Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Nikki dropped out of law school and fell into bartending but she knows something is missing from her life. She needs to do something to make a difference. So she decides to give back to the Sikh community she has distanced herself from since her youth and teach a creative writing course to women. Her first day in the classroom she is surprised that most of the widows in attendance can’t speak much if any English and can’t write in any language and are expecting Nikki to teach them. Completely thrown by the change in the course she leaves the classroom to talk to the administrator and when she returns she hears the women giggling. The one widow who can read English is reading and translating an erotic story from a book Nikki purchased as a joke for her sister and left with the pile of books on her desk. Nikki is horrified yet the widows are thrilled. They would love to tell stories like this -- they can be creative and share their stories and work on their writing all at the same time! But they all know that the traditional Sikh community may frown upon a class of this nature, but how do you keep something that fun quiet?

This book flew under my radar until I was listening to a webinar with the publisher who couldn’t say enough wonderful things about it and members of the audience chimed in about it as well. I loved the glimpse into the culture of these women living in Great Britain yet holding onto their traditions. Women’s rights becomes a focus of the book as does the marginalization of widows; and these widows will not be marginalized any longer! There are very serious themes here and a mystery that ties the story together but overall the tone is light and there is quite a bit of humor. Be forewarned there really are erotic short stories interspersed throughout the text. (And they are quite steamy!)

I found myself with a free rainy evening and read half the book in a single sitting. If you want to learn about a culture, watch women take control of their lives, and just enjoy a good read you’ll want to add this one to your list.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I have a rule to avoid any book Oprah endorses. It’s not that they aren’t good books, it’s that they are usually horribly depressing and make me want to cry. But when your book club picks one it’s hard to say no and overall I’m glad I read this one.

Cora is persuaded to leave the plantation she was born on in Georgia by Caesar. He feels she is good luck because her mother escaped years before and was never caught and returned by the slave catchers. Cora doesn’t want to chance it, she doesn’t feel lucky, but an incident gives her the strength to try to escape. The two find passage on the Underground Railroad to South Carolina and it is there that Cora’s journey to freedom begins.

I loved that the author altered history and made the underground railroad an actual railroad with underground stations, spurs, lines, schedules and locomotives. I remember as I kid thinking that is what it actually was and I’m sure other schoolchildren made the same initial mistake. Whisking Cora from one state to another swiftly on the railroad made the narrative really move and by her moving to so many states the attitudes of each state were able to be brought into the narrative. It was the differences between each state that really made the book riveting for me, the atrocities were awful and very hard to read, but the imagination the author brought to the tolerance of each state was interesting and showed the compassion of the station masters as well as the resourcefulness (and luck) within Cora.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Lost Woman by Sara Blaedel

The Lost Woman by Sara Blaedel

Detective Louise Rick is happy with her life. Her adopted son is doing well at boarding school and her boyfriend, Eik, and his dog, Charlie, have basically moved into her place. The only issue is her boyfriend is also her partner so they know one of them will need to switch divisions and since she’s only been in missing persons a couple of years she knows she’ll be the one to move. But that is a thought for another day, Eik has tickets to a concert for her and friends that night and she’s looking forward to the outing. But then she looks out the window of her shared office. Eik went for cigarettes a long while ago, why is Charlie still tied up outside the convenience store in the frigid Danish winter? Where did Eik go? Is the missing persons detective actually missing?

This is the setup for the book. Eik’s disappearance ties into a missing person case from years ago with direct ties to Eik and it once again consumes his life and in turn Louise’s as well. Usually this series tends to focus on the police procedural part of the narrative, but this time it is more a character driven novel delving into the ethics of assisted suicide which gets tied into the plot early on. The reader gets Louise’s point of view and we can understand the hurt she feels and the frustration as she discovers secrets about Eik’s past and the reasons for his actions in the present. Those that don’t want their mystery to take a backseat may not enjoy this entry in the series as much as past books, but I found a lot to like here.

A good choice on audio, it’s also available on Playaway, especially for the pronunciation of the Danish names and locations!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Three women all receive an identical text -- “I need you” -- and they drop everything to reunite at the home of childhood friend who sent the urgent text. 

Seventeen years ago these four women, girls at the time, were all residents of a subpar boarding school on England’s southern coast. Kate was, and still is, the local. She could walk home to the mill, with or without permission, to see her half-brother and her father who also taught at the school; often taking her three best friends along. Thea had been thrown out of other boarding schools and Salten House was practically a last resort. Fatima’s parents were going to Pakistan to give back through Doctors Without Borders and felt their daughter should continue her education in England. And the narrator, Isa, is sent away by her father who is overwhelmed with his job and caring for her dying mother. Seventeen years ago these four girls were expelled and sent home (for reasons unknown to the reader) but they created a strong bond of friendship. But something else seems to tie them together as well. In the present a human bone has been discovered and the girls return under the guise of attending a reunion, but really to see what happens next and if it can be tied to them. 

The most important rule of the lying game was that they never lied to one another. But it’s beginning to seem like someone has been lying and hiding the truth for a very long time.

Fans of the author’s previous books will find a lot to like here. Having the story told from Isa’s viewpoint the reader gets a lot of the story, but not all of the story, and discovers the truth alongside her. I was a big fan of In a Dark, Dark Wood and I didn’t really like The Woman in Cabin 10. I would place this book on the enjoyment scale firmly between the two.

The Lying Game is released July 25th -- place your holds now!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

Jubilee Jenkins almost died just weeks before her graduation from high school. Since that time she has spent her days locked in her house taking courses online, reading tons of books and never ever leaving the house. One day, ten years later, her mom’s husband calls to let Jubilee know that her mother has passed away and while he’ll be paying off the house and deeding it to Jubilee he will be stopping the monthly checks that were sent while her mother was living. Suddenly Jubilee is faced with the horror of entering the outside world and finding a source of income. But she had a good reason to lock herself away from the world. The reason she almost died ten years ago? Her first kiss. She is highly allergic to human touch. The mere brush of a hand will cause painful welts and hives and oral contact, as was proven in high school, will cause anaphylaxis. 

Jubilee gets a job at the local library through an acquaintance, a girl (now a woman, divorcee and a mother) she thought hated her in high school. Jubilee gets to know her co-workers and some of the regular patrons. At the library she meets Eric and his ten-old adoptive son Aja and through interesting circumstances begins spending time with the duo. Jubilee is exactly who Aja needs right now and Eric is beginning to think he needs Jubilee as well. But how does one go about being in love with a woman you can never touch? 

This is the story of one scared woman re-entering the world and learning to live among other people, forming friendships and falling in love, but knowing that she must always hold herself apart. The story is told in the alternating perspectives of Eric and Jubilee and while Jubilee is working through a lot of problems they all center around her allergy while Eric’s problems seem to be messier since he came to New Jersey for a temporary job transfer not just for the opportunity but to leave some of his mess behind.

This is a fun book with a serious side which never overwhelms the humor and lightheartedness of the writing style and of the personality of the characters. The best part? The ending. I’m not going to ruin it for you.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Full Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child

Full Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child

Jeremy Logan, enigmalogist, is trying to leave his secondary profession behind and work on his monograph on medieval history. He checks into Cloudwater, a retreat for writers and artists in the Adirondacks, to focus and finish writing. But his life as an investigator of mysteries can’t leave him alone.

A Park Ranger, a friend Jeremy went to college with, tracks him down to get the enigmalogist’s opinion on the slain hikers found within the park boundaries in recent months. It looks like the hikers were viciously attacked by a large animal, possibly a bear, all on the nights of the full moon. Jeremy has never found evidence of lycanthropy in his travels or research, but these events are making him rethink the possibility of werewolves.

I really enjoy the Jeremy Logan books, there is always some familiar myth at the center and it’s fun to see if the myth is found to be based on fact or fiction (not going to spoil which way this book goes) and how Jeremy follows the clues to his conclusions. Even though the Adirondacks were portrayed as thick, lush, creepy forests in this book I’m still looking forward to heading up that way this summer. This is more thriller than horror and a really fun discovery of things that bite in the night. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Liv suggests that they skip the traditional Christmas this year. Her cousin, and best friend, Nora recently lost her mother and is not looking forward to the holiday so Liv comes up with the novel solution of a cruise up and down the western coast of North and South America. So both families, each with two kids, book passage for a unique late year getaway.

Liv, Nora and an Argentinean couple are the only parents with children on board the ship so they naturally gravitate towards each other. At a port in Latin America the husbands go to meet one of their friends for a round of golf while the women and kids decide to take a tour ziplining through the jungle. On the way to the zipline course the van breaks down. Knowing that they will never make their trip the guide calls in for another van and takes the three adults and six kids down to a local beach to enjoy the waters. It’s a sheltered area at the mouth of a river so there is no worry of sharks and the guide has inner tubes and other beach toys to make the impromptu trip enjoyable. All seems idyllic. The kids are all having a great time, two mothers doze on the beach and the guide goes to look at birds with Nora. When Nora returns to the beach she sees the two adults asleep and the beach and waters are empty. It seems that the kids were pushed up the river by the incoming tide. When the adults, and the authorities, finally find the abandoned inner tubes on the river bank they also find a freshly dug grave on the nearby roadside inhabited by a dead man with a bullet in his head. The kids were obviously taken by the gravediggers, but where? Are the kids okay? Will their guilt stricken parents ever see them again?

This book could have been written like a thriller, but it is more of a character study. You know what is going on with the children as well as the parents throughout the entire ordeal but that doesn’t mean there isn’t suspense. Awful things happen, very awful things, but as a reader you aren’t left in the dark like the parents of the missing children. What hit home most for me was the utter lack of street smarts the American children possessed. The reactions of these children seemed real; as did those of the parents. My only issue with the book was how well all the American characters came out of this ordeal; you’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean...

Put your holds on this book now, it comes out next week on June 6th!