Marla's Staff Picks
Marla is retired, but her legendary staff picks live on!
JANUARY 2020I am always looking for a new location, ethnicity, or time period for a mystery. This novel hits all those marks. Set in British India in 1921, there is much to unload about the culture, politics, and religion.The only female lawyer in Bombay, Perveen Mistry, is tasked to administer the estate to polygamous widows of a Muslim man. Perveen immediately suspects the widows are being defrauded. When the widows' agent is murdered, the plot thickens.Perveen's own back-story informs her determination to help these sheltered, and cloistered women find protection.
DECEMBER 2019Dan O'Brien spent his Midwest youth wanting to own a cattle ranch. His dream was fulfilled but never successful. when he participates in an annual buffalo roundup he is inspired convert his own ranch to buffalo. Finding that the plains of the US are inhospitable to raising cattle and perfect for buffalo O'Brien begins an education of returning buffalo to his land for the first time in over a century.Join him in his discovery of the misplacement of cattle and wildlife ecology.Read Peter Dexter's praise on the back of this book.This is also a great gift.
What can I say? I'm a sucker for a cowboy...Ree Drummond, photographer, blogger, host of Food Network's "Pioneer Woman" and author of (now) five NYT best selling cookbooks also penned her tales of mishap and courtship with her "Marlboro Man".
A refreshing account of this physician's daughter reared on the golf course and country club lifestyle, totally out of her comfort zone in the rancher's world. I was a fan of the TV show because of her first cookbook, now I'm hooked on the ranch life. Time by current cultural standards for romance and courtship, this is an account she won't regret when her four children want to read the story of Mom and Dad.
OCTOBER 2019I am continually looking for a mystery told in an environment or culture foreign to me and this one sure hits the mark.Set in a Utah city and populated with contemporary Mormon characters, this is written for those of us not of the faith and covers many aspects of their mainstream LDS culture.Not since John Krakauer's true crime book titled UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN have I sensed I was getting such a complete picture... and it's very well priced at only $10.00.
AUGUST 2019This is the first installment of a new (to me) detective series featuring Jewish Minnesotan Nils Shapiro. The Swallows, the third book in the series got my attention so I was happy to seek out the beginning, knowing I didn't have to wait for more.Once a cop, Nils is now a private detective. The local police department calls him to the scene of a murder, due to unusual evidence contamination. The entire crime scene is covered in an unknown fine particle.Winter is always present, the dialog is snappy and contemporary and Nil's back story is teased so you want to know more.The writers TV credits include Seinfeld, Ellen, and The New Adventures of Old Christine.
JUNE 2019.Thirteen year old Jenna enlists the help of ex-detective, now PI Virgil Stanhope and down-on-her-luck, has been Emmy winning psychic Serenity Jones to help her find her mother, Alice. A scientist who studied in Botswana and found her life's mission in New England Elephant Sanctuary, Alice abruptly disappeared when Jenna was only three. Picoult uses the elephants mothering and behavioral instincts, their memories of grief, both in wild and captivity to draw parallels to human families. And there id s surprise ending I did not see coming!
MAY 2019I am not particularly a fan of "doom" storylines, and certainly not post apocalyptic scourges but was intrigued by this effort by noted romance and mystery author Nora Roberts.This author has proven her abilities to keep our interest over trilogy publications as well as in her "In Death" series featuring Eve Dallas, a futuristic series now 48 books and continuing (under the nom de plum J.D. Robb).I just started the second book in this CHRONICLES OF ONE series titled OF BLOOD AND BONE and find the characters to be as realistic and engaging as the debut.I care about the fates of these survivors who exhibit pluck and resourcefulness as well as some magic and prophecy. They farm, govern, breed and grow.
I have been reading Gail Godwin novels for forty years and anxiously anticipate each new work. I rank this title in my top ten all time reads. This was the first selection in my initial book club participation. I own multiple copies of this novel for lending purposes. I always appreciate campus or collegiate settings for novels because the characters are usually portrayed as informed and open-minded. All the characters in this tale are as vivid to me as when I first read it more than twenty years ago. Give yourself over to the grace of these people.
MARCH 2019An Ohio spinster who has lost her family to WWI and the Great Influenza epidemic is determined to engage in life affirming travel. She is befriended by attendees to the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference and becomes witness (a fly on the wall) to the divvying up of the Middle East by world leaders including T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), Gertrude Bell and Winston Churchill. A fictional history of how those decision makers affected the future of the region and our contemporary world.Ms. Russell has a new historical novel of Calumet, Michigan to be released in August.
FEBRUARY 2019No smart phones, no internet, no reason a gal can't just disappear....The entire time I was reading this noir novel I was thinking of Hitchcock and one of his blonde leading ladies; remember Tippi, Kim and Grace?The attraction is scorching, the atmosphere is tense and torrid heat wafts off the pavement. A perfect setup for a page turner.
JANUARY 2019I am a long time fan of this author's Jane Whitfield series and his earlier Edgar Award winning THE BUTCHER'S BOY; but now new characters have caught my attention. Married ex-police officers now run their own detective agency and nearly lose everything when they run headlong into paid assassins."Perry offers a master class in narrative sleight of hand..." Booklist (starred review).No indication that this will be a series, but we can hope.
I cannot think of a better present than the first book in a compelling mystery series, except one set in a small town in Great Britain. This series is further named Simon Serailler Mysteries, which initially confused me... and then I smacked my forehead - I didn't see that coming. Make friends with local residents, revel in the British vernacular, and give yourself over to the lure of fully fleshed characters and dialog. Louise Penny just doesn't publish fast enough!
There is a great big genre of PRIDE AND PREJUDICEinspired fiction. So many knock-offs I believe you could read nothing else and never be without a new book to read It seeps we cannot get enough of Lizzy Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy.This one gets a genuine stamp of approval as it is the effort of the acclaimed author of PREP and AMERICAN WIFE. The contemporary premise of this well known novel of manners is a Bachelor-like TV production which casts sister Jane and Mr. Bingley. The further modern twists to mirror those of the original P&P are inspired.A great gift for any woman on your list, and a wonderful way to get your feet wet if you've never read the Austen version. And you can't go wrong with any Sittenfeld title.
This author wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning WWII novel All the Light We Cannot See while on a fellowship in Rome that granted him a writing studio and a small stipend. Doerr takes his wife and newborn twins to Italy, immersing the family in language, culture, and art. They are intent on capturing all the opportunities available. Part memoir, part armchair travel, part food writing, this small volume is most satisfying.
I'm late to this feast...regular customers with backgrounds in law enforcement turned me on to this Crime/Action series. Active duty Army Ranger Quinn Colson returns to his small town in Mississippi to deal with a series of family concerns surrounding the death of his Sheriff uncle. The hard luck and corruption that prevails in the county convinces our hero to stay and serve his community. Lots of intrigue and back story are explored in subsequent titles. I'm hooked!
AUGUST 2018"A story within a story within a mystery that is tied up within a family of kindred spirits".Although the story is not at all similar, the general vibe of this book is like reading Du Maurier's Rebecca for the first time. "An edge of darkness that threatens to consume a character".The bookstore setting and quirky cast of characters will keep you reading into the night.Who can resist a book with a graveyard on the front cover?
JULY 2018NYC book editor spends her working vacation alone in a remote cabin in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This year... she feels she is being watched.My women friends passed this book around during one Michigan firearm deer season when our husbands were away - and scared ourselves silly!Christopher Knight (AKA Jonathan Rand) is well known for his juvenile adventure/mystery series MICHIGAN CHILLERS and AMERICAN CHILLERS. He chooses not to write under the same name for adult fiction, fearing curious kiddos will cross into the inappropriate sophistication of adult thrillers.I wish he would write more adult thrillers.
JUNE 2018Are you as tired of unreliable narrators as I am? The narrator in this novel is the only reliable voice.Tarnished journalist Leah Stewart is anxious to start over in a rural community, teaming up with a former roommate, Emmy, to reinvent themselves.After first acknowledging then reporting Emmy's disappearance to authorities, Leah is unable to verify anything she thought she knew. Sucked into an investigation of local murders, Leah's past conduct further discredits her tale. Romantic involvement with the lead detective muddies the water.
Did you ever notice that families grow up with either a Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook or a Betty Crocker cookbook? I think as adults that same brand is our go-to basic book. Test this theory with your acquaintances - it generally holds up. You can guess which book my family used and this new selection offers some new twists on favorites. Mother's Day is May 13.
The "dry" is the worst drought in a hundred years that has taken its toll on an already desolate agricultural community in southeast Australia.
"Luke lied, you lied, be at the funeral." is the command of a grieving father. The apparent murder/suicide of a popular local family draws Federal Agent Aaron Falk back to the town he left 10 years earlier. Old resentments still fester, drought and hard times have intensified, and Falk's intrusion into an obviously tragic conclusion stirs up the past. Just read the three pages of rave testimonials from the publishing community and thriller writers we trust.