the way. As a first book in a series, many characters are introduced and focused on in later books. This book discusses hard topics including death, infertility, and teen pregnancy.

Virgin River became a Netflix Original Series in 2019 and currently has three seasons and has been signed for two more. The Netflix series shows off the scenic area of Virgin River. Season one takes stories from the first two books in the Virgin River series: Virgin River and Shelter Mountain. Several characters take on bigger roles in the show. There is the addition of a character in the show who plays a big role in the show, who is only briefly introduced in book one. The show is very entertaining, but is much more like a soap opera/drama with a bit of romance than the other way around. As a romance novel, each book ends with some form of a happily ever after, whereas the show continues to build and build. Mel’s husband dies differently between the book and TV series. There are also differences between Mel’s personal fertility background and a bigger focus on the illegal pot growers and crime in the show compared to the early books in the series. I personally found this to be a bit too dramatic. Overall, it is a good TV series, but does differ quite a bit from the books. I recommend both the book and the TV series, but be aware that they do differ quite a bit. 

Read-alikes:
The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
Lucky Harbor series by Jill Shalvis
Country by Danielle Steel
 
Nanci Helmle, The Smithtown Library - Commack Building



Gone for Good by Harlan Coben

The story begins with Will Klein going back to his neighborhood in the New Jersey suburbs he grew up in as a boy for his mother’s funeral. It’s not an easy place to be, as eleven years ago Will’s older brother Ken brutally murdered Will’s ex-girlfriend in her basement. Ken disappeared and had been presumed dead, however right before Will’s mom died, she told Will that he was still alive. Not believing her, Will and his girlfriend find a current picture of Ken, meaning that what Will thought for so long was untrue. 

Shortly after the funeral, Will’s girlfriend Sheila Rogers disappears and Will is questioned regarding her connection to deaths in New Mexico. Not knowing what to believe, Will and his best friend Squares try to track her down but soon find out that she has been killed. Devastated and desperately trying to piece everything together, Will must learn the truth about Sheila's hidden past and how she was connected to his missing brother Ken. Just as he thinks he is piecing things together, he gets hit with a series of stunning revelations that continue up until the last pages of the story. Throughout the story, no one is what they seem and the twists and turns continue. 

The setting of the story is mainly set in New York City where Will lives and works. He is a counselor for Covenant House which is a home and outreach for runaways that have become involved in drugs, prostitution and human trafficking. His best friend Squares, so aptly nicknamed for the tattoo on his forehead of 4 squares (which used to be a swastika), is a world famous yogi and runs Covenant House. As they are trying to piece things together, they are involved with a lot of prostitutes and pimps, drug dealers and users, and the seedier parts of the city all which are described in detail. 

The story is told in first person narrative by Will Klein. The pace is fairly quick, similar to a James Patterson novel with twists and turns in almost every chapter. The dialog is what really propels the story so quickly and is often funny and sarcastic, and includes Coben’s social commentary thrown in. There were a ton of people mentioned in the first few pages of the story to describe Will’s return to his hometown, however most were not mentioned later. Still, Coben included a multitude of memorable characters throughout with vivid descriptions. 

Gone for Good would appeal to fans of Coben and James Patterson. The descriptions are real and gritty, including blow by blows in violent encounters and rough language. This would also appeal to fans of Harlan Coben’s group of series on Netflix, where he has written the screenplays for most.

Read-alikes:
Memory Man by David Baldacci
The Late Show by Michael Connelly
One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

Jessica Brown, Patchogue-Medford Library



A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Enter the world of creatures where demons, witches, and vampires exist among regular humans and do their best to go unnoticed. This first book in a trilogy finds the witch Diana Bishop, a scholar visiting Oxford and working on a paper on alchemy, and vampire Matthew Clairmont, a professor at Oxford, who is also studying the genetics of creatures, meeting when Diana unearths a long-missing volume called Ashmole 782 that supposedly contains the origin of all creatures. Diana, after touching the Ashmole manuscript, unlocks latent magical powers she thought she didn't have and becomes the focus of powerful creatures from all three lines who want the manuscript for themselves. 

As Diana and Matthew grow closer, secrets about Diana's past and the governing body of creatures called the Coven draw the pair into a dangerous web where Diana is safe from no one including other witches. Diana's powers grow stronger as does the forbidden love between her and Matthew.

Moving from England to France then to the United States, where Diana's aunts try to help her develop and harness her power, Diana and Matthew find themselves forming their own coven of demons, vampires, and witches who are tired of the old ways and want to work together to discover why their powers are getting weaker instead of falling back on old stereotypes.

Part fantasy, part mystery, A Discovery of Witches draws the reader into the underground world of creatures that the common man doesn't know exists. The story unfolds quickly with glimpses into everyone's lives, focusing on Diana and Matthew and their quest to find Ashmole 782 to help both Diana and creatures of all kinds. The characters from all three groups are given separate characteristics and personalities allowing the readers to understand both their dastardly deeds and their ability to change themselves. This book was very entertaining and not easy to put down and would make a good read for anyone who loves books about witches or books where people with powers, etc. live unknown among humans.

The trilogy has been made into a series on AMC as three seasons. Season 1 followed the book fairly closely, although with a lot less detail, and with some changes to characters to condense the amount of characters since some things were cut out. I actually watched the show first and enjoyed it so much it made me want to read the book. I would recommend both although the book is better.

Read-alikes:
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
The Witching Hour Series by Anne Rice

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Movie: News of the World (2020) - available on DVD and HBOMax

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has fought in three wars, starting with the War of 1812 when he was just barely 16. Now, in 1870, he travels across Texas bringing the inhabitants news of distant places. He reads from newspapers from Philadelphia to India to London, and steers clear of politics as best he can.
 
On a pass through Northern Texas, he is entrusted with a young girl, recently rescued from the Kiowa, after having been abducted four years earlier. Now ten, Johanna has no real memory of her family, doesn't remember how to speak English, and, if asked, would consider herself a member of the Kiowa nation. But nobody asked her. The Kiowa are giving up all of their captives under threat of raids, and Johanna's remaining family has paid handsomely for her to be shepherded back to their home near San Antonio. It's a long journey (handy maps in the endpapers of the book help the reader follow along) and one fraught with dangers. 
 
The real story though, is what happens between Johanna and the Captain as they travel and begin to feel like family. Unfortunately, Jiles's spare writing style doesn't really do justice to the feelings she wants the reader to understand the characters are feeling. 
 
As for the movie, it is similarly spare, giving it the same overall tone as the book. Several major plot points are changed, for what I'm sure were valid cinematographic reasons, but the overall story arc is the same, and being able to see the expressions on the characters' faces certainly helps in understanding the feelings that Jiles writes into her story.
 
Read-alikes:
Far as the Eye Can See by Robert Bausch
The Son by Philipp Meyer
Bohemian Girl by Terese Svoboda
 
Mara Zonderman, Westhapmton Free Library



You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

It’s difficult to summarize You Should Have Known by Jean Korelitz without spoiling the suspense that it achieves. You may have seen the HBO series The Undoing which is based on the book. And while the book and the series have much in common, there are also significant differences in how the plot progresses and, of course, there’s the difference between reading a book and viewing the dramatization of an author’s work.

The main character in the book is Grace Sachs, a marriage counselor with a successful practice in Manhattan. She’s married to a pediatric oncologist and has a 12-year-old son that attends a prestigious private school in the city. Her life smacks of social privilege and prestige. The story begins with Grace granting interviews about a book she has written, You Should Have Known, a self-help treatise aimed at women who tend to make all kinds of excuses for the flawed men that they are attracted to. The title of the book captures the essence of Grace’s philosophy which proposes that a person should never be surprised by what appears to be a drastic change in their spouse’s behavior. She puts forth the idea that there are indications of a partner’s true character right from the start. A person either chooses to ignore those initial signs, or will spend a great deal of energy later on convincing themselves that they had no idea of what they were getting into. The irony of Grace’s theory and book becomes quite evident as the story unfolds.

When a mother of one her husband’s patients—a woman of modest means and whose son also attends the private school—is found murdered, Grace is unnerved. Not only by the crime, but also by the fact that she cannot reach, nor account for her husband’s whereabouts. He’s supposed to be at a medical conference in Cleveland. At least that’s what he told her. But why doesn’t he return her calls? Because he left his phone home, as Grace eventually discovers.

You Should Have Known is not a murder mystery (like the HBO series), but it does provide for a suspenseful read. It’s the psychological dissection of a woman who is slowly coming to realize that her life is not as exemplary as she thought it to be. Korelitz’s book will immediately grip the reader and will be hard to put down. The narrative is told through Grace’s eyes, and while her situation may be obvious to the reader, it takes a myriad of discoveries—about her family, her husband’s family, her friends—before Grace can navigate through the fragments of what had appeared to be an idyllic life. Personal revelations, old and new friends, and taking refuge in a family retreat in Connecticut make it seem that Grace may be able to recover from her ordeal and begin to live a more honest life. Though the book’s ending may be considered a little too tidy for some, it still makes for an engrossing reading experience.   
The book takes place in Manhattan and Connecticut while the series takes place in Manhattan and Long Island. The book is more psychological while the series is a murder mystery. In the book, Grace's book plays a prominent role while in the series it is barely mentioned. In the book, there is no question who the murderer is while the series keeps you guessing. Characters such as Alves and Jonathan are changed from book to series. The book ends with a letter and the possibility of a new life and closure while the series ends with a thrilling chase scene and keeps things open.

Read-alikes:
Watching You by Lisa Jewell
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Fiona is a workaholic high court Family judge in London and has been married to Jack for almost 30 years. According to Jack, their relationship closely resembles a brother and sister bond, rather than husband and wife, and he would like to change that. He wants to have an affair. No secrets, no lies. Stay married but have sex with his 28-year-old protégé.

Fi refuses the suggestion and Jack leaves. She is too focused on (and always has been) her career to worry about Jack’s midlife crisis. Plus, she just made a judgement to separate conjoined twins, meaning one will die, leaving her feeling unsettled. And now she has to determine whether a 17-year-old boy can decide whether or not to have a blood transfusion (leukemia). He’s not an adult, but he doesn’t want the transfusion because he’s a Jehovah’s Witness.

Fi allows the transfusion and Adam (the boy) gets better. Then he calls Fiona, sends letters and poems, and ends up following her to another town. She does the right thing by sending him away but doesn’t see how confused and alone he feels.

During this time, she and Jack continue in a stalemate.

Months later Adam dies and Fi can finally cry about him, about the twins, and about her childlessness (mostly due to her career). She falls into bed crying. When she wakes up, Jack is lying beside her. They lay face-to-face and she tells him everything, leaving us to believe that the marriage will survive.

The book is just over 200 pages, and the movie follows it closely, being both character-driven and reflective.

Read-alikes:
The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Quarry by Celia Houdart
George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell

Rose Nemser is 19, newly married, and pregnant when she and her husband, Fred, move in with Shirley Jackson and her husband, Stanley. The reclusive Jackson is the well-known author of titles such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Fred is a graduate student who will be working with Stanley, a professor at Bennington College in Vermont. Rose and Fred will live in Shirley and Stanley’s spare bedroom instead of renting a place of their own, and Rose is happy to help out around the house both to make it easier for Shirley to write, and to feel needed. Over the course of the fall of ’64 and the winter of ’65, Rose has her baby, watches her husband fall under the spell of Stanley, a pompous serial adulterer, and develops an intense and turbulent relationship with Shirley.

Rose’s background is one of poverty and abandonment. She is painfully insecure and teeters on the verge of being an unreliable narrator, keeping secrets from both the other characters and the reader. She hears rumors that Shirley is a witch, grows interested in witchcraft, and thinks that she herself might have special powers. Rose also becomes obsessed with the mysterious 1946 disappearance of Bennington student Paula Welden, and believes that she was one the students who had an affair with Stanley, leading Shirley to kill Paula. Both Stanley and Shirley (who wrote a novel, Hangsaman, once thought to be loosely based on the disappearance) insist they did not know the young woman.

The plot moves slowly and would interest readers who enjoy atmospheric literary mysteries and psychological suspense with a menacing tone. Though Fred and Rose are fictional, many characters in the novel are not, and some of the plot (including the disappearance of Paula Welden) is inspired by real events. This title might interest those familiar with Shirley Jackson’s work, but it is not necessary to have read her books.

A film adaptation of this novel, also called Shirley, was released in 2020 (available on Hulu and Kanopy). The film is set about 15 years earlier than the novel. Shirley and her husband are much more unlikeable in the movie, and no longer parents, with their four children written out completely. Many events in the film deviate from the novel.

Read-alikes:
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
If She Were Dead by J.P. Smith

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



Normal People by Sally Rooney

Set in Carricklea, a small fictional town in the west of Ireland, Normal People is the love story of high school students Connell Waldron, a popular sports star and quiet, nondescript Marianne Sheridan. She is a loner from a wealthy family, who lives in the mansion that Connell’s mother cleans, and this difference in their social stations creates tension in their friendship. They’re both bookish -- they discuss The Communist Manifesto and The Golden Notebook. They are curious about the wider world, and intensely private; however, their relationship is undermined by an inability to communicate at critical moments, leading to heartbreaking misunderstandings.

At school, Connell won’t acknowledge Marianne, though they are sleeping together nearly every night, for fear of losing his friends. He’s sick with guilt over the situation. Marianne seems to understand but when Connell asks someone else to the school dance, she is crushed. She withdraws from school and only returns for final exams.

When they move to Dublin to attend Trinity College, it is Marianne who is suddenly popular and Connell who finds himself lonely. From being the small-town hero to just another guy in a somewhat sophisticated setting…so different from his home. They are drawn together again by the electrifying chemistry of first-love. “It’s not like this with other people,” Marianne says.

The pacing is slow. Befitting the characters taciturn nature, the dialog is spare. At home, Marianne doesn’t speak to her family. She eats dinner in silence and returns to her room. Connell doesn’t waste words with his mother. He is afraid she will interfere in his life.

A thoughtful, soulful read recommended for teens and adults. This is a simple story well-told.

Read-alikes:
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Friends Like Us by Sian O'Gorman
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Grace O'Connor, Retired

Hispanic Heritage Month

Book cover of In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende with a sepia-toned city block background and a cherry blossom tree branch in the foreground
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Three lives intersect and are forever changed in this novel by award-winning author Isabel Allende. There’s Richard Bowmaster, a lonely 60-something university professor; Lucia Maraz, a visiting Chilean professor that rents a basement apartment from Richard; and Evelyn Ortega, an undocumented housekeeper who works for a wealthy family. Though there’s a raging blizzard outside, Richard needs to get his cat to a vet. He thinks his pet may have been poisoned and needs immediate medical attention. Then, a fateful incident/accident occurs when Richard collides into the back of another car, damaging the trunk. As Richard tries to exchange information with the other driver, she hastily drives away. But a few hours later, the young woman shows up at Richard’s door seeking help. Unable to effectively communicate with the girl, Richard invites Lucia to join them—perhaps if she spoke to her in Spanish. Then, with the help of a shared pot-laced brownie, the three begin to divulge their life stories. The story begins to unfold. We learn that Evelyn leaves the accident scene because she took her employer’s car without permission--but there is also a dead body in the trunk! She is deathly afraid that her employer may be involved in a homicide and that her knowledge of the crime may endanger her life, or have her sent back to Guatemala.

In alternating narratives and time lines, Allende reveals the background of each character—where they’re from; their fears; their desires—what has shaped them as a person. And they all have experienced extreme loss in their lives. An unprecedented blizzard brings them together and changes their lives forever.

The living conditions in Central and South America are described in great detail, and Allende’s descriptions give credence to the multitude of reasons as to why people leave their home country and immigrate to America. The perils that they are fleeing—the gangs, the human trafficking, the poverty, the political unrest—cannot help but conjure up a feeling of empathy and compassion in the reader. Insight into the very difficult decisions that must be made to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones—decisions that oftentimes tear a family apart—are presented.

If you’re a reader that enjoys being immersed in the background of a novel’s characters; or one that likes a story containing intrigue delivered in a backdrop of pertinent history and circumstance; or a reader who subscribes to the belief that love ultimately prevails, you’ll enjoy In the Midst of Winter.

Read-alikes:
It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sanz Borgo
Where We Come From by Oscar Casares
The Affairs of the Falcons by Melissa Rivero

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Book cover of Afterlife by Julia Alvarez with a yellow background with a painted tree of green leaves sparsely distributed on the branches
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Antonia Vega is a recently retired college professor who is grieving her late husband, Sam, who died nearly a year ago. Antonia and her three sisters emigrated from the Dominican Republic as children and, though they are in their 60s and live in different states, they remain enmeshed in each other’s lives. A crisis occurs when Antonia’s oldest sister, Izzy, goes missing during a manic episode. At the same time, Antonia has found an undocumented, pregnant Mexican teen, Estela, hiding in her garage. 

Antonia is viewed by her sisters as the selfish one, because she values self-preservation and sometimes pulls away from the others. She believes that the best thing you can do for loved ones is to take care of yourself so as not to be a burden, and she struggles with her solitary grief, self-doubt, and the decision of who to put first in her life. She often reflects on what Sam, who was a decisive and empathetic local doctor, would have done. In their life together, people often assumed she was the activist because of her ethnicity, when it was the other way around. Antonia wants to embody the things she loved best about her lost loved ones while still being who she is.

The story is filtered through Antonia’s inner voice, filled with the remembered words of writers who have inspired and sustained her. Afterlife is domestic fiction that includes the themes of the immigrant experience, class and race, relationships, and grief. It’s a hopeful novel about living a life of purpose and meaning that would be a good choice for book discussion groups.

Read-alikes:
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
L.A. Weather by Maria Amparo Escandon
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



Book cover of Where We Come From by Oscar Casares with a clear, blue sky with one small cloud and the corner of a pink house on the bottom right corner
Where We Come From by Oscar Casares
 
Twelve-year-old Orly is staying with his aunt in Brownsville, TX for a few weeks in the summer.  He’s sure he’s going to be bored, but his aunt has some big secrets.  At night, out back by the vacant pink guest house, people are coming and going.  Turns out Nina is harboring illegal immigrants until their rides come to take them to their end destination.  
 
The book is written in four parts: the Favor, de camino (on the way), la madrina (godmother), and chivito (goat.)  The favor is Nina hiding her cleaning lady’s daughter and grand daughter for a couple of days so they can cross the border, which starts the story rolling.  Each part has one or two vignettes giving a closer view and understanding of particular minor characters, some of which you only meet once (El Kobe, who runs the illegals only has two more jobs before he can become a real estate agent.)  In de camino, a man pays to bring his son over, but the son ends up going back to Honduras as he suffers severe brain damage from a lack of oxygen in the overcrowded truck that the refugees travel in. And an older woman, Odilia dies trying to walk across the border, never seeing her daughter and grandson in Missouri.
 
In La Madrina, Orly’s teacher Mr. Dominguez is deported during the summer for having an expired work visa.  And in Chivito, we learn of Daniel’s experiences (15-year-old hiding by himself in the pink house) trying to get to his father in Houston.
 
A story of life on the border between Mexico and Texas, seen from Nina and Orly’s eyes, but seen deeper through the vignettes. The writing is literary, and the story is thoughtful, and suspenseful.  I would recommend this title to older teens as well as adults.
 
Read-alikes:
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad
American Dirt by Jeanne Cummins
Life of Pi by Yan Martel
The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward
 
Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



Book cover of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton with a woman sitting on a sofa in a 50s style orange dress and a picture of the  Malecon in Havana at the bottom.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

After her beloved grandmother, Elisa, dies, Marisol decides to fulfill her grandmother's wish to have her ashes spread in her native Cuba. What proceeds is a dual story of her grandmother's childhood in Cuba before she and her family had to flee and Marisol's story of discovering who her grandmother really was, what her roots are, and falling in love with a man she meets while there all while still needing to stay under the radar of the Cuban government.

Next Year in Havana is set both in the past during 1958 when Batista was trying to stay in power and Castro was trying to take over and 60 years later in the present when Cuba is open to tourists and is supposed to be a better place. Staying with her grandmother's childhood best friend allows Marisol to experience Cuba from a native point of view and as her stay there begins to mirror her grandmother's, each falls in love with a revolutionary, Marisol uncovers secrets about her family have been long buried.

This book would appeal to both readers of light historical fiction and romance with its descriptions of 1958 Cuba making you feel like you are living through the revolution as well as the love stories of both Elisa & Pablo in the past and Marisol & Luis in the present. Cuba is depicted both beautifully in vibrant color and music, but it's also shown as the dangerous and poverty stricken country it was and still is for those who want a better life and are trying to survive. And with its political intrigue, family secrets, and danger in both the past and present, it will hold the reader's interest.

Read-alikes:
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library
 


Book cover of Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras with a dark blue background and one orange, bell-like flower facing down.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Chula Santiago lives in Bogotá with her older sister Cassandra and their mother.  Her father works for an American oil company and isn’t home often.  Chula’s 7-year-old world is fairly narrowly-defined, largely consisting of her gated neighborhood, and her school, until her mother hires Petrona Sánchez to be the next in a long line of maids.  The story is largely told from her perspective.

Petrona is a just a teenager herself, but is the main support of her family since the paramilitary burns her family’s farm and kills her father and two of her brothers.  What remains of her family lives in one of the slums on the outskirts of the city, a place fraught with danger.  Her voice alternates with Chula’s to fill in some of the gaps in the story of what happens when Chula’s world and Petrona’s collide.

The bulk of this story is autobiographical, as we learn in an author’s note.  Knowing that much of what Chula experiences in the book was experienced by the author herself during her childhood in the era of Pablo Escobar brings an added sense of horror to scenes of assassination, car bombings, and kidnappings.

Read-alikes:
The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico
The Color of our Sky by Amita Trast
Songs for the Flames: Stories by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



Book cover of Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia with ocean water at the bottom half and a solid peach color at the top with one pink flower.
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

This character driven novel follows the lives of generations of Hispanic women from nineteenth century Cuba to the present-day United States as they struggle to survive in a hostile world. It would appeal to liberal minded American readers who sympathize with women who do not enjoy our freedoms. 

Read-alikes:
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade

Jackie Malone, Retired



Book cover of Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia depicting a drawn temple on blues, greens, and yellows with the profile of a woman's face at the top.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This is a coming of age story of Casiopea, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood whose existence consists of daily toil and drudgery. Treated as a second class citizen by her rich and powerful grandfather and Cousin Martine, she dreams of leaving their small village and exploring the world. One day she if left alone in the house while everyone is away and stumbles upon a small black box in her grandfather’s room. Hoping that the box contains gold she opens it and to her astonishment she has unleashed the Mayan God of Death Hun-Kamé, who must gain back his throne from his evil twin brother Vucub-Kamé. So begins a fantastic journey as the two strike out on a harrowing tour of Mexico and the underworld to reclaim his kingdom. At first Casiopea is an unwilling partner, but she soon becomes an energetic participant as she realizes that this is her chance at freedom and possibly love. 

Taking place in Mexico during the 1920s Jazz age, the characters are rich and complex. Instances of magic, demons and sorcery are easily woven throughout the storyline engaging readers as extraordinary events unfold. The story concludes when the main characters Casiopea and Martine are transported to the underworld to compete in a harrowing race on the Black road through Xibalba where the future of mankind will be decided once and for all. 

This was a fantastic book. I would highly recommend this book to patrons who enjoy historical fantasy. Silvia Moren-Garcia is a gifted storyteller and takes the reader on a thrilling journey using Mayan mythology and folktale.  

Read-alikes:
The Bear and the Nightingale by Kathrine Arden
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Circe by Madeleine Miller

Karen McHugh, Harborfields Public Library



Book cover of The Affairs of the Falcons by Melissa Rivero with a white background and the words written in multi-colors.
The Affairs of the Falcons by Melissa Rivero

Ana Falcón, her husband Lucho, and their two young children fled the financial and political conflict of Peru for a chance at life in New York City in the early 1990s. Being undocumented severly limits the opportunities for Ana and Lucho to find work and a place to stay. Ana is in debt to a loan shark called Mama, and is stretched thin by her long hours working at the factory. This is added to the stress of living with Lucho’s cousin, who constantly judges and makes it clear that Ana and her family are not welcome to stay in her spare bedroom much longer, and the unwanted advances made by Mama’s slimy husband. While Lucho dreams of returning to Peru, Ana is determined to survive and thrive for the American Dream. 

The Affairs of the Falcóns is an upsetting story that needs to be told. With undocumented immigrants being in the news often, reading this novel gives a voice to the ones who are overlooked. Ana is forced to sacrifice so much that the reader cannot help feeling for her. With Ana and her family being undocumented, the constant impending doom of whether immigration will be called is prevalent throughout the novel. Readers will learn about the classism and racism in Peru. Ana is dark-skinned from a rural area of Peru. Her husband Lucho is light-skinned, middle class Peruvian. Lucho’s family thinks less of Ana based on her skin and upbringing. Ana and her family do not speak English, so throughout the novel while she is conversing many lines are in Spanish. This heartbreaking novel will stay with the reader even after they are finished reading.

This novel won the 2019 New American Voices Award and the 2020 International Latino Book Award. Author Melissa Rivero was an undocumented Peruvian child who came to New York City. This novel was not set out to be autobiographical, but as the writing progressed, Rivero did begin telling some of the stories her mother had told her. I recommend this novel to adults looking to read about undocumented immigrants from their perspective and a slow burning novel. 

Trigger Warning/Possible Spoiler: There is a storyline that focuses on adultery, and another about abortions, so readers should be prepared.  

Read-alikes:
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Nanci Helmle, The Smithtown Library - Commack Building  

Oldies You May Have Missed (2000-2010)


A blurry picture of a backyard with green grass in the background with a clothesline and clothespins in the foreground.
The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri

This is a heartwarming tale about Kate, a young fashion designer, who after suffering loss and heartache decides to leave Seattle and embark on a journey to her ancestral homeland of Ireland. A trip encouraged by her late mother. After a few weeks of drifting around Ireland she lands in a small sleepy village called Glenmara. There she meets a group of women and quickly bonds with them while listening to their heartfelt stories and learning to make the lace items that the town is known for.  Instead of leaving, Kate decides to stick around and help the women turn their lace into beautifully designed lingerie which some town’s people frown upon including the village priest. Kate also begins a romantic relationship with Sullivan, the town’s most eligible bachelor much to the annoyance of the other single ladies. The women soon begin wearing the lacy items they make and are transformed. They are happier and more affectionate and their husbands return the sentiment in kind. However, the village priest is on a crusade to rid the village of Kate and the beautiful undergarments she helps create.

I enjoyed reading this sweet and romantic book very much. I especially liked learning about the lace making process and the description of the picturesque village. Having traveled to my husband’s ancestral home of Ireland several summers ago, I can appreciate the warmth and generosity of the Irish people. The assortment of quirky characters are fun and interesting and I was thrilled when Kate and Sullivan begin a courtship. All in all, this a lovely book that everyone can enjoy. 

Read-alikes:
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
The It Girls by Karen Harper
The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

Karen McHugh, Harborfields Public Library



The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook
Noreen “Nora” is an executive at a shoe corporation; her department specializes in branding and marketing. When the corporation is bought out by another, the incoming team vies with current employees for the positions available. Nora’s sleazy coworker boyfriend really wants her position and convinces her to take a buyout.

Nora suddenly has 18 months of pay with no job prospects, no boyfriend, and a ton of time on her hands. So she puts on a pair of new sneakers that she tirelessly promoted and the pedometer the company gifted her and begins walking. Quickly she is joined by two neighbors, Tess, who is struggling with a rebellious teenage daughter, and Rosie, who took over her parents’ lavender fields after her mom died. The three women meet each morning to walk. They spend their mornings talking and trying to solve each other's problems. Along with walking, Noreen attends small-group career coaching sessions (a perk from the buyout)  where she discovers that she is more than just what she can rattle off her resume. 

Overall, this book was subpar. The overall theme of walking and friendship had potential. I found the characters to be unlikeable and underdeveloped and the story felt rushed. There were too many weak storylines instead of developing a few. The novel takes place over just a couple weeks, so I feel that the way things play out is a bit unrealistic as well. For a big portion of the novel the women don’t seem like they want to be friends, but they decide to take a trip to Washington State to attend a Lavender festival together. On this trip is the first time I felt that there was any form of connection between the characters. If you are looking for a quick, mindless read that relates to walking, especially during tough times I would recommend this book. If you’re looking for character depth, this is not the book for you. 

Read-alikes:
Suprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Starting Now by Debbie Macomber
The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddon
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Nanci Helmle, The Smithtown Library - Commack Building



The bottom half of a woman's face with hair in her mouth and food on a table in front of her.
White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby

This book is a fictionalized biography of Georges Auguste Escoffier, a French chef, restauranteur, and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking. 
Escoffier began his career by organizing the kitchens of his captors during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871) and went on to cook for the rich and famous of his day. His wife Delphine, a poet whom he won in a poker game, refused to accompany him on his travels, but he returned home to care for her when she was became deathly ill.

Good for readers of biographical fiction, foodies, and lovers of historical fiction.

Read-alikes:
The First Actress: A Novel of Sarah Bernhardt by C.W. Gortner
Delicious by Ruth Reichl
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

Jackie Malone, Retired



A sepia looking cover with a large house shadowed in the background
Small Island by Andrea Levy

Although Andrea Levy’s fourth novel was originally published in 2004, and the bulk of the story takes place in 1948, Small Island has an uncanny relevancy in the year 2021. Winning both the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Orange Prize, this novel broaches the subjects of immigration, race, and prejudice in post-World War II England. The main characters in the story are two married couples—one Jamaican and one British—and the story is told in their individual voices.

Hortense and Gilbert live on the “small island” of Jamaica. But each dreams of a more meaningful existence beyond their native land. They feel that the way to accomplish their goals would be to emigrate to England, the Mother Country—the “big island.” Shortly after they meet, they realize that they both have the same vision and each can use the other to reach their goal, so they marry. Once they got to England, the plan was that Gilbert would attend law school and Hortense would teach. What the couple did not anticipate was the level of discrimination and hostility that they would face when they arrived, simply because of their race.

The story opens with Hortense arriving at the English residence that Gilbert secured for the couple after his tour of duty in the RAF. The grand house is owned by Queenie, one of many Britons awaiting the return of a spouse from the war. When her husband Bernard fails to return, Queenie is forced to take in lodgers—Gilbert being one of them. When Bernard finally does return, he is outraged that Queenie would let rooms to colored people. The disharmony that ensues reaches almost catastrophic proportions.

Filled with intriguing characters, the novel unfolds as seen through the eyes of each of the characters.
Written in a non-linear chronology, the novel portends the diverse culture that exists today. Small Island is written in a literary style that may not appeal to some readers. But if you are looking for a saga—a story that you can really immerse yourself in; an epic tale that leaves you thirsting for the next plot development; a narrative that you almost wish would never end, then this book is for you. It unfolds like a Netflix limited series—it’s that captivating. Levy masterfully fleshes out the characters with a contagious compassion, successfully captures the flavor of the Jamaican dialect, and effectively exposes the nature of social inequality. And, oh yes, she throws in a surprise ending in the very last pages of the book!

Read-alikes
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Affairs of the Falcons by Melissa Rivero

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



A snowy scene with a woman in a red coat walking away from the viewer
Sister by Rosamund Lupton

When Beatrice gets a phone call telling her that her sister Tess is missing, she immediately hops a flight to England. 
A few days later, Tess’s body is found. The police and coroner pronounce the death a suicide, but Bea knows her sister would never do such a thing. This literary thriller follows Bea’s attempts to find her sister’s murderer.

The structure jumps from Bea telling (dead) Tess what she’s doing, to telling the police what she’s done, then going over it again in her head. A lot of back and forth and repetition. We read what she tells her sister, then read it again when she tells the police.

There are a lot of characters but unfortunately, they are all one dimensional. I did feel Bea’s grief over losing her sister, but otherwise, no character or sentiment was very strong.

It is a page-turner inasmuch as you do want to know what happened to Tess, but the ending is convoluted and disappointing as we find that the narrator is a bit unreliable.


Read-alikes:
The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornice
Friends We Keep by Jane Green
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



Red background with black line drawings of a group of people hiding behind a large unfolded newspaper with their eyes peeking through
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Private investigation is the Spellman family business and they are very good at what they do. Unfortunately, their professional skills tend to spill over into their personal lives and are even used against each other. Invading each other’s privacy is a normal occurrence. Our narrator, Izzy, is the eldest daughter and resident misfit. Her 13-year-old sister is on the way to becoming Izzy 2.0 and her brother is irritatingly perfect. Her parents have the most P.I. experience, which is abundantly clear with each interaction/interrogation they have with their children.

Izzy spends her time working cases, avoiding her parents, looking for her next ex-boyfriend, trying to keep her little sister from acting out on her new favorite pastime of “recreational surveillance” on random people, and tracking down her uncle who tends to go on benders the family refers to as “Lost Weekends”. This fast-paced novel successfully deals with real life issues in a truly offbeat way. 
Author Lisa Lutz started out writing Hollywood screenplays and one of the rejected scripts became the premise for her first book, The Spellman Files, which then became a series. If you liked the Veronica Mars television show/movies or like a bit of humor with your mystery, this might be the book for you!

Read-alikes:
Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
The Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovich
Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Jessicca Newmark, The Smithtown Library - Smithtown Building



A red British-looking post box with the book title on the front
The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson

Two brothers, both lawyers. Reggie is the responsible one, well respected in the field. Nigel is the screw up, working for his brother, hoping to stay out of jail and not lose his license. Reggie has his brother answering mail, hoping to keep him out of trouble, but it turns out trouble finds him anyway when Nigel finds an old letter from a little girl whose father is missing. She wrote to their firm, not because of the brothers, but because the firm's address is none other than the address for the famous Sherlock Holmes and she needs his help. It turns out the office receives a lot of letters for the famous detective and part leasing the offices means dealing with Mr. Holmes' mail.
Nigel tries to tell Reggie what's going on, but Reggie doesn't want to hear his tales. This leads Nigel to take matters into his own hands, fly to California, and try to find the girl, now woman, from the decades old letter in order to help. Upon discovering Nigel's latest escapade, Reggie also finds a dead body in Nigel's office and isn't sure what's going on. To keep his brother out of jail and protect his own reputation, Reggie follows Nigel to L.A. hoping to bring his brother home, but instead finds himself embroiled in a decades-old cover up as well as another murder. Will Reggie be able to clear Nigel's name while protecting his own reputation and maybe even solve the old and current murders or will he lose everything including his brother?

Although a good read overall, it was slow is parts and could be repetitive with Nigel's antics and Reggie always coming to his rescue. Plus there was a side story about Reggie's girlfriend that became a bit tedious. The mystery kept the reader guessing and the historical details about L.A. as well as the law firm's connection to Sherlock Holmes made for interesting backstory. Book one in a series of six, The Baker Street Letters is one of those books that you'll love if you're a cozy mystery fan but would otherwise put on your to-read list and maybe get to sometime in the future.

Read-alikes:
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
Still Life by Louise Penny
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



A large English mansion in the background with a hedge maze in the foreground and people in Victorian dress throughout
The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart

The story begins on March 22, 1897 with the sudden death of H. H. the Maharaja of Prindur. Following the funeral which included an elephant-drawn hearse and the discovery of numerous debts left unpaid, H.H. Princess Alexandrina, nicknamed Mink, and her faithful servant Pookie, find themselves forced to move to a “grace-and-favour” home in Hampton Court Palace. Mink, Pookie, and all their eccentric neighbors attend a picnic at the palace’s Pond Gardens during which Major-General Bagshot falls ill and dies after eating a pigeon pie which Pookie baked. Was it arsenic poison or was it murder? Mink decides do her own investigating in order to clear Pookie before she is arrested and hung for murder.

This is a wonderful cozy mystery filled with quirky characters and just enough detail to keep the reader engaged. If you like Victorian historical mysteries, you’ll enjoy this one. The book includes a detailed map of Hampton Court Palace which will come in handy for those readers who want to follow along as Mink and Pookie move about the palace grounds. (Grace-and-favour residential homes owned by the Crown do still exist, though they have been discontinued at Hampton Court.) 


Read-alikes:
Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen
A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman
The Secret of Wishtide by Kate Saunders

Sue Ketcham, LIU Post




Mermaid tale, parrots, and a small island with palm tress with a blue water-like background
Mermaids on the Moon by Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Grendy is a mermaid. Not for real, she just plays one in an underwater show in a has-seen-better-days Florida theme park. She started being a mermaid many years ago, but then left the biz to marry a preacher and start a family in Indiana.

Thirty-something years later, Grendy and her husband have returned to Florida, so that she can participate in reunion shows with her old mermaid pals. Until one day, she disappears, leaving a note, and her six-year-old grandson Theo behind. France, her daughter and Theo’s aunt, rushes to Florida to try to find her, and to care for Theo. While there she allows herself to be sucked into the mermaid lore, even agreeing to take her mom’s place in the upcoming Labor Day show, Mermaids on the Moon. She’s convinced her mother’s mer-pals know where she is, but they’re not telling. In the meantime, she has her life back in Indiana to worry about.

I think this story was supposed to be a whimsical tale that ends with a satisfying mother-and-daughter-come-together-understanding-each-other-better sort of thing, but it just didn’t work for me. The dialogue was stilted, allegedly because several characters were keeping secrets from each other, but I had to be told, rather than shown, that. The characters were flat, with several having the same interactions, but expecting different outcomes, several times.

I doubt that anyone would want a read-alike based on this book, but if they did want one, perhaps for a more satisfying, mother-daughter story, here are my suggestions:

Read-alikes:
If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
A Week at the Shore by Barbara Delinsky
The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library

Gentle Reads

Poisoned Pages by Lorna Barrett

A fun and light mystery set in the cozy New Hampshire Village of Stoneham. The story centers on a pair of sisters, Tricia and Angelica Miles. The sisters run several of the village’s most successful businesses. Tricia owns the vintage mystery bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, and is known as the town jinx after being cursed by a murderer who Tricia helped send to jail. The latest victim is a dinner guest who is fatally poisoned after eating a stuffed mushroom appetizer prepared by Tricia at her housewarming party. Angelica also has problems of her own; she is being blackmailed by someone who knows about her past and her biggest secret. Together the sisters try to figure out who is behind all this while a streak of disruptive vandalism in town erupts. In the midst of this calamity, Tricia campaigns to become the new Chamber of Commerce President while being wooed by an unusual gentleman caller.

I enjoyed reading this book and will probably read a few of the others titles in the Booktown Mystery series. What fun reading about the varying themed bookstores like By Hook or By Book Crafting Bookstore or the Have a Heart Romance Bookstore. The cast of characters were colorful and pleasant, especially Pixie who proved to be a lifesaver for the Miles sisters. Tagging along with Tricia and her sister while they sip cocktails and try to figure out who the culprit is was interesting enough to take my mind off of all things Covid 19. I would definitely recommend this lighthearted cozy mystery.

Read-alikes:
The Plot is Murder by V.M. Burns
Elementary, She Read: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by Vicki Delaney
The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton

Karen McHugh, Harborfields Public Library


The Bookshop on The Shore by Jenny Colgan

When single mother Zoe find herself about to loose her affordable housing due to a rent increase, she doesn't know what she and her four-year-old son Hari are going to do. Hari's dad is no help and is barely around and there's no way she can afford the expensive London rents. Luckily, Hari's aunt finds her not one but two jobs in a small village in the Scottish Highlands - one is assisting Nina (from The Bookshop on the Shore), who's on maternity leave and needs someone to take care of her bookmobile and the other is becoming an au pair for a dad whose three kids are out of control to say the least. As Zoe and Hari navigate their way through this new life, friends are made, bonds are formed, and there may even be a little romance in the future.

This novel is a companion to The Bookshop on the Corner and can be read as a stand-alone; however, characters from the first book make appearances so beginning with the first book might be helpful for context. This is a sweet story, and while a bit predictable, will make you laugh and possibly cry, and even though there is a happy ending, not everything is wrapped up completely. The setting is beautiful, the characters are likeable, and those who love small-town stories will love both and want to book a trip as soon as possible to visit.

Read-alikes:
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy 
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller 

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library


The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop by Fannie Flagg

If you're like me, you've been waiting a long time to find out what happened to your favorite characters from Whistle Stop, Alabama, not to mention Evelyn Couch. Where did they go? Did they all lose touch? I can tell you without spoiling anything that the answer to the latter is no, they didn't. Dot Weems first sends Christmas cards and then discovers email to keep everyone in the loop. But what about the town itself?

Well, it's probably better not to ask what Whistle Stop looks like these days. But when Bud Threadgoode's granddaughter Ruthie meets up with Evelyn Couch they are unfazed by what 50+ years of neglect can do to a small town.

It may have taken a while, but Fannie Flagg does not disappoint with this sequel. In her typical chatty style, we learn about what happened to the town and its inhabitants when the trains started just passing through without stopping. And then we zoom into the future to see how Whistle Stop lives on in spirit, and maybe even in reality.

Read-alikes:
The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green by Erica Boyce
The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues by Edward Kelsey Moore
The Little Teashop on Main by Jodi Thomas

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

In Ruth Hogan’s third stand alone novel, we are introduced to a main character who’s prominent attributes consist of seeing and interacting with ghosts while living with OCD. You will never forget these two details as they are seemingly the only actions our protagonist partakes in. Chapters are told from her point of view as an adult (Tilda) returning home after her mother has passed away and as a child (Tilly).

The pacing is exceedingly slow. There are several instances where one paragraph can go on for a page and a half. We are not introduced to Queenie Malone and her Paradise Hotel until more than halfway through the book. Once we get there, it is quickly realized that the time at the Hotel is fleeting and the venue is not some symbolic secondary character. I would suggest reading one of the read-alikes instead.

Read-alikes:
The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristin Higgins
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Jessicca Newmark, The Smithtown Library - Smithtown Building




Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce

It is 1950 and socially-awkward Margery Benson is trying to get through life in post-war London surviving on scraps and rationing. Miss Benson, a teacher of domestic science, is plagued by her mischievous students who make taunting her their daily mission.

One day, she reaches her breaking point, gathers her belongings and walks determinedly out of the classroom and through the front door. The next day, she advertises for an assistant to accompany her to the South Seas to search for an insect that may or may not exist--the Golden Beetle of New Caledonia. 

When her newly-hired assistant changes her mind at the last minute, Margery is forced to take Enid Pretty. Raucous, vivacious Enid in her tight-fitting pink suit and pom-pom sandals is not suited for the position or compatible with Margery. So, why would she want to go on a 10,000-mile trip on what could be a wild-goose-chase?

A beautifully written story in which two, ordinary, overlooked women embark on an expedition to the South Seas in search of a mythical beetle and though they are as different as possible, will forge an improbable friendship with a life-changing aftermath! A good choice for women and YA girls.

Read-alikes:
The Trans-Atlantic Book Club by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Grace O'Connor, Retired Librarian


The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons

Eudora Honeysett is 85 years old and lives in the London house she has lived in all of her life. She tries to get out every day, but her increasing age and the effects of a bad fall are making everything more difficult. She has no family or friends left and wants to choose the circumstances of her death. She contacts an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland and waits to hear whether her application will be approved.

The clinic encourages her to live while she waits to die, and the opportunity to do so presents itself in the form of her new neighbor, 10-year-old Rose, and her old neighbor, the recently widowed Stanley. Cheerful, inquisitive Rose leads her new friends on small adventures, and Eudora is drawn into the lives of Rose, Stanley, and their families.

The novel contains frequent flashbacks to Eudora’s youth. Eudora was 7 years old when her father left to fight in WWII. She promises her father that she will look after her pregnant mother and her new little sibling, but doesn’t realize that he will never be back to help her, and devoting herself to her family will steal her happiness and take up most of her life. Her little sister Stella is a willful little girl that their depressed mother resents, and she grows into a troubled and selfish teenager who betrays Eudora and breaks her heart. Decades later, Eudora still struggles to come to terms with her guilt over the resulting tragedy.

Eudora finally realizes that she hasn’t just been passing the time while she makes her plans, and the people in her life are more than complications. Eudora is having an impact on the lives of others and has a reason to continue. She can still choose how her story will end, just in a different way.

There is a tragic streak throughout the novel, though it is also inspirational and heartwarming. It would be a good choice for readers who enjoy “gentle reads” that are not overly sentimental or saccharine. The read-alikes also have older protagonists and unlikely friendships and connections that are hopeful and engaging.

Read-alikes:
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
The Big Finnish by Brooke Fossey
The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Since his wife's death a year ago, Arthur Pepper's life has become limited to the same daily routine and rarely leaving the house. However, Arthur decides the time has finally come to sort his wife's belongings and while doing so, Arthur comes across a charm bracelet he has never seen before. He is rather intrigued by the eight charms: an elephant, ring, flower, heart, book, tiger, paint palette, and a thimble. While examining the elephant, he discovers tiny engraved letters and numbers. Arthur and his wife always liked to watch Sunday afternoon detective stories so he decides to investigate in order to find out the stories behind the charms on the bracelet. To his great surprise, his investigation will not only mean leaving York for trips to London, Paris and India, he will also be on a transformative journey of self discovery. How will it change him inwardly as well as outwardly? Can he heal his estranged relationship with his grown children? 

I found this story to be heartwarming, upbeat, and "charming". The emotions Arthur feels over the loss of his wife or the discoveries he makes about the charms are real but never maudlin. From beginning to end, the story gently unfolds at a leisurely pace. This story will appeal to readers who like engaging, heartwarming, amusing, relationship fiction.

Read-alikes:
The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The Gift of Charm by Melissa Hill
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Sue Ketcham, LIU Post



The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock by Jane Riley

Oliver Clock has everything in his life arranged just so—pantry items alphabetically arranged; socks stored in color-coordinated rows; microwave meals lined up in the fridge; and a secure job at the funeral home that has been passed down to him through three generations. Approaching his 40th year and living a reclusive life, Oliver measures and monitors his life by jotting down resolutions in a notebook he’s had for years—“Thou shalt not grow too large to fit comfortably into a standard-size coffin; Thou shalt broaden your social life; Thou shalt find a way to ask Marie out”—resolutions that Oliver rarely fulfilled. Particularly that last one. Marie was the florist that he ordered flowers from for the funeral home, and his feelings for her went far beyond business. But he kept his feelings to himself.

Suddenly, Marie succumbs to an incurable disease and is erased from Oliver’s life. If only he had let her know what his true feelings were. Now he would have no chance to do so. When Marie’s husband informs Oliver that Marie had kept a diary, the entries reveal that Marie’s feelings for Oliver were mutual. This revelation sends Oliver into a tailspin of regret. Why hadn’t he acted on his feelings? As the story proceeds, Oliver relies on his memory of Marie, meets some quirky women who try to motivate him in their own unique ways, and ultimately, he discovers what he can do to take charge of his life.

Though a funeral parlor may seem an unusual backdrop for a light read, the author handles the setting in an entertaining, humorous, and inspirational way. Told in the first person, written in a conversational tone, and including an array of idiosyncratic characters, Oliver Clock is an easy read that is conveyed in short, thematic chapters. Readers may identify with Oliver as he struggles to understand the path his life has taken and his ability alone to change it.    

Read-alikes:
How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper
Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



An Irish Country Welcome by Patrick Taylor

The title is part of a series (book 15), but can be read as a standalone. 

This book reminded me very much of the James Herriot series of books, as it centers on a rural Irish doctor. The Herriot series took place from the 1930’s – 1950’s in rural England.  Taylor’s Fingal O’Reilly’s stories take place in Ballybucklebo beginning in the 30’s and going up to 1969 (so far.)

The novel has many storylines, some big, some small, including young Doctor Laverty and his wife expecting their first child and having complications, and new Doctor Carson trying to fit into country life. The author touches on the “troubles” in Northern Ireland (Catholics vs. Protestants) and adds a smaller story about a mixed couple trying to get a father’s permission to wed. 

The medical terminology is a bit over the top for the layman, but it is a gentle read, with no foul language or repugnant scenes. Whenever a fight is brewing (in the pub), someone comes along to settle everybody down. The pacing doesn’t change much throughout the book.  Just a nice, easy stroll through the countryside with the occasional hillock or glen to momentarily slow you down or speed you up. And all the plots are tied up nicely and happily by the end of the book.

This novel is for a mature audience who are in no rush; who want to soak up the setting and get friendly with the characters; who like a cup of tea in front of the fire on a winter’s day.

Read-alikes:
Anything by Maeve Binchy
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
A Country Affair by Rebecca Shaw
The Irish Country series by Patrick Taylor

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



If for Any Reason by Courtney Walsh

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world with nothing to hold her back. She is guided by her prized possession, a book of letters left for her by her mother before she died. With no father, the letters guide her through tough times and connect her to her past. After a professional failure and the death of her grandfather, Emily finds herself back in Nantucket 18 years after her mom’s death with one goal. Renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited and get on with her life. What Emily was not expecting was to run into Hollis, the boy next door-turned baseball star who’s back on the island after a career ending injury, or his preteen daughter who inspires Emily to revive her love of theater. Sparks fly between Emily and Hollis, and Emily finds she is being drawn back to island life even as she uncovers the truth about her mother’s death. Is there a letter for all the feelings brought up? 

If for Any Reason by Courtney Walsh is a breathtaking summer read about second chances, finding your purpose in life, and letting go of past mistakes. It’s a story of family and belonging, and a focus on building father/daughter relationships. Alternating every few chapters between Emily in present day, and flashbacks to the summer Emily’s mom fell pregnant brings depth to the story. This contemporary romance is published by a Christian-based publisher. There is talk about God and faith and the phrase “God only gives you what you can handle” plays as one of the themes throughout. There is light romance (kissing), though there is reference to two different relationships that had children out of wedlock. 

This is an engaging beach read for anyone looking for a light, contemporary romance filled with family drama, a little mystery, and relatable, flawed characters.

Read-alikes:
The Love Letters by Beverly Lewis
Who I Am with You by Robin Lee Hatcher
Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter
Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis

Nanci Helmle, The Smithtown Library - Commack Building



The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward

Charlotte Perkins, a seventy-year-old widow living in a retirement community near Savannah, is lonely after the death of her best friend. Desperate to reconnect with her three adult children, she enters a contest to become a “Jetsetter,” first prize an all-expense paid Mediterranean cruise for oneself and guests.  As it happens, her children are all in difficult circumstances, so they are happy to accept.  

Read-alikes:
Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg
Porch Lights by Dorothea Benton Frank
Family Reunion by Nancy Thayer

Jackie Malone, Retired Librarian