Readerly Top Picks In Paperbacks – February 2016

Many of wonderful titles we’ve loved and recommended are now out in paperback. Enjoy!

Frog Music by Emma DonoghueFrog Music by Emma Donoghue (Back Bay Books) Set in 1870s San Francisco, a French burlesque dancer and courtesan struggles to stay alive after the murder of her unorthodox friend.  The dark world of dandies, pimps, and prostitutes is made vibrant and real by Donoghue’s electric prose.  Written in the present tense, the story races from both the dramatic plot – a smallpox epidemic, a crippling heat wave, baby farms – and the messy world inhabited by the main characters.

disclaimerDisclaimer by Renee Knight (Harper Paperbacks) Knight’s Disclaimer is about a documentary filmmaker who upon reading a book, which has appeared mysteriously in her home, figures out that it’s about one of her own thoroughly hidden secrets. As her fear and paranoia grow, she (and we)  wonder where it came from, how it was placed in her house, and most importantly who knows her secret and what they intend to do with the information. Knight’s writing is addictive, and she has written a surprising and thoughtful page-turner tat will leave you breathless with the suspense and a tad more considerate of the assumptions you make about other people’s situations.

Pretty Babypretty baby by Mary Kubica (Mira) Heidi Wood is one of those rare individuals who goes out of her way to help others. Her family has grown used to her bringing home stray cats, but when she brings home a teenage girl and infant she found cowering in the rain at the train station, her family is understandably horrified. Heidi knows nothing about young Willow yet she opts to see the bright, positive side in this young woman.  However, when the truth about Willow’s past and identity slowly come to the surface, the Wood family is immersed in a twisted, unimaginable story. Told from multiple perspectives, this novel has one of those climaxes that comes out of nowhere, stunning the most focused of readers. It may sound cliché, but this is genuinely one of the most hypnotic thrillers we have read in some time!

Melt: The art of Macaroni and Cheesemelt the art of macaroni and cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti, Garrett McCord, Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown, and Company) Think beyond school ­cafeteria mac and cheese to discover the modern, bright flavors of today’s cheese and pasta dishes. The easy recipes run the gamut from an updated baked ziti to a light pasta salad with goat cheese and grilled peaches. With its world of flavors and casual feel, Melt is destined to become your go ­to cookbook for relaxed entertaining.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to DustAs Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley (Bantam) Fans of Flavia de Luce rejoice! The young sleuth is back after uncovering a crucial family secret. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust finds Flavia forced out on her own ­ to Canada, and her new school, where she discovers a body stuffed up the chimney. But bigger still is the mystery of who she can trust, and watching Flavia come into her own makes this one of the best books yet.

The Mapmaker’s Childrenthe mapmakers children by Sarah McCoy (Broadway Books) The Mapmaker’s Children is composed of the parallel stories of Sarah (daughter of the infamous John Brown) and her work on the Underground Railroad and modern-day Eden who is struggling with infertility. This is a beautifully written book that explores the power of family and relationships, through the stories of these two complex women.

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Soni am sorry to have raised by Kent Russell (Vintage) Russell’s prose is simplistic and approachable, with moments of lyricism. He fluctuates between existential analysis and dry humor and back again, often on the same page. What proves most refreshing, though, is Russell’s choice to not overtly put all his cards on the table; he never gives the compilation a concrete definition. If taken as merely a collection of essays one may find I Am Sorry to Think That I Have Raised a Timid Son not altogether cohesive. Think of it more as a sort of journalistic memoir and you’ll find Russell’s musings profound, naked, and moving.

The Damnedthe damned by Andrew Pyper (Simon & Schuster) The Damned introduces readers to Danny Orchard, the best-­selling author of a book detailing his near death experience, which incidentally kills his twin sister. Danny is also in the unique position of protecting his loved ones from said jealous, clingy sister. Pyper’s delightfully appalling meditation on the nature of evil and the afterlife greatly benefits from its solid grounding in the rich, layered history of the once thriving, now urban blighted, city of Detroit. The Damned is a two ­pronged terror ride, as fantastical as it is intelligent, and as fun to read as it is disturbing.

EpitaphEpitaph by Mary Doria Russell (Ecco) Mary Doria Russell brings to life the dusty heat of Tombstone, Arizona in Epitaph, her novel of the O.K. Corral. Though you likely know the story of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, you’ve never heard it like this. America in 1881 was a country divided by the outcome of civil war. Politics were dirty, and the media was dirtier, but the Earp brothers stood against that corruption. They didn’t escape unscathed, and the aftermath of the shootout and the story of these men and the women they loved is enthralling.

The VillageThe village by Nikita Lalwani (Random House Trade Books) In The Village, Nikita Lalwani evokes the richness of contemporary India and introduces readers to a unique prison setting through the use of precise language. It’s a fascinating examination of the difference between reality and the narrative we choose to present to the world. 


Girl in the Darkgirl in the dark by Anna Lyndsey (Anchor) With some bouts of sensitivity that prevent her leaving this room for several months at a time, Lyndsey shares the excruciatingly considered routines, games, audiobooks, people, and inspiring moments that keep her alive, as well as the slow progress in diagnosing and finding viable treatments to alleviate her symptoms. By turns introspective, humorous, thought-provoking and inspiring, Lyndsey gracefully shares her journey while instilling admiration for both her spirit and the remarkable courage and strength that allows for thriving under adverse circumstances.