Hold It!

If WPL customers were going to pick one book that they most want to read right now (let’s assume that the book with the highest number of holds is that book) then The President is Missing  written by a former U.S. president and the world’s best-selling author is a good choice.

It’s a safe bet that many readers would be able to find something interesting about a thriller that has espionage, a killer computer virus, gripping suspense and the guarantee that it will have behind-the-scene information that we have not seen before.  Truly excellent details.

When Bill Clinton is the co-writer on a novel and the character is sneaking away from his Secret Service minders you think he has either successfully done this before or knows exactly how it could be done when necessary.  All of the elements have come together in this book for a great beach read – it’s like they manufactured this book to satisfy as many people as possible and waited until the right time to get it on the shelves.  Clever.  Their publishers must be happy with the success of this book as it has outsold much of the competition in the busy summer season and reports say that they have sold the TV rights for their book. TV shows set in the White House do tend to be popular and with the added weight of Bill Clinton behind it – whoa.  I know that I’ll be watching.

So, what should you read once you have finished the Clinton-Patterson team up?  It’s a quick read because you can’t wait to find out how it ends so you will need to have a second book at the ready.  James Patterson is a successful author because he knows how to craft a plot and deliver a surprise at the end – teaming up with Bill Clinton did not change that pattern in the least – this book will go by quickly.  Despite them coming up with 513 pages of White House-related suspense I would suggest that you take a second book with you to the cottage or download something else because you will finish this one and be ready for another faster than you think.  Here are a few suggestions of what you could read next.

If presidential stories have caught your fancy and you are willing to try something new you really should try this one from Quirk Book’s Andrew Shaffer.  He has set Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the roles of Holmes and Watson in what I really hope will be a successful series.  The story of Hope Never Dies begins with our lonely hero Amtrak Joe learning that one of his favourite train conductors has been killed in a train accident.  In fact, Barack comes to tell him the news and Joe is relieved to see him again.  Joe has been feeling a bit left out lately.  After years of spending time together he has watched and wondered about where their friendship is going post-White House and too many nights looking at Barack’s photos online with famous actors and politicians have left him a bit melancholy.  As Joe digs deeper into the circumstances surrounding his conductor friend’s death some of the details look fishy so he turns to Barack for assistance and their bromance heats up again.  This fabulous story allows them to put on their shades, get back in the saddle, and drive a car for themselves instead of having the Secret Service do it for them.  This isn’t a hard-boiled crime novel at all so if that is what you are hoping for you should probably take a pass on Joe and Barack but there is a solid mystery to be solved and a chance to laugh a bit as you wonder if this version of their personalities is at all like the one we imagine them to have.  It’s not all sharing ice cream cones and going to basketball games you know, there are car chases, they wear disguises and Barack carries a weapon when they storm into a warehouse.  It sounds pretty good, right?

Joe and Barack were once powerful men with the full force of the White House behind them when they are trying to solve their mystery but Michael Tanner is just an average guy on the way home from a business trip when he makes the mistake of picking up the wrong briefcase and stepping into a mess that is almost too terrifying to contemplate.  I love the idea of mixed up briefcases.  It sounds like something that might happen in a Disney movie but in this book it all turns dark so very quickly. In The Switch he picks up a case belonging to a U.S. senator who has top secret information on her laptop.  Once she knows he has, there is a target on his back and the clock is ticking to get the contents back from Michael.  He strongly believes they want him dead to hide the evidence which just adds to the feeling of desperation.  The narrative goes back and forth between Michael’s story and that of the Senator’s Chief of Staff who will do anything to solve this problem for his boss.  It’s a gripping tale and has the added bonus of being written by a journalist who specializes in covering espionage and international affairs for the New York Times and The Washington Post.  The terrifying authenticity in books like this will make you think twice when you pick up your personal items from the security line at any airport.

Really, any of these thriller/suspense/murder-mystery type stories can be so much fun to read but you don’t want them to happen to anyone in the real world.  A mystery about the President of the United States is safely set far from your own experience but when you read something like The Switch it is much more personal.  This is exactly the case with the novels of Clare Mackintosh.  Her debut novel, I Let You Go, about a hit and run accident involving a 5-year old boy caught readers by the throat, partially for her beautiful writing, and partially because it seemed like something that could happen to any one of us.

With Let Me Lie the main character is a young mother coping with the double suicide of her mother and father when she receives a note that causes her to rethink the circumstances of their deaths.  She convinces a local retired detective to help her in her investigation and then starts receiving threats on her life and that of her child.  There are plot twists that will cause you to gasp out loud while you read this book, you might even say things to the characters – questioning their decisions – but it’s a book that keeps you turning pages long into the afternoon or evening.  There are no spies and not a single member of the Secret Service but this is a truly satisfying thriller.  If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy her two previous novels, oh, so much good reading is ahead for you.

Thrillers are the perfect choice for late summer reading, whether they are written by a man who Forbes once said is second only to J. K. Rowling in total earnings or one who is known for writing a guide to surviving a sharknado – there really is so much time for a great book.

— Penny M.

 

Shhh…A Quiet Place

We received a movie at WPL this week that has been worth waiting for. I don’t always think this. I place my holds early and often for books but don’t really follow the same plan for movies. I know that a new book is coming months, sometimes years, before it is published and it’s so exciting. With movies, it’s a so-so feeling. Many movies are good, many movies have captivating performances, gorgeous sets, wonderful costumes, sensational soundtracks but very few will actually knock my socks off. Well, this is the one. Socks are off. This is the one you must see. A movie that should rise to the top of every list this year. It’s John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place.

Initially it was billed as a horror film and then the tide seemed to swing towards marketing it as a thriller but I would say it is more like a classic suspense film with a few monsters thrown in to spice things up. The monsters are definitely scary. A bird flew past our kitchen window the day after we saw this movie and I was sure it was one of those monsters in our backyard. That feeling has finally worn off now.

This is John Krasinski’s film because he is the director, co-writer and star of this film. You might be thinking to yourself “Hey, isn’t he Jim from the American version of The Office?” when you see his face on screen. Yes, yes, he IS Jim from The Office and he is just as spectacular as a father who is leading his family through a post-apocalyptic world where monsters are hunting them using the sounds that they make as he was when he played Jim. And these monsters, they are hunting for any sounds. This family is so careful about not making noise that they use American Sign Language to communicate, play Monopoly with felt pieces, and spread this wonderful white sand on the walkways of their farm to muffle their footsteps. Now, about that sand. Where did it all come from? I was really not sure about this as we were watching the film but I could not even bring myself to lean over and ask anyone in my family because I was so compelled to stay silent throughout the whole thing. I’m sure that you have heard this from other people who have seen the film or even seen some of the jokes online.

quiet

But after you see the movie you can’t stop talking about every last detail. I think it’s been our top film for post-movie chatting for the whole year. Maybe it was because we felt like we had to stay silent through the whole thing or maybe it was because of the outstanding performances of the cast, the beauty of the landscape and the sheer terror we felt while we were watching. Other than Krasinski the cast is small which works very well and adds to the sense of isolation on screen as you realize that so few people survived the apocalypse. It’s just eerie. Emily Blunt plays his wife in a role that is half earth-mother, half warrior and they have cast some wonderful actors as their children, including a young woman who also had a lead role in 2017’s Wonderstruck.

This is a challenging film for all of the actors as so much of the emotion is conveyed entirely through gestures and facial expression – there is no room for error in their parts and it is done well. You can find some wonderful interviews online with the actors as they describe the work that they did to prepare for these roles and the guidance they received from young Millicent Simmonds with using ASL on film.

And, I know it’s a horror/thriller film, but I did really think it was a beautiful film. It might not make it to any Oscar lists for costumes or set design but there was a distinct look to this movie. They cared. Really, if they hadn’t been facing a constant struggle to stay alive I think it might not have been a bad way to live. The lovely photographs on their walls, the jam jars and quilts. Like Country Living but dingy. I did catch myself thinking that the absolute silence of their home life was appealing. Their kids were playing Monopoly without arguing over who got which piece or who had the next turn. I know, I know, they are living in the constant shadow of an ever present danger that will swoop in and eat them if they even knock a knife off of the table. But the sense of calm and all of the cozy sweater wearing? I could go for that. Monsters – no. More whispering while we play board games after dinner – yes.

The Blu-ray + DVD copies that we have here at the library come with glamorous special features which I am so very excited about. Director John Krasinski will give us a special behind the scenes look in Creating The Quiet and they have also included The Sound of Darkness and something called A Reason For Silence : the art of unforgettable visual effects. I look forward to watching all of these and I am going to watch the entire film one more time. I’m going to watch it again because I know that I am going to love being terrified again, because those children are absolutely amazing, because Emily Blunt gives an incredible performance as the strongest onscreen mother I have ever seen and because this time I’ll be able to eat popcorn while I watch.

— Penny M.

Need To Know

Have you ever been watching a TV show or film when suddenly the scene depicted becomes so tense you feel like you just can’t bear to watch and want to hide until it’s over? I have but not while reading a book…until now.

In Need to Know by Karen Cleveland, Vivian Miller is a busy wife and mother of four children, one of which has special medical needs. She is also a CIA counterintelligence analyst. Vivian develops an algorithm to root out Russian agents hiding in the United States, but what she discovers will turn her whole world upside down. She is forced to choose what is more important, the security of her country, or the lives of her family.

Need to Know is a nail-biter from beginning to end. I found Vivian’s character very real and believable, and felt as if I were struggling right along with her, trying to decide what I would do. The twists and turns in plot keep the story moving at a fast pace, and I found that I was still thinking about the ending days after finishing the book.

I first heard about Need to Know from the author Louise Penny, who highly recommended it in her monthly newsletter. Other best-selling authors, such as John Grisham, Lee Child, and Patricia Cornwell all have high praise for this book as well.

The author, Karen Cleveland, was a former CIA analyst herself, so the subject matter is obviously very familiar to her. It is hard to believe that Need to Know is Cleveland’s first novel. I only hope, for the sake of everyone who enjoys reading it as much as I did, that it won’t be her last.

— Sandy Wilmering

Girl Power

There has been a huge shift in the world recently: women and girls are taking centre stage, their voices are being heard, their talents, strengths, and abilities recognized. Books, movies, and television are featuring strong female characters, such as Katniss from The Hunger Games, Diana Prince from Wonder Woman, and Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones.

The heroine in Tyrell Johnson’s The Wolves of Winter is no different. Gwendolynn (Lynn) McBride is a survivalist in a world laid to ruin from nuclear war and a pandemic flu. Lynn and her family eke out an existence in the cold and snowy Yukon, away from what’s left of humankind and the clutches of disease. Lynn spends her days skillfully hunting with a bow and arrow, trapping animals, and remembering what life was like before. She is not afraid to speak her mind, or fight for what she feels is right. In my mind I picture Lynn like Ygritte, the wildling from Game of Thrones (she even has long red hair).

After seven years in the wilderness, Lynn is surprised to encounter a man named Jax and his dog, Wolf. She brings them home, never imagining the whirlwind that follows. Jax seems full of secrets and dangerous talents, and, when more strangers appear, things quickly spiral out of control. Lynn will find herself questioning everything and everyone she thought she knew.

This may be Johnson’s first book but I feel he does an amazing job of making you feel like you can see what Lynn is seeing; the Yukon he describes is beautiful but also dangerous.  Johnson’s apocalypse is believable: you only have to read newspaper headlines to feel afraid this book could come true. The plot really quickens in pace after Lynn meets Jax. The Wolves of Winter has action scenes, plot twists, and even some romance. I would not be surprised to see Johnson write a sequel to continue Lynn’s story. Overall, I would give The Wolves of Winter 4 out of 5 stars.

-Sandy W.

A wild ride of secrets & betrayal

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda is a domestic thriller that takes readers on a wild ride of secrets, betrayal and deceit. Readers witness one full day in the lives of Paul and Mia Strom as they set off on a short holiday that they expect to be the ‘best day ever’. As the minutes and hours tick by, readers are privy to the main character’s innermost feelings and motivations and witness their idyllic holiday spin out of control.

The beginning of the book has a slower pace than I had expected and I’ll admit that it took me awhile to feel invested in Paul and Mia’s lives. But if readers are patient they’ll enjoy the slow building of tension as the author reveals, in wee doses, the cracks in her main character’s perfect veneer.

You never know what goes on behind closed doors and Rouda brings this idea home by giving her readers a chilling, bird’s eye view of a dysfunctional and toxic relationship that appears perfect to those who know the Stroms. Best Day Ever is a story of a sociopath who has manipulated people and events to build a perfect life. This character will easily go down as one of the least likable yet compelling characters I can remember reading. You can’t help but be mesmerized and a little bit fearful of their narcissism, sense of entitlement and total lack of empathy.

The story has a slow build and while some of the plot was predictable to this well-read suspense reader, overall this was a good creepy page turner that readers will have a hard time putting down. It has a memorable evil character and I enjoyed how the simple plot is slowly infused with a sinister feel as Rouda unfolds her story and reveals her characters’ true natures to her readers.

-Laurie P.

 

Oh, the horror!

I am taking a course this summer that requires me to read from genres outside of my normal reading tastes. Horror is a genre I haven’t touched since the mid 1980’s, when I read Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, became terrified of my roommate’s cat, and had to sleep with the light on for a week!

The other day I noticed one of our new books at WPL called The Only Child by Andrew Pyper. When I saw National Post quoted on the cover saying “Pyper could be the next Stephen King” and then discovered that Pyper is Canadian, I was willing to give horror another try.

The Only Child revolves around the character of Dr. Lily Dominick, a forensic psychiatrist, who became obsessed with the human mind after witnessing her mother’s death at the age of six. Lily’s newest patient, however, shakes her to the core: not only does he claim to be 200 years old, but he says he knew her mother. Lily struggles between what is real and not real, both in the memories of her mother and the stories this “man” tells her about his life. The patient/man/monster quickly establishes a hold on Lily that keeps both her and the reader in suspense and looking over a shoulder until the end of the book.

Elements of the characters of classic horror, including Jeykll and Hyde, Dracula, and Frankenstein are present in this storyline, so it definitely had the potential to be terrifying. However, I found the book to be more creepy than scary. I was able to determine a couple of plot twists way in advance, which also helped reduce my fright (and our hydro bill). Overall, I would give The Only Child 3 stars out of 5.

-Sandy W.

The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena is a fast-paced, twist-filled thriller that had me repeatedly questioning the identity of the culprit.  Lapena includes the points of view of a few of her characters which gives readers brief glimpses into their personalities, insecurities, fears and motivations.  She then slowly unveils different aspects of these characters and the secrets they’ve been hiding that will cause readers to question if their earlier predictions were correct.  What really happened?  Who is lying? No one is as they seem and with twists sprinkled liberally throughout I was eager to find out the identity of the culprit.

couplenextdoorThe only criticisms that I’d have for this book is that some of the characters could have had more depth, some of their actions/responses were questionably believable and the ending felt a little expected (I think I was expecting one big, final twist).  But overall I quite enjoyed being along for this suspenseful ride.

The Couple Next Door is a very impressive and well thought out psychological thriller.  It is a highly entertaining, hard-to-put down, ‘nothing-is-getting-done-until-I-know-whodunnit’ kind of read. Highly recommended.

– Laurie P.