The Girl on the Train is in theatres now, and audiences are rediscovering the magic of Paula Hawkins’ novel. For those seeking a similar blend of mystery and suspense, our bloggers recommend these titles.
Linda: Like The Girl on the Train, Siracusa by Delia Ephron combines high-stakes suspense with a jaundiced look at relationships. Two married couples travel to an ancient city in Sicily in hopes of reviving their marriages — or finishing them off for good. One couple brings along their preteen daughter to add a truly unpredictable element to the unfolding disaster. As in The Girl on the Train, an assortment of secretive, self-absorbed narrators gradually unfolds this tale of a Mediterranean vacation gone horribly awry.
Lori: In Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon, former superstar London reporter Alex Dale is on the fast track to liver failure — her inability to ban the bottle is making a shambles of her personal and professional lives. Alex stumbles into investigating the unsolved crime of a girl who, 15 years ago, was brutally assaulted and has been living in a nursing home in a coma ever since. Can Alex bring a vicious rapist to justice while battling her own addiction?
Christine: Who would you trust if your memory vanished every time you went to sleep? Your husband? Your doctor? Your journal? A fast-paced thriller, Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson will engross you to the very last word. As Christine Lucas attempts to figure out the truth about her accident, her son, her marriage, you will be overwhelmed as you feel her frustration and fear as she tries to figure out who wants to harm her. But is she correct? Be prepared to feverishly read this story, stopping only when you have read the last word!
In Daniel Sweren-Becker’s The Ones, genetically engineering humans has become a reality. The “Ones” are 1 percent of the population chosen through a lottery system, before birth, for genetic engineering to be perfect in looks and health, among other things. And not everyone is okay with that. Through the point of view of Cody and her boyfriend James, who are Ones now in their teens, we witness the increasing unrest between the Ones and the “Equality Movement,” a group that doesn’t exactly agree with the advantages that the Ones have over the rest of humanity. When a Supreme Court decision passes ruling that genetically engineering humans is in fact illegal, the Ones receive even more hateful attention. A list that reveals the names of every One, a mysterious group called “The Weathermen,” and a school take-over gone wrong leads to a terrible discovery and a plan that could do more harm than good.
Cody and James’ struggle with crossing difficult lines, what’s right and wrong and ultimately the truth will test their relationships with each other, their families and even with the rest of the world. Themes like human equality, activism and scientific curiosity are largely present throughout the book. These parallels to society today make the characters and story easy to relate to.
This quick and exciting read will leave you wanting more, so keep an eye out for the next book in The Ones series. Those of you who enjoy teen novels with dystopian society or science fiction themes, will easily find that you can’t put The Ones down.
We return to the world of the Shadowhunters in Cassandra Clare’s Lady Midnight, the first installment of The Dark Artifices trilogy, a sequel to The Mortal Instruments series.
Five years after the Dark War that ravaged the Shadowhunter population, Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn have grown into brave young warriors. For Emma, dealing with demons, vampires and werewolves is much more appealing than dealing in matters of the heart. She lives for revenge, determined to find out who really murdered her parents five years ago. Jules, on the other hand, has his hands full raising his younger siblings and doing whatever he has to do to keep his family together.
When faerie bodies bearing the same ritualistic marks as Emma’s parents start turning up all over Los Angeles, the young Shadowhunters take up the illicit task of investigating the murders. The stakes are raised even higher when Mark, the eldest Blackthorn, kidnapped by faeries during the Dark War, is returned to his family under the condition that the murderer be brought to the land of Faerie. If the Shadowhunters don’t find the killer, and quick, they risk losing Mark forever.
Full of fun banter, wild adventure and forbidden romance, Lady Midnight will have you on the edge of your seat throughout and leave you itching for book two. If you loved The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series, you can’t miss out on this thrilling next chapter.
Nick Mamatas manages the rare feat of making the reader feel utter disgust and laugh hysterically without having to turn a page in I Am Providence. Mamatas alternates between two narrators, an unsuccessful curmudgeon author and his platonic green-haired vegan roommate at a hotel in Providence, Rhode Island — one of whom tells their tale from the beyond after they are murdered and their face is removed. This particular disfigurement happens after it is revealed that the victim had been hired to act as a go-between in the sale of a book bound in human skin.
If you are curious as to why unsuccessful authors, book dealers, green-haired vegans, a face-removing murderer and a variety of other characters are all staying in a Rhode Island hotel, the obvious answer is notorious racist and occasional horror author H.P. Lovecraft. The Summer Tentacle is an annual con of sorts for fans of the Rhode Island native and his short story "The Call of Cthulhu." To keep things interesting, wine and social anxiety fuel this crowd, best summed up when Mamatas quipped; “The crowd drank with an intensity that only comes with the combination of free alcohol, unsuccessful writers and high stress.”
To those out there that have never heard of Cthulhu or find Lovecraft’s work to not your taste, don’t fret about not being able to enjoy Mamatas’ tale of murderous social commentary.
In the homogenous world of superhero film and television, everyone expected Netflix’s Luke Cage to be exceptional, but no one could have predicted the pure unadulterated joy that is Luke’s barbershop book club discussions with Pop. Luke is the well-read hero we deserve.
In the comics, Luke has been a leader of the Avengers, Heroes for Hire and even married Jessica Jones, but what he hasn’t been for 30 plus years is a solo act. So to craft a show around Luke that doesn’t involve Spider-Man, Iron Fist or Jessica Jones dropping by, the creators took inspiration from the world of detective fiction. Here are some of the many books and authors referenced in the new Netflix series.
“Donald Goines was a street poet."
Pop’s favorite detective hero is Donald Goines’ character Kenyatta, “the best black hero this side of Shaft” who fights to rid the streets of drug dealers and racist cops. Criminal Partners is the first book in the series.
“So you’re saying Kenyatta is better than Easy Rawlins?”
Easy Rawlins is the humble Vietnam vet who prefers to keep a low profile and get paid under the table while solving crimes in his community. He’s the best detective novel hero period, and I’m proud to claim him as a fellow Houstonian. Little Green by Walter Mosley is the book Luke is seen reading in episode two.
“George Pelecanos? Boom.”
Pelecanos was a writer for The Wire, a show that Luke Cage shares more than a few similarities (and actors) with. Right as Rain is the first book in his Derek Strange and Terry Quinn detective series, following two detectives fighting systemic racism in the police force.
Elsewhere, Chester Himes, Harry Bosch and Dennis Lehane get shout outs. Which books did you spot? Let us know in the comments.
Nothing pulls at the heartstrings more than the first time someone meets the love of his life. It's easy to imagine stolen glances from across the room followed by romantic walks through moonlit nights. However, in the book Ivory and Bone, author Julie Eshbaugh reminds us that love is not always that easy, and that it takes a little more work to get to the “heart” of things.
Set during the Ice Age, we experience how life may have been for early humans who inhabited the earth. In a land filled with the harsh realities of below freezing temperatures and diminished resources, we are introduced to the story of two young characters named Pek and Mya. Told in storytelling format through the voice of Pek, it will be easy to imagine a world where wooly mammoths roamed freely and where there was a thin line between an enemy and a friend.
Eshbaugh delves into the heart of human connection and shows us that cooperation between even warring clans is what possibly separated the first people from other mammals. This is a great read for those who have ever wondered how our early ancestors lived over 12,000 years ago. Get ready for an unexpected love story that will not only take you by surprise but will also be a journey through a landscape of frozen tundra of the prehistoric world.
As far as patent disputes go, this was a doozy. Graham Moore’s excellent new historical legal thriller, The Last Days of Night, plops us right into the hotbed of technological innovation that was in situ in late 19th century America. Readers are rewarded with the wonders of invention, dubious plots, a smidgen of romance and a peek into the wiring of the greatest minds of the day set amid Gilded Age New York.
So who really invented the light bulb? Neophyte attorney Paul Cravath finds himself embroiled in the legal wrangling between the inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist George Westinghouse. Cravath is hired to defend Westinghouse against a patent lawsuit filed by Edison. Edison says he holds the right to electrify a country still aglow with gas lamps. There is also the dilemma of alternating current (Westinghouse) versus direct current (Edison), with the winner transforming the world. Cravath is over his head and knows it in this highly readable retelling of the War of the Electric Currents that actually took place between 1888 and 1896.
Moore, author of The Sherlockian and the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game, actually recreates the time period from 1888 to 1890. Along the way, we are introduced to familiar names, like J.P. Morgan, Alexander Bell and Viktor Tesla, as well as the birth and controversy of the modern electric chair. Cravath’s love interest, the singer Agnes Huntington, develops into a surprising multi-hued personality that adds the merest trifle of melodrama.
With a calibrated dose of legal and technical jargon, Moore’s fast-moving narrative is certain to carry broad appeal for readers wanting to get inside the heads of brilliant and visionary giants. For those wanting the real story, try the excellent Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, George Westinghouse and the Race to Electrify the World by historian Jill Jonnes. A film adaption of The Last Days of Night is also in the works, starring actor Eddie Redmayne as Paul Cravath.
You don’t have to delve particularly deeply into musician Franz Nicolay’s solo discography before you start to notice a couple of trends. First, Nicolay likes telling stories, and he’s good at telling them. Second, he has a deep and abiding passion for words. The lyrics of the eponymous track of 2012’s “Do the Struggle” (one of the songs that he references early in The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar) reads more like a Kerouacian beat poem than a folk-punk song. By the same token, the finished product of The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar can hardly be described as predictable.
More of a travel memoir than anything else, Nicolay takes great pains to avoid talking about his own music in the book, even going so far as to proclaim early on: “I’ll describe [the shows] once, then you can mentally copy and paste this into the hole I gloss over toward the end of each day.” Instead, he delivers exactly what the title of the book promises, a tour of the punk underground. There’s so little narcissism in this book that it could have just as easily been written by one of the oft-referenced communist revolutionaries rather than a Brooklyn-based songwriter. Throughout the book, Nicolay’s focus is squarely on the countryside, the cities and the people of Eastern Europe. Just as often as he references himself, he also shares the spotlight with his travelling companions and famous authors — from his ethnomusicologist/wife Maria to Dostoyevsky to the Marquis de Custine, a 19th-century French aristocrat who seems particularly close to Nicolay’s heart.
But amidst the (surprising) conversations with young Russian and Ukrainian punks about underground American punk bands like RVIVR or Bridge and Tunnel, and the monotonous nightly shows in unfinished basements, Nicolay and his wife find themselves passing back through Ukraine only months after Vladimir Putin’s invasion and occupation. What follows are not only some of the most touching first-hand accounts of the effects the occupation had on the people of Ukraine, but also some incredibly moving moments of self-discovery for Nicolay himself. This book doesn’t so much progress slowly as it takes its time getting to its destination, and the reader is never left wishing Nicolay would pick up the pace; he’s too good of a storyteller for that. Like his music, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control ultimately draws its strength from Nicolay’s words and rhythm. Even standing on their own merits, the facts of his adventure are almost as epic and expansive as the appendices in the back of the book. As far as travelogues go, I’ve never read better. Nicolay’s music can be found here, RVIVR and Bridge and Tunnel here and here.