We’re going to leap out in front of you this week with a book that we’ve been dying to tell you about for several months. Well, not dying dying. More like vibrating with excitement and holding our breath sort of dying. You know, like—never mind, here’s the book. 

Okay, okay. So, it’s not what you expected, but that’s what surprised us too. We didn’t think that a history of those couple of days in April of 1986 would keep us up late at night, but hoo boy, did it. Higginbotham has been researching Midnight in Chernobyl for more than twenty years, and his book pulls back the lead-lined curtain on the whole history of the Russian nuclear program. It’s a terrible, terrible event, but Higginbotham has written a fascinating and spellbinding account. 

On a more surreal note, Jasper Fforde is back this week with Early Riser, a standalone dystopian novel about long winters in Wales and the attendant bureaucracy. That’s right. You just can’t have long winters without some infrastructure to ensure that everyone who wants to sleep through the dark nights can do so without being disturbed (or being sold for body parts). Naturally, our protagonist is straight out of a Douglas Adams novel, and matters get complicated and creepy. You’ll probably never want to oversleep again. 

And speaking of strange things made stranger, James Patterson has found another niche that hasn’t been thoroughly exploited. Okay, so we have a police detective who might have gone too far in the line of duty. And when he’s put on administrative leave, he spends his time  moonlighting as a food-truck chef. Oh, wait. He’s a celebrity food-truck chef who is known throughout his community for his service to the culinary arts as well as customer service. Naturally, bad guys want to wreck everything, and it’s up to our steely-eyed food-truck hero to save the day. 

Right. Let’s run down our checklist here: Looks like a bad boy but has a heart of gold (check); likes animals and small children, aka community involvement (check); has humble job that is really what he wants to do when he isn’t saving the city (check); but he’s still a rock star, even when he’s trying to be humble (check); and he’s got a city-wide network of urchins/informants (check); who help him counter a terrorist threat (check). 

Back up the money wagons! We have another winner on our hands!

However, if you’d prefer a thriller with a chef angle that isn’t plot-by-numbers, may we suggest Crystal King’s The Chef’s Secret. Based on the life of Bartolomeo Scappi, who was chef to a couple of popes during the 16th century, The Chef’s Secret is part thriller, part historical romance, part culinary history, and thoroughly tasty. 

And if you’d prefer something that is more contemporary and way more psychologically unsettling, we can point you at Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s The Reckoning, the follow-up to her icy procedural thriller from last year, The Legacy. Look, we’re just going to come out and say this: it may seem like everyone is chipper and happy up there in Iceland, and sure, it’s sunny more often than not, but their crime fiction is really, REALLY dark. And, judging by the plot summary we’ve read, The Reckoning is keeping to that standard. Don't be fooled by that warm and buttery yellow cover. 


Hang on. We need to smudge this space a bit. Clear out the dark corners. Get a little light back in here. Oh, look. Here’s a handy book on how to magic up your space a bit. Erica Feldmann’s approach takes a page from a number of modalities (Kondo to crystallomancy), but never loses sight of her core principles of protection, comfort, harmony, and balance. 

And while we’re working on centering our chakras and reclaiming some quietude, how about a little paint pouring? That’s right. You just mix your paints until they’re sorta runny, dump them on a canvas, and swirl, swirl, swirl. 

Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, which is why Rick Cheadle's book is longer than the previous paragraph. We’re all for more exploration of fluid acrylics and organic motifs, and we should all take a breather once in a while from the harrowing world of psychological thrillers and tension-inducing police procedurals to do some finger-painting and swirling of jars. 

And since we’ve been mentioning historical fiction that includes the wives of Ernest Hemingway, we might as well mention The Sisters Hemingway, a contemporary novel by Annie England Noblin about four sisters who are all named after Hemingway’s wives. Naturally, they all scattered in the wind as soon as they were old enough, and it’s the death of Aunt Bea that brings them all back together at the old family home in the Missouri Ozarks. Naturally, each returns with a secret and there are more secrets to be uncovered at the family homestead. Noblin keeps the tone light and engaging, and each sister has a well-defined narrative arc that leads to satisfying resolutions for everyone. After some dark psychological thrillers and a bit of finger painting, The Sisters Hemingway is a delightful way to center your reading once again. 

Overheard At The Store »»

NADIA: What did you two do while I was gone? 

HODGE: We organized some of the books. 

PODGE: By color. 

NADIA: You didn’t—oh, you did. Ah, great? 

PODGE: They look pretty, don’t they? 

NADIA: Sure, if I was wanting to have a bouquet of flowers instead of a bookshelf . . . 

HODGE: But what do books do when you aren’t reading them? 

NADIA: Um, I don’t know. They sit in stacks and loom . . . ? 

HODGE: Precisely. 

PODGE: They loom. 

NADIA: I—stop that. What are you doing?

PODGE: Looming. 

NADIA: You look like a scrawny chicken. 

PODGE: You have to get your head forward . . . like . . . like this when you loom. Otherwise, it’s just lurking. 

NADIA: Well, neither is necessary, really. 

PODGE: I was just pretending to be a stack of books.

NADIA: No, I get it. You can stop now. 

HODGE: Wouldn’t you rather have books presenting themselves in a festive and attractive manner? 

NADIA: Yeah, okay. Sure. It’s better than—stop looming!

PODGE: Sorry. 

NADIA: You two—sometimes . . . okay, okay. So, aesthetically pleasing arrangements trumps stacks that are threatening to topple over on you. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!

HODGE: Podge. Perhaps you should come down from there. 

PODGE: I like it up here. I can see out the front window. 

NADIA: Oh my god. You two. I swear—

HODGE: Otters see finer gradations in the color spectrum than humans, by the way. That’s why we should be in charge of color-ordering the books. 

PODGE: We can see the difference between pumpernickel and periwinkle. 

NADIA: Wait. Isn’t one of those a type of bread?

PODGE: See? 

HODGE: Humans. 

NADIA: Hang on. What’s this other shelf up here? A what? What’s a wunderkammer? 

PODGE: Gesundheit


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