|John Searles and Amy Ryan|
Friday, March 25, 2022
Thursday, March 24, 2022
Reprinted from the Citizen:
What makes a good suspense novel? First you need well-drawn characters that the reader cares about. Put those characters in a situation that has a sense of foreboding and danger, and the reader will be drawn into the story. Two recent novels that fit that bill are the subject of this month’s Book Report.
The setting for John Searles’ novel, Her Last Affair is one that will feel familiar to many people in the Auburn area. The story takes place at a drive-in theater (the Finger Lakes Drive-In is one of the few remaining drive-ins left in New York).
Skyla is a widow who lost her sight shortly after she lost her husband of nearly fifty years in a freak accident. She is looking for a tenant to rent the cottage on her property, right next her own identical cottage on the grounds of the abandoned drive-in theater her husband’s family ran for years.
Brit Teddy Cornwell shows up to rent the cottage, and he and Skyla hit it off immediately. Teddy loves this “brilliant stitch of Americana” and laughs at the only question Skyla asks him - “Have you ever been in love?” She asks nothing about his references or financial situation, just a question about love.
Teddy shares the story of his first love, Linelle, how he loved her more than anyone in his life, even more than his ex-wife. Skyla encourages Teddy to look her up, which he does, tracking Linelle down on Facebook. Linelle is receptive to meeting up with Teddy after all these years since her marriage is unhappy and her life seems to be falling apart.
Jeremy is an unsuccessful writer in New York City, about to be evicted from his apartment when he gets an assignment to write a restaurant review in his hometown of Providence. He returns home and recalls the woman he fell in love with year ago, the woman who broke his heart. Maybe he should look her up.
No one in Her Last Affair is exactly who they seem. Why did Skyla lose her job as a nurse years ago? Why is Teddy hiding out in a cottage on an abandoned drive-in? How Searles weaves the stories of these fascinating, lovelorn characters together is nothing short of brilliant, and I loved his use of movie quotes to open each chapter with insight into what is coming next.
Her Last Affair is a book that builds the suspense with each turn of the page. The twist that Searles throws in will have you gasping as I did. The drive-in setting is perfect, as this is a book that screams to be turned into a movie.
Lisa Lutz’s The Accomplice also has characters you find fascinating within a suspense story that draws the reader in. Owen is a student from a wealthy family when he meets Luna at college. Luna is quiet, keeps mostly to herself, and has a secret in her past that she desperately wants to keep hidden.
Owen and Luna become best friends, practically inseparable. When Owen dates a woman from college and breaks up with her, she ends up dead and suspicion falls on Owen. Luna’s past comes into focus as well when the young woman is found dead. They both become outcasts on campus.
Years later, Owen is married to someone else, as is Luna. They live in the same town and are still best friends. When Owen’s wife is found dead, Luna is the one who finds her dead body as she was supposed to go running with her.
The police discover that Owen was having an affair with one of his students, and suspicion once again falls on Owen. Luna’s past also rears its head as well. Did either or both have anything to do with the women’s deaths or is it just a bad coincidence?
Owen and Luna’s relationship is a unique one. They know each other better than they know anyone else- or do they? Are either one of them capable of murder?
Her Last Affair and The Accomplice are both terrific suspense novels that make the reader think. Although these books are both fiction, I think fans of true crime podcasts and television shows like “Dateline” would find these interesting. I highly recommend them both, John Searles and Lisa Lutz are at the top of their game here.
Her Last Affair by John Searles- A
Published by Mariner Books
Hardcover, $27.99, 336 pages
The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz- A
Published by Ballantine Books
Hardcover, $28, 368 pages
Sunday, March 20, 2022
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Monday, March 14, 2022
Friday, March 11, 2022
|From from Food Network|
3) I started a new podcast this week on the recommendation of one of our customers at the Book Cellar. Turner Classic Movies has a ten part podcast called The Plot Thickens, and season three of the podcast is about the life of Lucille Ball. The first episode is set in her hometown of Jamestown, New York, and you get to hear parts of old recorded interviews with Lucille Ball, her brother Fred, and her mother Dede among others. It's fascinating and if you like Luciile Ball, definitely give it a listen.
5) I read one really terrific book this week, perfect for Women's History Month. Kate Quinn's upcoming historical novel, The Diamond Eye, is a fictionalized account of the most successful Russian sniper in World War II- a woman named Ludmila Pavlichenko. Mila was known as Lady Death, and she had over 300 known kills as a most dangerous sniper. She was a librarian who carried her dissertation in her knapsack so she could work on it during her down times. The book tells the story of her dangerous missions, in which she suffered many injuries, as well as her trip to visit the United States, where she became friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Like Quinn's other recent novels, The Alice Network, The Huntress, and The Rose Code, The Diamond Eye shows us the role that brave women all over the world played during the world wars. It's a hefty book, but once you get into it, you'll speed through it as you are amazed by Mila's bravery and skill. I love all of Quinn's books, she brings these brave women to vivid life.
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Sunday, March 6, 2022
“I’m going to sleep with Dimitri.”
Robyn Caldwell picked up her glass of white wine and briefly thought about swallowing the entire contents in one gulp. Mindy’s statement was certainly gulp-worthy. But she knew pacing herself through lunch was the responsible thing to do. A lesson her friend had yet to learn.
“You are not,” Robyn murmured, because shrieking wasn’t attractive. Especially at “the club,” where their friends and frenemies were also enjoying Thursday’s lobster salad. The dining room was filled with forty or so women, all dressed in Florida chic—diamonds sparkling, gold or platinum charm bracelets clinking, necklaces resting on tanned and toned skin.
“I might,” Mindy Krause said, picking up her champagne. “He’s gorgeous.”
“Of course. He’s a thirty-year-old tennis pro. What else would he be?”
Mindy, a petite brunette who was six months from turning forty, sighed. “I need a Dimitri in my life.”
“You have a great husband. Payne loves you and the kids, and never has eyes for another woman. Why would you screw that up?”
“Payne would never know.”
“There aren’t any secrets in this town. Not in our social circle.”
Something Robyn had learned the hard way herself. She’d been blissfully unaware of her ex-husband’s affairs until a “friend” had oh-so-sweetly informed her.
“Maybe just some kissing,” Mindy mused. “I want a little Dimitri action. The fantasies make me happy, so imagine what the real thing would do.”
“The fantasies are safe. The real thing could destroy everything you have. Knowing you’ve cheated would devastate Payne.”
Mindy’s mouth formed a pout. “I never see him anymore. All he does is work.”
Robyn stared at her friend-slash-boss. “You two talked about how that promotion would be more work for him but that it would be worth it. You wanted this for him.”
“I didn’t know how much he’d be gone.”
The unreasonable statement grated nearly as much as Mindy’s whine. “This isn’t a good look for you,” Robyn murmured. “You’re changing the rules without telling your husband. That never ends well.”
Mindy dismissed the warning with a quick shake of her head. “I’m not worried. Besides, if he does find out, I can just move in with you.” She laughed. “You’ll soon have that big house all to yourself.”
“You have four kids,” Robyn pointed out. “If things go south in your marriage, I’d rather have Payne move in.”
“Well, that would get people talking.” Mindy held up her empty glass to the server. “More, please.”
The server obliged.
Mindy took another sip. “My sister called, swears she found a Thomas Pister chest in a tiny shop in Wales. It’s dirt cheap, so I’m afraid it’s a fake. She’s looking for someone to prove authenticity. Wouldn’t that be a find?”
“It would. I’d love to see it.”
Thomas Pister had built beautiful chests and cabinets in the late 1600s and early 1700s. His intricate designs with stunning inlays sold quickly and for huge amounts. Depending on the condition and the materials, a good-sized chest of drawers could go for sixty or eighty thousand dollars.
Excerpted from The Summer Getaway by Susan Mallery, Copyright © 2022 by Susan Mallery, Inc.. Published by HQN Books.
Friday, March 4, 2022
|Photo from Food & Wine- Stephanie Foley|
4) I was glad to see The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is back on Amazon Prime for its fourth season. There is something comforting about traveling back to 1960's New York City to catch up with Miriam, who at the end of last season lost her chance to go on a world tour with singer Shy Baldwin after she made a joke that hit too close to home for him. Miriam and Susie have to pick up the pieces and regroup. The Wonder Wheel scene in episode one is brilliantly directed and edited, and I can't wait to see more of Miriam's gorgeous dresses and hats. It's a fantastic ensemble of actors, led by Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein as Miriam and Susie.
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Reprinted from the Citizen:
February is the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day and love. This month’s Book Report features a few books I loved, but not necessarily books about romantic love.
Steven Rowley’s fantastic novel The Guncle is about Patrick, an actor who made his fame and fortune on a television sitcom a few years back. When the sitcom ended, Patrick left Los Angeles behind and moved to the solitude of Palm Springs away from everyone.
Patrick’s best friend Sara married his brother Greg, and they had two children, Maisie and Grant. When Sara dies, and Greg has to deal with some troubling issues of his own, Greg asks Patrick to take in Maisie, age 9, and Grant, age 6, for the summer.
Patrick agrees, and the children go to live with the man they call GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick). He doesn’t know much about caring for children, but he does know about dealing with grief after losing his boyfriend in a car accident a few years ago.
They fall into a routine, riding bikes in the morning, swimming in the pool, having dance parties, going out to eat. Things seem to be going as well as they can until Patrick’s sister Clara comes to town and wants to take the children back to their home in Connecticut. She believes she is better suited to care for the children until their father can come home.
The Guncle is a lovely, heartfelt story with characters you’ll fall in love with. Patrick grows to deeply love the children, and he gives them the sense of security and understanding they need. They in turn open Patrick’s heart up after it was broken in grief.
Although the story is tinged with sadness, there is humor in it as well. Patrick sprinkles in his ‘Guncle Rules’, like this one: “Guncle Rule number eight: Make the Yuletide gay”, something they did when they put up their Christmas tree in the summer to celebrate the holiday early and left it up all summer.
Patrick also has wise words born of experience. “Grief orbits the heart. Some days the circle is greater. Those are the good days. You have room to move and dance and breathe. Some days the circle is tighter. Those are the hard ones.”
The Guncle is a story about a family lifting each other up and loving each other. You will smile throughout, and tear up at times. The dialogue is wonderful, and I think it would make a terrific movie.
Will Leitch’s terrific novel How Lucky has a unique protagonist. Daniel is a 26 year-old man who has SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy), a debilitating disease that leaves him unable to speak or move (other than his left hand) and using a wheelchair. He works monitoring a customer service Twitter account for a small regional airline, and lives on his own in the college town of Athens, Georgia.
His childhood best friend Travis and an immigrant home health aide Marjani help care for him. Everyday Daniel sees a young woman walking down his street on her way to class. One day he sees a car stop and she gets in.
The young woman ends up missing. She is a Chinese student who, like Daniel, has trouble communicating as she doesn’t speak much English. Daniel and Travis contact the police about what Daniel saw, but when a young policeman stops by Daniel’s house, the communication problems cause the policeman not to take Daniel seriously.
Daniel turns to the internet site Reddit to alert a group of students searching for the missing woman. The man in the car sees the Reddit post and responds to Daniel. Daniel keeps in contact with the man, hoping to find out what happened to the missing woman, but it also may be placing himself in danger.
How Lucky is a real page-turner, and some people have compared the premise to the famous Jimmy Stewart movie Rear Window, which is an apt comparison. The reader also learns what it’s like to live completely dependent on others for day-to-day living.
This book has it all- great characters, a fast-paced story, an interesting setting, a mystery to be solved, and How Lucky is nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel. Like The Guncle, Travis, Daniel and Marjani become a family who care for each other.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley- A+
Published by G.P. Putnam & Sons
Hardcover, $27, 336 pages
How Lucky by Will Leitch- A+
Published by Harper
Hardcover, $25.99, 304 pages