Saturdays at the Café is a weekly feature hosted here to talk about and discuss the books I’ve discovered during the past week, added to my shelf and am excited about reading. They may be new/scheduled releases I’ve seen on NetGalley, at the library, or from publishers or they may be older titles my friends have reviewed and shared on Goodreads or blogs.
Dark secrets, a devastating mystery and the games people play: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of The House We Grew Up In and The Third Wife.
You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.
You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.
You think your children are safe.
But are they really?
Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
I’ve become a recent fan of the author and am exploring her backlist, thanks to my library.
It’s the most sensational case of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar real estate fortune, vanishes on her way home from school, and her teacher, Bobby Nock, a twenty-five-year-old African American man, is the prime suspect. The subsequent trial taps straight into America’s most pressing preoccupations: race, class, sex, law enforcement, and the lurid sins of the rich and famous. It’s an open-and-shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed—until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, convinced of Nock’s innocence, persuades the rest of the jurors to return the verdict of not guilty, a controversial decision that will change all their lives forever.
Flash forward ten years. A true-crime docuseries reassembles the jury, with particular focus on Maya, now a defense attorney herself. When one of the jurors is found dead in Maya’s hotel room, all evidence points to her as the killer. Now, she must prove her own innocence—by getting to the bottom of a case that is far from closed.
As the present-day murder investigation weaves together with the story of what really happened during their deliberation, told by each of the jurors in turn, the secrets they have all been keeping threaten to come out—with drastic consequences for all involved.
I love courtroom thrillers and when I read the review by Inge | The Belgian Reviewer, I had to add this one. Hoping to get it for audio review.
Ali Wong’s heartfelt and hilarious letters to her daughters (the two she put to work while they were still in utero), covering everything they need to know in life, like the unpleasant details of dating, how to be a working mom in a male-dominated profession, and how she trapped their dad.
In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month pregnant Ali Wong resonated so heavily that she became a popular Halloween costume. Wong told the world her remarkably unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, Asian culture, working women, and why you never see new mom comics on stage but you sure see plenty of new dads.
The sharp insights and humor are even more personal in this completely original collection. She shares the wisdom she’s learned from a life in comedy and reveals stories from her life off stage, including the brutal singles life in New York (i.e. the inevitable confrontation with erectile dysfunction), reconnecting with her roots (and drinking snake blood) in Vietnam, tales of being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and parenting war stories. Though addressed to her daughters, Ali Wong’s letters are absurdly funny, surprisingly moving, and enlightening (and disgusting) for all.
I debated adding this book for some time until I read the review by Kyra @ Roots & Reads. She gave me a reason to read it. It’s on hold at the library.
Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.
Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.
One of my Goodreads friends, Kim @ Its All About the Thrills got me all excited about this author’s upcoming release. Yes, it’s all about the thrills and I’m hoping to get this one for audio review.
The New York Times bestselling authors of The Glass Ocean and The Forgotten Room return with a glorious historical adventure that moves from the dark days of two World Wars to the turbulent years of the 1960s, in which three women with bruised hearts find refuge at Paris’ legendary Ritz hotel.
The heiress . . .
The Resistance fighter . . .
The widow . . .
Three women whose fates are joined by one splendid hotel
France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.
France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret…one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history..
France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . . .
I wasn’t sure about this book when it was offered for audio review so I waited for it to show up at my library.
Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years, she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization. As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you’ve seen the flames beyond its walls. When her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, Lizzie is forced to address the limits of her own experience–but still she tries to save everyone, using everything she’s learned about empathy and despair, conscience and collusion, from her years of wandering the library stacks…And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in- funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad.
This one is risky but I was intrigued when it was offered for audio review. I think this literary title may be worth the risk, especially when narrated by Cassandra Campbell.
Isobel Johnson knows helicopter parents like Julia Abbott–a stage mom whose world revolves around interfering in her children’s lives–come with the territory. Julia resents teachers like Isobel, who effortlessly bond with students, including Julia’s own teenagers, who have started pulling further away from her.
Isobel has spent her teaching career in Liston Heights side-stepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a “blatant liberal agenda,” she realizes she’s squarely in the fray. Rather than cowering, Isobel doubles down on her social-justice ideals. Meanwhile, Julia, obsessed with the casting of the high school’s winter musical, inadvertently shoves the female student lead after sneaking onto the school campus. The damning video footage goes viral and has far-reaching consequences for Julia and her entire family.
With nothing to unite them beyond the sting of humiliation from public meltdowns, Isobel and Julia will find common ground where they least expect it, confronting a secret Facebook gossip site that’s stirring up more trouble for this tumultuous, fractured school community.
This was offered for audio review and I found the central storyline appealing as it confronts some of the contemporary issues in the headlines today. And, it’s narrated by one of my favorites, Julia Whelan.
A true-crime podcast sets a housewife’s present life on a collision course with her secret past.
The day Anna McDonald’s quiet, respectable life explodes starts off like all the days before: packing up the kids for school, making breakfast, listening to yet another true crime podcast. Then her husband comes downstairs with an announcement, and Anna is suddenly, shockingly alone.
Reeling and desperate for distraction, Anna returns to the podcast. Other people’s problems are much better than one’s own–a sunken yacht, a murdered family, a hint of international conspiracy, but this case actually is Anna’s problem. She knows one of the victims from an earlier life, a life she’s taken great pains to leave behind, and she is convinced that she knows what really happened.
Then an unexpected visitor arrives on her front stoop; a meddling neighbor intervenes; and life as Anna knows it is well and truly over. The devils of her past are awakened–and in hot pursuit. Convinced she has no other options, she goes on the run, and in pursuit of the truth, with a washed-up musician at her side and the podcast as her guide.
Yes, I was influenced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club selecting this book as this month’s read. But! I’ve had great reading experiences with their other title selections and this sounds SO good!
In the late 1930s, civil war grips Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires.
Together with two thousand other refugees, they embark on the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda, to Chile: “the long petal of sea and wine and snow.” As unlikely partners, they embrace exile as the rest of Europe erupts in world war. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning, and over the course of their lives, they will face trial after trial. But they will also find joy as they patiently await the day when they will be exiles no more. Through it all, their hope of returning to Spain keeps them going. Destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world, Roser and Victor will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.
Even though I’m a fan of the author, I initially turned this down for audio review but after a Goodreads friend’s strong endorsement and it being narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, I reconsidered.
At the age of five, Megan Phelps-Roper began protesting homosexuality and other alleged vices alongside fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Founded by her grandfather and consisting almost entirely of her extended family, the tiny group would gain worldwide notoriety for its pickets at military funerals and celebrations of death and tragedy. As Phelps-Roper grew up, she saw that church members were close companions and accomplished debaters, applying the logic of predestination and the language of the King James Bible to everyday life with aplomb—which, as the church’s Twitter spokeswoman, she learned to do with great skill. Soon, however, dialogue on Twitter caused her to begin doubting the church’s leaders and message: If humans were sinful and fallible, how could the church itself be so confident about its beliefs? As she digitally jousted with critics, she started to wonder if sometimes they had a point—and then she began exchanging messages with a man who would help change her life.
A gripping memoir of escaping extremism and falling in love, Unfollow relates Phelps-Roper’s moral awakening, her departure from the church, and how she exchanged the absolutes she grew up with for new forms of warmth and community. Rich with suspense and thoughtful reflection, Phelps-Roper’s life story exposes the dangers of black-and-white thinking and the need for true humility in a time of angry polarization.
Ren @ What’s Nonfiction reviewed this book and I waited until it became available at my library. I’d never heard of this church until recently and think Phelps-Roger’s moral awakening is worth taking a look.
From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City’s creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine’s Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.
Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel.
Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader reviewed this back in August and I definitely was interested. It’s taken this long for my number to rise in the queue.
Do you want to play a game?
Twelve years ago Jessica Williams escaped a cult. Thanks to the private detective who rescued her, she reintegrated into society, endured an uncomfortable notoriety, and tried to put it all behind her. Then, at an airport bar, Jessica meets a woman with an identical name and birth date. It appears to be just an odd coincidence—until a week later, when Jessica finds her bank account drained and her personal information stolen.
Following a trail of the grifter’s victims, each with the same name, Jessica gathers players—one by one—for her own game. According to her plan, they’ll set a trap and wait for the impostor to strike again. But plans can go awry, and trust can fray, and as Jessica tries to escape the shadows of her childhood, the risks are greater than she imagined. Now, confronting the casualties of her past, Jessica can’t help but wonder…
Who will pay the price?
Tina @ Reading Between the Pages gave me the heads up on this coming release in her Look Who Has a New Book Coming Out post. I’ve enjoyed this author before and this one sounds promising. Another audio review hopeful.
Soon, Rebecca Gray won’t be able to see. Diagnosed in her twenties with a degenerative eye disease, each day her world grows a little darker. She’s moved to the suburbs to raise her son, Jackson. In the wake of her husband’s death, it should be a quieter, easier way of life.
It won’t be.
The Moment That Changes Everything
When Bec awakes after fainting in the park, she makes promises to start taking better care of herself. When her son begins to cry, she approaches the crib.
Picks him up.
But he’s not her son.
There’s nothing Bec won’t do to find Jackson. But she’s a blind woman in a world where seeing is believing. The police think she’s confused. Her friends don’t see any differences. Relying on the conviction of her instinct and the power of a mother’s love, Bec must push the limits of her world to uncover what happened to her baby boy…and bring him home for good.
Tina @ Reading Between the Pages also featured this title in her Look Who Has a New Book Coming Out post. Tina and I did a buddy read of her last book and loved it. This is a NetGalley hopeful.