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Librarians

A Warped Sense of Reality

The Girl BelowThere is an unsettling mystery at the heart of Bianca Zander’s debut novel, The Girl Below, a tale of family secrets and self-discovery set in modern-day London. When Suki Piper was a little girl, she lived with her parents in a basement flat in Notting Hill. One night, her parents threw a party in their building’s courtyard. During the revelry, Suki and a few others became trapped underground in a World War II-era air raid shelter on the property. Suki has no memory of how she escaped, and this incident haunts her repeatedly, in dreams and also in waking moments when she is suddenly transported back to the party. She has other strange memories, including a hand which would reach out to her from a wardrobe and an unnerving statue of a girl in her neighbor’s flat. In the present day, Suki is in her late twenties and having a tough time. After a decades-long lonely existence in New Zealand trying to reconnect with her father, she has returned to London. Having little success with a job search or friendships, she becomes reacquainted with her former neighbors, a nice but dysfunctional family. Suki is once again launched into her past and must make sense once and for all of her fractured family and the missing pieces.

 

Suki can be a frustrating narrator, coming across as fairly lazy, impulsive and immature. Yet as she embarks on her search and more is revealed about her unstable family and upbringing, she becomes a more sympathetic character. Childhood events are relayed as Suki remembers them, giving a large portion of the story a fantastical, magical bend. Among her influences, Zander cites authors as diverse as Haruki Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sarah Waters. From these inspirations, a unique story is spun.  

 

Melanie

 
 

Unfaithful

Unfaithful

posted by:
November 23, 2012 - 8:05am

The Good WomanAt the center of The Good Woman by Jane Porter is Meg Brennan Roberts, who has always been good. As the oldest of a large Irish-American family, she is the good daughter, always available for support for her siblings, especially now that their mother’s cancer has returned. She is a good wife to Jack, her loving, successful architect husband and a good mother to three wonderful children. She has a good career as a publicist for a small winery in Napa. But lately, Meg has been having thoughts that are anything but good.

 

It all starts on a business trip to London with her younger, handsome boss Chad Hallahan. The international locale and whirlwind of fine food and wine prompt Chad to passionately express his feelings for Meg. She is flattered, and upon returning home cannot get him out of her mind. His declaration coincides with her recent feelings of emptiness, second-guessing her life choices. All of that, combined with the recent emotional distance of her husband, leads Meg right into Chad’s arms.

 

The guilt is overwhelming, but when she is with Chad, she feels like herself again and is blissfully happy.  Unfortunately, that happiness comes at the cost of everyone else in her life and who they need her to be. She chooses her family, but Jack discovers the affair, kicks her out of the house, and turns their children against her. Her family is shocked at their good girl’s behavior and heaps judgment upon her. This is an emotional story that packs a lot of punch. Porter captures the sisterly relationships perfectly and shares the story of infidelity without casting Meg as victim or villain. It is a real life story about tough choices and the aftershocks of mistakes. Readers will rejoice as this is the first of a trilogy, guaranteeing future meetings with the fabulous Brennan sisters.

Maureen

 
 

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

posted by:
November 19, 2012 - 9:05am

Grace Grows Grace Grows by debut novelist Shelle Sumners proves once again that opposites attract. After growing up in the wake of her parents’ ugly divorce, sensible Grace Barnum has worked hard to create an ordered world for herself. She knows that her life is on the right track. She has a safe job editing textbooks. Grace lives with her boyfriend Steven, a reliable patent attorney who she is comfortable with but isn’t certain she truly loves. She carries anything that she could possibly need throughout the day in her purse (which she calls Big Green), so she is never caught unprepared. Grace is a perfectionist, and she works hard to live up to her own expectations. Then, she meets her neighbor’s dogwalker Tyler Wilkie. Tyler is a musician who just moved to New York City. His life is as different from Grace’s ordered world as you could possibly imagine. As their friendship deepens, Grace is confused by her feelings for Tyler who writes beautiful songs to share his feelings about her from the start. Grace has to learn to let go of perfection and open her heart to the love and life that she wants and needs. Sumners tells the story of this slow-building romance with wit and honesty, making readers want Tyler and Grace to overcome the obstacles and find a way to be happy together. This is a love story that will appeal to fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner.

 

Tyler’s handsome exterior and poet’s soul charms the reader along with Grace. Sumners brings his voice to the novel through the soulful lyrics of his original songs, which were written by her husband, singer-songwriter Lee Morgan. The soundtrack to Grace and Tyler’s story is available on the author’s website.

Beth

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Tantalizing Tales of the Strange

I am an ExecutionerI Am an Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran is an unusual collection of nine stories that tackle love and ecstasy, each with elements of the grotesque. Each story becomes odder with each turn of the page. “The Infamous Bengal Ming” recounts one catastrophic day in the life a heart-breaking sincere tiger who finds himself irreversibly in love with his zookeeper, Kitch. Told from the tiger’s perspective, it becomes obvious that even the kindest of intentions can have deadly repercussions.In “The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Golarajan” we find Gopi, who has recently been fired by CompUSA. He takes this opportunity to fulfill his dream of being a doctor by checking out medical books from his local library and opening his own practice in a filthy old pet store. In a cringing series of events, Gopi and his wife, Manju, become lost in the murky realms of pride, illness, and deception.

 

For readers who like exploratory narration, this rich, unsettling collection plays with nontraditional points of view and alternative storytelling. From the single collective voice of a community to a group of insects under attack from humans on their planet Lucina, each new world feels both familiar yet foreign. Although it is impossible to guess where Parameswaran will lead you, be assured, where you will end up will be like no place you’ve ever been. Be forewarned.

Sarah Jane

 
 

A Love Letter to Spy Novels

A Love Letter to Spy Novels

posted by:
November 12, 2012 - 9:10am

The Double GameBaltimore author Dan Fesperman has written a tribute to classic spy novels - in the form of another spy novel. For espionage aficionados, Double Game is a dream book because Fesperman ingeniously scatters clues from classic spy thrillers throughout his riveting new book.

 

Reporter Bill Cage has been obsessed with spy novels since he was a boy. His father, a Foreign Service officer, introduced him to masters such as John Le Carre, Len Deighton, and Graham Greene. It is former spook and novelist Edwin Lemaster, however, who has the most impact on Cage, and the fictionalized Lemaster is the center of Double Game.

 

As a young journalist, Cage gets the interview of a lifetime with his idol, Lemaster. Unfortunately, in an attempt to please his new bosses, he ends up betraying the author. Fast forward many years later: Lemaster returns to Cage’s life in a most unexpected way. Cage begins to receive anonymous messages suggesting that the great Lemaster may have a dangerous past. These messages set Cage off on a chase that will reveal dark secrets from his own background.

 

Double Game stands on its own as a suspenseful, fast-paced spy story but much of its appeal is Fesperman’s homage to the genre itself. In referencing many of the very best spy novels, readers will want to search out classics they have overlooked and re-read old favorites.

 

Zeke

 
 

Eight Degrees of Manipulation

The Stockholm OctavoSome novels seem designed for escape, others for amusement, and yet others to satisfy an intellectual craving. Karen Engelmann’s The Stockholm Octavo fits into none of these particular niches yet embodies the characteristics of them all by simply engulfing the reader. With each passing scene, Engelmann sweeps the reader further into to a richly-detailed hybrid of 18th century Swedish politics and mysticism.

 

Emil Larsson has fared well for himself in this world. A rising sekretaire, skillful gamer and thoroughly contented bachelor, Larsson is a man immersed in the pleasures and glory of Stockholm’s Golden Age.  However, destiny is about to deal Emil an altogether new hand. One night, shortly after learning he must give up bachelorhood to maintain his prestigious government post, Emil is approached by Mrs. Sparrow, the proprietress of his favorite gaming house. A known seer, Mrs. Sparrow tells him she has had a startling vision of his future and invites him to undergo the cartomancy ritual known as the Octavo.

 

The Octavo is a rare and delicate reading – granted to few and successfully wielded by yet fewer. Revolving around a singular life-changing occurrence and the eight people who will bring the event to pass, the Octavo is no mere game. It is a chance meeting of known destiny and free will.  And as Emil is about to discover, he is not the only player.

 

The Stockholm Octavo will appeal to a wide range of readers. A wholly original and dazzling blend of historical events, personal fortune, political intrigue and mysticism awaits readers who dare to follow Emil on his perilous journey.

 

Meghan

 
 

Deadly Crescendo

Deadly Crescendo

posted by:
November 9, 2012 - 8:08am

Little StarNot for faint hearts or weak stomachs, John Ajvide Lindqvist will be sure to terrify and delight horror fans with his unique brand of Scandinavian horror in Little Star.  Lennart and Laila Cedersrom were once a famous Swedish pop duo with a hit song.  As they grew older, their fame faded and they were left trapped in a disastrous marriage and with angry and bitter son. One fateful day, Lennart wandered into the woods to pick mushrooms, and he found an infant, left discarded, half buried and in a plastic bag.  He brings the infant home and gives her the moniker Little One.  Lennart has an ear for music, and soon he realizes that Little One emits the most beautiful notes. He believes she is destined to become a great singer. Afraid to call the police or social services in fear that they would take her away, Lennart and Laila keep Little One locked in the basement. They instill in her a fear of adults. She remains trapped for years, until she finally reaches adolescence.

 

In another part of Sweden we meet Theresa. As a girl, Theresa is quiet and doesn’t quite fit in socially.This becomes traumatic when she becomes older and begins to gain weight. She finds herself shunned and mocked at school, while even her one childhood friends finds a girlfriend and moves on. Theresa begins to withdraw from the world, creating online personas and trolling poetry sites. She becomes obsessed with a contestant on Sweden’s version of Idol, and is determined to meet this strange singer. When she finally meets Little One, a terrifying and dysfunctional friendship is formed. The novel examines the music industry, the effects of bullying, reality singing competitions and dysfunctional relationships and winds them together in a dark and terrifying package. Little Star is an unsettling read that will haunt readers long after they have finished the novel.

Doug

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Dark Secrets at The River House

Dark Secrets at The River House

posted by:
November 9, 2012 - 8:01am

Kept in the DarkThere is for each of us a place where we breathe easier, feel safer, and are most alive. It may be a quiet cabin in the mountains, a high-rise apartment in the city, or a cottage in the woods. Sonia’s place is The River House, a once beautiful three-story home along the Thames River in London. It is in this house that Sonia keeps her heart, her dreams, and her dark secrets in Penny Hancock’s Kept in the Dark. Other than sessions with her voice clients, Sonia spends much of her time at home alone. Her daughter has gone to university and her husband travels for work. It takes her by surprise when fifteen-year-old Jez, the nephew of her friend and neighbor Helen, arrives asking to borrow an old record album of her husband’s. Jez’s youth and beauty awaken memories that Sonia has worked hard to bury deep down, painful memories from her own youth. Long days spent on the river with her first love, Seb, come rushing back, and Sonia reacts by impulsively drugging Jez’s drink and holding him captive. Soon all of London is looking for the missing boy, never suspecting lovely, normal-looking Sonia. Long ago, Seb was taken from her, first by distance and then by a tragic river accident. This time, she will do whatever it takes to keep her young man safely with her forever.

 

Setting plays an essential part in Hancock’s writing, and both the house and the river are characters in this disturbing tale of obsession. Told alternately from the points of view of Helen and Sonia, we get a sense of the emotional instability of the human psyche as well as the various reactions people have under extreme stress. Like a horrific accident you cannot tear your eyes away from, Hancock dares you to look away as the many secrets unravel.  Fans of Sophie Hannah or readers looking for the next great dark thriller after Gone Girl will devour Kept in the Dark.

Sam

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Sand in the Wound

Sand in the Wound

posted by:
November 5, 2012 - 9:30am

A Hologram for the KingRecession-weary businessman Alan Clay lives in a maelstrom of uncertainty brought about by his own self-doubt and poor decisions in A Hologram for the King, the trenchant new novel by National Book Award finalist Dave Eggers. Divorced, broke, and obsessed with a lump on his neck, the fifty-four-year-old arrives in Saudi Arabia with an opportunity to redeem his mundane self in a ruthless global economy. He is greeted by a strangely out of place vinyl party tent where he and his team wait, and wait some more, for their one chance to impress the elusive King Abdullah and his newly built city of the future. 

 

As far as mirages go, there are plenty here. King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC)  is referred to as the "city to be in the desert by the sea"  when Clay and his team of young techies from Reliant Systems Corporation show up to demonstrate holographic teleconference systems. At stake is a citywide technology contract for their company and an emotional and financial turn-around for Clay. When Clay is not getting drunk, the former bicycle salesman is worrying about his daughter's fractured relationship with his ex-wife and how he will pay her next college tuition bill. He spends his free time writing her in a heartfelt voice several unfinished letters that he never mails.

 

Social commentary is nothing new for the multi-accomplished Eggers whose previous books include Zeitoun and What is the What. In the complex, somber Alan Clay, Eggers has created a wry character whose attempts to remain relevant and connected mirror America's own efforts to stem a decline of its own making. A pitch-perfect capture of the repercussions of today's international economic climate and the chicanery of the manufacturing industry, this solid and spare, quote-less novel is a reflection on how we live and work in a changing world.

 

Cynthia

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Mr. Rich or Mr. Right?

Mr. Rich or Mr. Right?

posted by:
November 5, 2012 - 8:45am

The Jane Austen Marriage ManualKate Shaw is broke, single, and approaching forty, but she is happy with her job as a freelance magazine writer and her circle of supportive friends. Unfortunately, Kate’s happiness is short lived in The Jane Austen Marriage Manual, by Kim Izzo, when she loses her job and her beloved grandmother dies. Still mourning that loss, Kate learns that the home she shared with her grandmother will have to be sold. Kate finds herself camped out in her sister’s living room, sleeping on a couch when she resolves to take a page from the lives of so many women in her favorite Jane Austen novels and find a rich husband. After all, it’s hard to live on love, but diamonds and Dom Perignon make everything a little brighter.

 

Her friends rally round by connecting her to other freelance jobs and presenting her with a unique birthday gift – a Scottish title! This title comes in handy for the newly named Lady Kate of Loch Broom. Her first job is to test the theory that to stay afloat in tough economic times a woman should find herself a wealthy man. Kate begins her research in earnest in London, Palm Beach, and St. Moritz where she rubs shoulders with the rich and richer. She is wooed by one wealthy man, but it is the charming bed and breakfast owner who keeps popping up at events and in her head.

  

Kate’s search for love is an age-old odyssey, but Izzo manages to freshen it up with a memorable cast of supporting characters and some hilariously embarrassing moments. The descriptions of lavish, spectacular parties and couture clothing read like something from The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and add pizzazz to Kate’s quest. Ultimately, underneath the fun and frivolity, this is an honest story of one sympathetic woman looking for money, but finding love instead. 

Maureen