“I’ve always thought that a good book should be either the entry point inward, to learn about yourself, or a door outward, to open you up to new worlds.” ― Taylor Jenkins Reid

October and November Reads

V.I. Warshawski, the female Chicago PI who solves crimes while putting herself in harm’s way, is the star of the 21st book in Paretsky’s series. The next book in the series is due in spring, 2024. Paretsky pulls the book together quickly while leaving little clues – and big ones – to the miscreants but not their purpose in behaving badly. And they do. Behave badly, that is. This is a fast read and a good one. You may know the who before you know the why, and that’s ok.

This is the 30th book in the Stephanie Plum series, and worth spending a few hours with. Plum, an under-appreciated bounty hunter with 2 protectors/boyfriends, gets to the bottom of the problems with the help of her trusty sidekick Lulu. While Lulu is a stereotypical overweight, ghettoized black former prostitute, she does bring some occasional levity. Grandma Mazur’s role is less prominent here, and we don’t see much of Morelli, Plum’s parents, or any of the usual characters. A fast read, good for a night in front of the fire with an adult beverage.

Lucy Score’s Knockemout series is a real gem. Nothing serious, just beach reading for the fall. The characters are well-drawn, and the dialogue snappy. All are currently available on Amazon Unlimited. I’m not a Colleen Hoover fan, but Hoover fans might find this a pleasant change.

Tananarive Due is an American author and educator who has written several books in the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres. The Reformatory is a haunting work of historical fiction written as only Due could, by piecing together the life of the relative her family never spoke of and bringing his tragedy and those of so many others at the infamous Dozier School for Boys to the light in this riveting novel. A gripping, page-turning novel set in Jim Crow Florida that follows Robert Stephens Jr. as he’s sent to a segregated reform school that is a chamber of terrors where he sees the horrors of racism and injustice, for the living, and the dead. (Amazon)

The NIckle Boys won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2020. Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers and “should further cement Whitehead as one of his generation’s best” (Entertainment Weekly). From

White lies. Dark humor. Deadly consequences… Bestselling sensation Juniper Song is not who she says she is, she didn’t write the book she claims she wrote, and she is most certainly not Asian American—in this chilling and hilariously cutting novel from R.F. Kuang, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Babel.

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks. So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I. So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller is? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree. (Amazon)

In Democracy Awakening, Richardson crafts a compelling and original narrative, explaining how, over the decades, a small group of wealthy people have made war on American ideals. By weaponizing language and promoting false history they have led us into authoritarianism — creating a disaffected population and then promising to recreate an imagined past where those people could feel important again. She argues that taking our country back starts by remembering the elements of the nation’s true history that marginalized Americans have always upheld. Their dedication to the principles on which this nation was founded has enabled us to renew and expand our commitment to democracy in the past. Richardson sees this history as a roadmap for the nation’s future. Many books tell us what has happened over the last five years. Democracy Awakening explains how we got to this perilous point, what our history really tells us about ourselves, and what the future of democracy can be. (Amazon)

In 1838, a group of America’s most prominent Catholic priests sold 272 enslaved people to save their largest mission project, what is now Georgetown University. In this groundbreaking account, journalist, author, and professor Rachel L. Swarns follows one family through nearly two centuries of indentured servitude and enslavement to uncover the harrowing origin story of the Catholic Church in the United States. Through the saga of the Mahoney family, Swarns illustrates how the Church relied on slave labor and slave sales to sustain its operations and to help finance its expansion. Listen to the interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.

What’s On My List for Fall

  • The Last Word by Taylor Adams: A thriller novel that follows a young woman who is kidnapped and forced to play a deadly game of survival
  • Our Hideous Progeny by C.E. McGill: A horror novel that explores the life of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein
  • Weyward by Emilia Hart: A fantasy novel that follows a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and must navigate a world of magic and politics (NY Times bestseller)
  • How To Sell A Haunted House by Grady Hendrix: A horror novel about two estranged siblings who have to work together, after their parents die in an accident, to sell their parents’ house (NY Times bestseller)
  • Nightcrawling: A novel by Leila Mottley: A young Black woman walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system (Oprah Book Club, NY Times bestseller)
  • The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride: A novel about small-town secrets and the people who keep them (NY Times bestseller)
  • Trust by Hernan Diaz: A genre-bending, time-skipping story about New York City’s elite in the roaring ’20s and Great Depression. (Pulitzer Prize winner)
  • Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter: An Agatha Christie-style murder mystery
  • Yellowface by R.F. Kuang: Yellowface grapples with questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation, as well as the terrifying alienation of social media. (Reese’s Book Club, NY Times bestseller)

Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenage single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Relayed in his own unsparing voice, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities. This book was a co-winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, A New York Times “Ten Best Books of 2022 * An Oprah’s Book Club Selection * An Instant New York Times Bestseller * An Instant Wall Street Journal Bestseller * A #1 Washington Post Bestseller.

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