A Wilder Rose

Title: A Wilder Rose

Author: Susan Wittig Albert. She is the author of several historical novels, including The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Readers: Blogger From Grind to Whine Stacey, metrics analyst Mary, stay at home parents Shawna and Marina, and lawyers Cait and Abby R.

Summary: In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane—world traveler, journalist, much-published magazine writer—returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents’ Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71, Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. To make life easier, she built them a new home, while she and Helen Boylston transformed the farmhouse into a rural writing retreat and filled it with visiting New Yorkers. Rose sold magazine stories to pay the bills for both households, and despite the subterranean tension between mother and daughter, life seemed good.

Then came the Crash. Rose’s money vanished, the magazine market dried up, and the Depression darkened the nation. That’s when Laura wrote her autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” the story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake. The rest—the eight remarkable books that followed—is literary history.

But it isn’t the history we thought we knew. For the surprising truth is that Laura’s stories were publishable only with Rose’s expert rewriting. Based on Rose’s unpublished diaries and Laura’s letters, A Wilder Rose tells the true story of the decade-long, intensive, and often troubled collaboration that produced the Little House books—the collaboration that Rose and Laura deliberately hid from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers.

Our Take: Lovers of Little House may find their dreams shattered when they read this novel of the truth behind how the books were written. Those who are big time LH gurus may find nothing new here. While some of our readers found the book to enrich their Little House love, others were more disenchanted.

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Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth KiemTitle: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

Author: Elizabeth Kiem. This is her first novel.

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller

Readers: Professor JoLee, copyeditor Lori, lawyer Cait, day care teacher EMarie and retiree Sulyn.

Summary: Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union’s prima ballerina: an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears.

Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at Juilliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother’s “gift,” and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they’d left behind.

Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother’s disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can—and can’t—trust.

Our Take: Definitely a YA with crossover appeal and a unique story to tell. A couple of our readers wanted more, but the overall verdict is it’s a tight and fun thriller.

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Save Yourself

Save Yourself by Kelly BraffetTitle: Save Yourself

Author: Kelly Braffet. She is the author of two previous books of small-town suspense, Josie and Jack and Last Seen Leaving.

Genre: Thriller

Readers: Stay-at-home Moms Dana, Katie and Krysta; lawyer Cait and event planner Kathy.

Summary: Patrick Cusimano is in a bad way. His father is in jail, he works the midnight shift at a grubby convenience store, and his brother’s girlfriend, Caro, has taken their friendship to an uncomfortable new level. On top of all that, he can’t quite shake the attentions of Layla Elshere, a goth teenager who befriends Patrick for reasons he doesn’t understand and doesn’t fully trust. The temptations these two women offer are pushing him to his breaking point.

Meanwhile, Layla’s little sister, Verna, is suffering through her first year of high school. She’s become a prime target for her cruel classmates, not just because of her strange name and her fundamentalist parents: Layla’s bad-girl rep proves to be too huge a shadow for Verna, so she falls in with her sister’s circle of outcasts and misfits whose world is far darker than she ever imagined.

Our Take: This is a dark book with complex and fully-formed characters. Our readers found it really captivating and compelling. Not a typical page-turner, but we got through it pretty quickly. While it may be too heavy for some book clubs, this is definitely one to consider for group discussion.

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The Uninvited

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Title: The Uninvited

Author: Liz Jensen. She is the author of several novels, including War Crimes for the Home, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Readers: Lawyer Cait, stay at home mom Colleen B., event planner Kathy,  copy editor Lori and victim advocate MJ.

Summary: A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious? As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry.

Hesketh has never been good at relationships: Asperger’s Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioral patterns and an outsider’s fascination with group dynamics. Nothing obvious connects Hesketh’s Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behavior of his beloved stepson, Freddy. But when Hesketh’s Taiwan contact dies shockingly and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, he is forced to acknowledge possibilities that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career, and, most devastatingly of all, his role as a father. Continue reading

The Explorer

Title: The Explorer

Author: James Smythe. He has published some previous novels through independent presses.

Genre: Science-Fiction

Readers: Administrative coordinator Cyn,  and lawyers Cait, Elizabeth H. and Rochelle. (Lawyers and sci-fi, who knew?)

Summary: When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers.

But in space, nothing goes according to plan.

The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

But as the body count begins to rise, Cormac finds himself alone and spiralling towards his own inevitable death … unless he can do something to stop it.

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