Ah winter. Time for hot chocolate, weather advisory alerts, and staying indoors. And when you’re stuck inside the only things to do as we all well know are binge Netflix and read. Here are some worthwhile books to help get through to spring.
The Thin Woman (1984) By Ellis Haskell – Overweight interior decorator Ellie Simons hires professional escort (and aspiring writer and chef) Bentley T. Haskell to provide her protection during a weekend with her dreadful relatives. Complications of course ensue and things eventually turn deadly. This was Book One in a much adored series of novels starring Ellie, Bentley, Cousin Freddy, and many, many more colorful characters. Cannell not only crafts good puzzles but has a delightfully dry very British wit and a knack for writing scenes and tableaus that are as funny as they are charming.
Book of a Thousand Days (2007) By Shannon Hale – This young adult fantasy novel is a fresh take on Brothers Grimm’s classic fairy tale Maid Maleen. After her mother’s death, Dashti a mucker from the steppes finds work as a maid to the great beauty Lady Saren. Lady Saren’s father the Lord of Titor’s Garden proclaims she must marry Lord Khasar but turns our Saren’s already engaged to young Khan Tegus. Daddy locks Saren and Dashti both in a tower and says they’ll stay there for seven years-or until Saren agrees to marry Lord Khasar. A beautifully rendered fantasy with a female friendship at its center it won a host of awards including the Whitney award for Best Speculative Fiction, Cybils awards for Best Fantasy and Science AND Best Young Adult Fantasy, and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults award.
The Poison Tree (2011) by Erin Kelly – This riveting psychological thriller begins with Karen and her young daughter Alice picking up Karen’s lover Rex who’s served a ten year stint in prison. Flashback to the late 90’s when Karen meets Biba a flamboyant would be actress and moves in with her and her enigmatic brother Rex. It’s all fun and games but the siblings share a tortured family legacy and things eventually turn bloody. Full of twists and turns, it was a brilliant debut novel for Kelly who has gone on to write more thrillers since.
The Partner Track (2013) by Helen Wan – Ingrid Yung is a first generation Chinese American woman, poised to become the first minority woman to make partner at the distinguished Wall Street firm Parsons, Valentine, and Hunt. But when an offensive incident at a summer outing creates a PR crisis for the firm, Ingrid is drafted to spearhead the new Diversity and Inclusion Initiative while also closing a major deal. Soon Ingrid will find herself questioning everything she’s worked her whole life to achieve. Wan gives us a wonderful and relatable protagonist with excellent insights into the experience of Asian Americans and the cutthroat environment of Big Law Firms.
Lilac Girls (2016) by Martha Hall Kelly – Manhattan, 1939. New York socialite Caroline Ferriday falls for a married actor while becoming increasingly involved in supporting France’s war effort. Kasia Kuzmerick a Polish Catholic, girl whose adolescence is interrupted by Germany’s invasion of Poland and her own involvement with the Resistance. And one day infamous German surgeon Herta Oberheuser finally accepts a position at Ravensbruck. Their lives will converge in ways, that are unexpected and occasionally horrific. Told in first person narrative from the Pov of three very different women, Kelly’s debut novel was a grand triumph capturing not only three distinct voices but also brilliantly brings the times to life. And for the record she’s relating are all true.
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