Quiet Dell

Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne PhillipsTitle: Quiet Dell

Author: Jayne Anne Phillips.  She is the author of several novels, including Lark & Termite.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Readers: At-home parents Megan V., Sarah L. and Krysta.

Summary: In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, mother of three, is lonely and despairing, pressed for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who promises to cherish and protect her, ultimately to marry her and to care for her and her children. Weeks later, the family are dead.

Emily Thornhill, one of the few women in the Chicago press, covers the case and becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Bold and intrepid, Emily allies herself with the Chicago banker who funds the investigation and who is wracked by guilt for not saving Asta. Driven by secrets of their own, the heroic characters in this magnificent tale will stop at nothing to ensure that Powers is convicted.

Our Take: This historical novel based on a true crime has strong writing but isn’t too fast-paced.

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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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Hour of the Rat

Title: Hour of the Rat

Author: Lisa Brackmann. She is the author of two previous thrillers, including a previous book following Ellie McEnroe, Rock Paper Tiger.

Genre:  Thriller

Readers: Stay at home moms Krysta and Sarah L., teacher Ninian and accountant Gina aka Slappy.

Summary: Iraq War vet Ellie McEnroe has a pretty good life in Beijing, representing the work of controversial dissident Chinese artist Zhang Jianli. Even though Zhang’s mysterious disappearance of over a year ago has attracted the attention of the Chinese authorities. Even though her Born-Again mother has come for a visit and shows no signs of leaving.

But things really get complicated when Ellie’s search for an Army buddy’s missing brother entangles her in a conspiracy that may or may not involve a sinister biotech company, eco-terrorists, and art-obsessed Chinese billionaire, and lots of cats—a conspiracy that will take her on a wild chase through some of China’s most beautiful and most surreal places.

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I’ll Take What She Has

Title: I’ll Take What She Has

Author: Samantha Wilde. She is the author of a previous novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home.

Genre: Chick Lit

Readers: Librarian Erin, accountant Gina aka Slappy, project manager Andrea and stay-at-home mom Krysta.

Summary: Nora and Annie have been best friends since kindergarten. Nora, a shy English teacher at a quaint New England boarding school, longs to have a baby. Annie, an outspoken stay-at-home mother of two, longs for one day of peace and quiet (not to mention more money and some free time). Despite their very different lives, nothing can come between them—until Cynthia Cypress arrives on campus.

Cynthia has it all: brains, beauty, impeccable style, and a gorgeous husband (who happens to be Nora’s ex). When Cynthia eagerly befriends Nora, Annie’s oldest friendship is tested. Now, each woman must wrestle the green-eyed demon of envy and, in the process, confront imperfect, mixed-up family histories they don’t want to repeat. Amid the hilarious and harried straits of friendship, marriage, and parenthood, the women may discover that the greenest grass is right beneath their feet.

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The Burn Palace

Title: The Burn Palace

Author: Stephen Dobyns, author of several previous psychological mysteries, including The Church of Dead Girls.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror, Literary Fiction

Readers: Retiree Nancy, stay-at-home mom Krysta, and teachers madriscoll and Ninian.

Summary: At two-thirty in the morning at the local hospital in the small town of Brewster, Rhode Island, Alice Alessio — also known as Nurse Spandex — is given the surprise of her life. Coming back from a secret tryst with a doctor, she peeks in to check on the newborn baby she was supposed to be watching, and finds a huge, writhing red-and-yellow snake in the bassinet instead. So begins the series of strange and disturbing events that start to plague this sleepy little community and confound the police. Woody Potter, the detective on the case, simply can’t put it all together — what is the thread that ties a missing baby, a dead insurance investigator, and a local Wiccan sect together? Why do all roads seem to lead to the town yoga center (known to all as the You-You)? And what exactly is going on with Carl Krause, the local man who works at the funeral home, who has taken to growling at his neighbors?

An epic, twisted portrait of small-town America, The Burn Palace captivates with dozens of richly rendered multidimensional characters and a plot that keeps you guessing all the way to the end. It is the literary equivalent of Richard Russo crossed with Stephen King.

Should You Read It?: Our readers all enjoyed this thrill ride filled with eerie atmosphere. But as Krysta notes, this may not be for the faint of heart. A fun read for literature lovers who don’t normally read genre fiction. A strong choice for genre-lovers, too.

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