Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

I picked up this book because I had been hearing quite a bit of buzz about it on social media. Like any good librarian, I have to read something for myself, especially when everyone seems to have read it or want to read it. I think it’s a great first novel by Jessica Knoll, even though the writing is much darker, blunt, and vulgar than I’m used to reading. The story portrays an honest, and gruesome, picture of just how destructive bullying can be to the lives of both children and adults of all ages. When the reader first meets Ani (born TiffAni), he or she would think Ani has everything – a fulfilling and great paying job, a handsome and very wealthy fiance, and a bright future all set up for her.  Her only worry seems to be a constant battle with trying to keep weight off of her 104 pound frame, all the while thinking she is overweight. However, once Ani’s background is revealed little by little, the readers understands why she feels and acts the way she does. Her brash and crude demeanor starts to fit her situation. The story moved along quickly, and I enjoyed the mysterious aspect as Ani’s past was revealed. I wasn’t a huge fan of the vulgar language used in the story, but I can overlook it to say that this was a good read. I finished it in just a few days. This book would appeal to fans of Gone Girl, and/or The Girl on the Train.

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

This is a fabulous story set in the 1960’s in the rural South. Jane is a newlywed, fresh out of college and eager to start her first “professional” job as a social worker. As she becomes increasingly involved in the daily lives of her poverty stricken clients, both white and black families, her wealthy pediatrician husband tries harder to convince her not to work. He would rather her join the Junior League and waste her days away with the other country club wives, as it looks bad for him to have a wife who insists on working. Jane, however, finds great pleasure in her work, as she is truly helping those in need. Soon she meets the Hart family, 17 year old Mary Ella, her 2 year old illegitimate child William,  grandmother Nonnie, and 15 year old Ivy. The girls work on a tobacco farm, which is where their house is located, while William is barely supervised by Nonnie. Mary Ella has some sort of mental illness, William is deemed “slow”, and Nonnie has multiple health problems. Ivy, though she keeps the family together as best as she can, also suffers from epilepsy. As Jane gets to know them, she softens and becomes especially close to Ivy, which could soon cost her a lot in her own personal life.

This story reads quickly because something is always happening to keep the reader’s interest. The way the author depicts daily life in these poor families is heart wrenching, raw, and real. I wasn’t aware of the history about sterilization of colored women, epileptics, poor people, and people of low IQ during the 1960’s. The author includes historically accurate notes at the back of the book that are mind blowing. What a terribly sad thing this was for so many people who weren’t even given a choice. The author put together a beautiful story which brought this important and somewhat overlooked topic of government mandated sterilization to life. I would highly encourage reading this book. It would be an excellent choice for book clubs to discuss.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

This book will be published January 19, 2016

This was a light-hearted, witty, and delightful novel, without any deep plot twists or drawn out back stories as so many novels have. I really didn’t want it to end, because I enjoyed the characters so much. Bibliophiles, such as myself, will very much enjoy the literary quotes, book titles, and authors mentioned throughout the story.

At the start, we find Swedish native, Sara, in Broken Wheel, Iowa, waiting to be picked up by her long time pen pal, Amy Harris. However, she quickly learns that Amy has passed away recently from a long illness. Though they had never met in person, they have been corresponding for quite a long time about reading and books, and sending each other favorite books to enjoy. Sara feels like she knows many of the townspeople and the town of Broken Wheel itself from Amy’s vivid descriptions in her letters. Sara decides to stay in Broken Wheel for 2 months as planned, even though Amy isn’t there. Then she hatches a plan to start a bookstore in town with the houseful of books which Amy left behind. This is where the excitement begins. A bookstore in a town that doesn’t even have a library and whose townspeople aren’t the slightest bit interested in reading becomes a challenge for Sara. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens, because I can’t give away any spoilers.

The characters are unique and quirky, and you’ll love them as I did. This book is similar to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Woven between the chapters are Amy’s letters to Sara, which make for a wonderful story in themselves. And of course, there’s a bit of romance, along with a lot of light humor. I would highly recommend placing this book on your to-be-read list.

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Like Mary Kubica’s previous novel, The Good Girl, I also enjoyed this story. It included quite a bit of psychological suspense and was a bit crazy at times with unreliable narrators. The story switched back and forth between a homeless young girl called Willow with a baby she called Ruby, Heidi, and Chris. Heidi, another main character sees the girl and the baby in the rain & cold on the way to work and begins to feel sorry and want to help. However, has Heidi, the seemingly selfless mother of a 12 year old and faithful wife of financially successful Chris, bit off a bit more than she can chew with this project? The story is heartbreaking at times as the readers finds out all that both “Willow” and Heidi have dealt with in the past. I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to know what would happen to all of the characters. Mary Kubica does a great job of keeping the story moving at a quick pace. This would be a great read for fans of Gone Girl and/or The Girl on the Train.

The Fold by Peter Clines

I’m normally not one to pick out a science fiction novel to read. However, this one looked pretty intriguing. Mike, a high school English teacher, is just an average guy enjoying the connections he makes with his students and coworkers. Then he gets a job offer from his friend Reggie which is too inviting to refuse, so he leaves his home state of Maine for a government facility in San Diego where his expertise is needed. Why is a high school English teacher picked as the man to report back to a top government official about the status of a secretive project called the Albuquerque Door? The reader soon learns that Mike is not only a genius based on his IQ, but he also has an eidetic memory. The plot picks up very quickly as Mike becomes emerged in the project and begins to get to know the scientists and engineers who have made it their life’s work. The story is creative and imaginative, with a little bit of romance and a whole lot of suspense and activity going on. (Warning: the Mom in me is coming out for a minute) The Albuquerque Door actually reminded me quite a big of Disney’s Big Hero 6 with the teleport portal run off of heavy magnets and super computers. I would recommend this book for fans of sci-fi and even fans of mainstream fiction.

Early One Morning by Virginia Baily

This is a beautiful story which takes place in Rome during WWII. Chiara, a 27 year old who cares for an older sister suffering from epilepsy, happens to be out early one morning as Jewish families are being loaded onto trains to concentration camps. In an instant she catches the eye of a young mother and makes a silent promise to keep the little boy, Daniele, in her arms safe. She claims the young boy as her own despite the fact that she is already caring for her sister with little to no income or provisions. The story picks up many years later when Chiara is much older and receives a call from a teenage girl in Wales who claims to be Daniele’s daughter. Maria has never met her father and decides to come to Rome to meet Chiara and search for her long lost father. I really loved the ending of the story, because it wasn’t drawn out and it wasn’t tied up . neatly with a bow. Though the story takes place during the Holocaust, it doesn’t focus solely on the devastation and death. Mostly, it’s a story of how family ties are powerful above all else, even when the family is not related by blood. I would highly recommend this novel, which is publishing September 29, 2015.