August 9 is National Book Lovers Day, a celebration for book worms everywhere. And lucky for us, our public library has its own collection of ebooks and audiobooks that we can download for free.
Libby, the leading library reading app by OverDrive, lets users download ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, comics, and more at no cost. All you need to get started is a library card—and even if you don’t have one, an Instant Digital Card can be yours in 30 seconds with just a phone number.
Besides being able to borrow digital titles, OverDrive launched a new monthly blog series this July showing June’s top ten most popular books that had been borrowed digitally from the public library on Libby. Now in August, they’re sharing July’s top ten. On the list, you’ll find frequent New York Times bestsellers including Daniel Silva and Danielle Steel. Also among the Top Ten is T.J. Newman with their stunning instant #1 bestselling debut title, Falling.
As a reminder, Professional Book Nerds podcast always previews the upcoming month’s buzziest new books as well, and you can listen to their August episode right here. You can find July’s most popular new releases in the list below.
The top ten new books from July
He’s incredibly handsome, impeccably dressed, totally urbane, interested only in no-strings relationships, and so amazingly rich that it’s hard to remember when anyone in his family has ever worked besides, that is, practicing their golf swings. Of course, Windsor “Win” Horne Lockwood III is totally obnoxious or would be if he didn’t recognize and make fun of all those traits. He knows he was born into money not for any reason but the wining of the genetic lottery. Ditto for the looks. He doesn’t have to wear—gasp—hoodies but can instead with all that dough attire himself in sartorial splendor. As for the relationships or lack of them, well, Win has issues that started in childhood so you can’t really blame him for that.
What he’s never had before is a mystery novel all about him. But now he does in “Win.” written by Harlan Coben, the bestselling author who has 75 million books in print in 45 languages as well as multiple number of Netflix series including “The Stranger” and “The Woods” with two more “The Innocent” and “Gone for Good” out soon.
Up until now, Win has been a sidekick to Coben’s main character, Myron Bolitar, a sports agent who moonlights—often unintentionally—as a private detective. Coben never intended to make Win the main character in a novel but that changed.
“I came up with a story idea involving stolen paintings, a kidnapped heiress, and a wealthy family with buried secrets – and then I thought, ‘Wow, this should be Win’s family and his story to tell’,” says Coben. “Win is, I hope you agree when you read the book, always a surprise. He thrives on the unexpected.”
The kidnapped heiress is Win’s cousin Patricia, who was abducted by her father’s murderers and held prisoner until she managed to escape. She now is devoted to helping women who are being victimized by men. The stolen paintings include a Vermeer that was taken when Patricia was kidnapped. That painting along with another appear to have been stolen by a former 1960s radical turned recluse who was murdered in his apartment after successfully hiding from authorities for more than a half century.
But keep in mind, that this is a Coben novel, so nothing is ever as it seems. The plots are devious, and the twists and turns are many. As Win goes on the hunt for the painting he has to deal with other difficulties that arise as well. His proclivity for vigilante justice (he knows, he tell us in one of the many asides he makes to readers, that we may not approve) has led to retaliation by the man’s murderous brothers who almost manage to kill him. The hunt for the Vermeer gets him involved with a treacherous mobster who is determined to find the last remaining radical of the group of six who he believes was responsible for his niece’s death.
“Win has been Myron’s dangerous, perhaps even sociopathic, sidekick and undoubtedly the most popular character I’ve ever written,” says Coben. “That said, you don’t have to read a single Myron book to read “Win.” This is the start of a new series with a whole new hero.”
Coben decided to write a novel when he was working in Spain as a tour guide. Did he get the job because he’s fluent in Spanish?. Not exactly.
“My grandfather owned the travel agency,” says Coben. “While I was there, I decided to try to write a novel about the experience. So I did. And the novel was pretty terrible as most first novels tend to be – pompous, self-absorbed – but then I got the writing bug and started to write what I love – the novel of immersion, the one that you get so caught up in you can’t sleep or put the book down.”
The above review also appeared in the The Times of Northwest Indiana.
Tightrope tells the tale of an America that is still in the process of losing well-paying jobs, where people work two or more jobs just to make ends meet, where one illness can turn into a bankruptcy for those who are uninsured or underinsured and where opioids and other drugs lead to incarceration, early death and family destruction
“You wrote about my life,” I say when Nicholas Kristoff and his wife Sheryl WuDunn call me from their hotel room on a stop of their multi-city tour promoting their new book Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.
I tell them about growing up in East Chicago. Sure, it was always a blue collar town but when I was young both East Chicago and, across the Columbus Avenue bridge, Indiana Harbor where I grew up, had a vital economy, two separate but thriving downtowns and work for all those graduating from the two high schools, Roosevelt and Washington.
My mother worked at the East Chicago Public Library for 50 years and in the 1960s bought clothes at Broadway Dress Shoppe with its sleek curved window exterior. Albert’s Jewelers had a store on Main Street, and I remember my dad saying they held on as long as they could as Indiana Harbor continued to lose population and other stores closed as the manufacturing slowed down before moving. My friends and I perused the racks at the Mademoiselle Shop on Main Street, wondering if we could talk our parents into buying the latest Bobby Brooks sweater and skirt set. We bought Nancy Drew books, dress patterns and sodas at one of the two dime stores just down the street.
For children’s clothes there was Jack and Jill’s owned by my friend’s family. After he retired, my father would walk from our home by St. Catherine’s Hospital to the Olympia, the ultimate busy Greek diner or as a family we’d eat at the Trolley Diner. I’d buy freshly made bread on my way home from school at the bakery; my Romanian grandmother would get freshly butchered chicken at a meat story further south on Main always asking that the head remain on so she could make sure it really was fresh. Both the A&P and Kroger’s in Indiana Harbor gave out stamps that you’d paste in books and exchange, when you had enough for items in a catalogue.
Both downtowns were vital and busy, there were no empty store fronts. I told Kristoff and WuDunn, the only husband and wife journalist team to win a Pulitzer Prize. about how kids would graduate from high school and go straight into the mills, even those who in other cities would have gone to college. The starting pay was at least four times more than minimum wage at the time. It was hard work, sometimes dirty and dangerous but my friends whose parents worked in the mills had good solid middle class lives with the added values of health insurance and pensions and saved money because they wanted their kids to go to college. When there was a strike—particularly one that lasted for weeks and weeks—there was a feeling of unease and sadness and even fear. The annual fair held at the Katherine House where I went to day care was canceled. My friends’ families couldn’t afford to get candy and comic books after school like we used to. But then the strike was settled, and the world righted itself until it finally didn’t.
I wasn’t the first person to tell Kristoff and WuDunn about such a loss—because seeing your hometown hollowed out, losing population and good paying manufacturing jobs, echoes through you–it’s a sadness because I loved growing up there.
“Sheryl and I are so struck with stories like yours,” Kristoff tells me, noting that he’s familiar with what happened to the steel mill cities of Northwest Indiana and even their current commitments to rebuild/reimagine their identities. “wherever we are, whenever we talk about the book, people come up to us and say I grew up in a tiny town in Tennessee, Ohio or West Virginia, anywhere and say this happened to me.”
Tightrope tells the tale of an America that is still in the process of losing well-paying jobs, where people work two or more jobs just to make ends meet, where one illness can turn into a bankruptcy for those who are uninsured or underinsured and where opioids and other drugs lead to incarceration, early death and family destruction.
Like me, like most of us, Kristoff has seen it firsthand as well and he propels the book from that point of view. He grew up in Yamhill, Oregon on a sheep and cherry farm and traces what happened to the kids who rode with him on the Number 6 bus to Yamhill Grade School and then Yamhill Carlton High School. Kristoff went on to graduate from Harvard and as a Rhodes Scholar, studied law Magdalen College, Oxford. He’s a New York Times columnist, won two Pulitzer Prizes, is a frequent CNN contributor and is the author of several books.
Life wasn’t as good for many of his bus mates. About one-fourth are dead from drug overdoses, suicide from depression and despair, alcohol, obesity, reckless accidents and from what WuDunn and Kristoff call “pathologies.” Of the five Knapp children who lived next door to the Kristoff family and rode Number 6, four are dead and the fifth most likely survived because he spent 13 years in the Oregon State Penitentiary.
“We wrote this book to help change the narrative and to put human faces on issues,” says Kristoff. “Our hope is by using the narrative of the old school bus we can help generate a conversation that would lead to change. It’s deeply painful to see this happen to a community which Sheryl and I loved, where those I grew up with were opportunistic about the future when we were young. Now people are dying unnecessary.”
Each time Kristoff returned home he’d hear more horror stories. He was, he realized, watching the lives of his classmates implode and along with them, the lives of their children.
“We have so many young children now growing up in toxic environment,” he says.
“That’s why the situation is so critical,” says WuDunn, who also worked at the New York Times and is now a senior banker specializing in growth companies in technology, new media and the emerging markets. “It’s like compound interest rates on steroids –kids getting taken away by the state, trying to place them in stable foster homes, their progeny going through the same cycle.”
But WuDunn and Kristoff aren’t just about detailing the destruction and despair, they’re all about solutions as well.
“Remarkably, even during the Great Depression life expectancy didn’t fall the way it is now,” says WuDunn. “For the last three years in a row, life expectancy has decreased in the U.S. unlike other first world countries. That’s because during the depression they had a process and plans for getting back on track.”
It’s not only about the outsourcing of jobs to other countries where labor is cheaper and environmental rules lax, it’s about how America’s politicians react—or don’t– to it.
“Globalization is global, and it affects all countries, particularly our peer countries in Europe but they’re not exhibiting the same challenges that we are, to the degree that we are experiencing them,” says WuDunn. “We’re absolutely capable of changing. There’s evidence based research showing the solution of these issues. Great Britain decided to do something about children living in poverty and were able to reduce it by 50%. Portugal is the best example of dealing with drug use, they don’t jail drug users, they place them in rehab.”
Indeed, statistics indicate that a dollar invested in addiction treatment saves about $12 in reduced crime, court costs and health care savings.
“We’ve been paralyzed by this idea that nothing works,” says Kristoff. “The narrative is we waged the war on poverty and poverty won, this obsession with personal responsibility and that poverty is a choice, these false narratives are powering what’s going on in this country.”
America is crippling itself by not taking care of its own, by spending more money on incarceration that rehabilitation, by short funding schools and by a tax system that benefits the rich and takes away from the poor.
WuDunn worries about how we can maintain our primacy in the world when so many of our families are failing.
“Change will only work if everyone says we need to advocate for this,” she says. “One man came up to me and said it’s really important to invest in human capital. We need to do that if we want to be able to compete against China and India. Taking care of Americans is an investment in all of America.”
Kristoff sums it up succinctly.
“There’s real desperation out there,” he says.
In this penultimate installment (book #6) in the series, we find OCD Realtor (who also happens to be able to speak with dead people) Melanie Middleton and true crime mystery writer Jack Trenholm happily married and living with their toddler twins and teenage daughter, Nola, in their historic home on Tradd Street. Christmas is approaching and all seems to be going well for them—-except for a few money problems, Jack’s writing career taking a curveball, and an unpleasant specter seen haunting Nola’s bedroom that seems to be connected to the ancient cistern being excavated in their back yard.
New York Times bestselling author Karen White’s iconic series about a quirky psychic realtor (yes, you read that right!), set in historic Charleston, continues this winter. A long-anticipated gift to her fans, this holiday season White released her first ever Christmas novel.
Jane Ammeson, who writes the Shelf Life column for The Times of Northwest Indiana and shelflife.blog, interviewed Karen about THE CHRISTMAS SPIRITS ON TRADD STREET, the sixth book in her Tradd Street Series,
With each new release, Karen’s national platform grows. Her previous installment in the series, The Guests on South Battery (2017), was a New York Times hardcover bestseller. Her books have been featured on Southern Living, Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James blog, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and more. The author of over twenty books and 12 New York Times bestsellers, she has almost two million books in print in fifteen different languages.
JA: Since you’re not a realtor and you’re not seeing ghosts (we don’t think so, anyway!), do you have much in common with Melanie—like are you super-organized with lots of charts and spread sheets, etc.?
KW: Let’s just say that people who know me who have also read the Tradd Street series seem to think that Melanie _is_ me. I’m going to neither confirm nor deny, but let’s just say that I do love to be organized and I also adore sweets (although Melanie’s metabolism is simply something I aspire to). She and I are both ABBA fans and neither of us can text without many alarming typos.
JA: You grew up all over the world but started off in the south and think of yourself as a Southern girl. Why did you choose historic Charleston for the setting of your series?
KW: My parents (and extended family) are all from the South—mainly Mississippi—which is where I get my Southern roots. I went to college in New Orleans (Tulane) and actually planned to set the series there. However, the year I started writing the first book was 2005, the year Katrina wreaked so much havoc on the city and her citizens. I knew that in the series I was planning to write that this sort of natural disaster and its repercussions wouldn’t fit. I would return to New Orleans and the storm for The Beach Trees, but for the series I needed to find another Southern city that had gorgeous architecture, lots of history, and plenty of ghosts. Charleston was an obvious choice.
JA: Your Tradd Street series novels seem to require a lot of research into older homes, renovations and history, can you tell us about that?
KW: Since I was a little girl I’ve been obsessed with old houses. They didn’t need to be grand or even well-maintained to make me beg my mother to pull the car over to the curb so I could get a better look. When we moved to London, we were fortunate to live in an Edwardian building on Regent’s Park. It had leaded glass windows, thick mahogany doors, and ceiling medallions to make a wedding cake envious. Living in that flat made me believe that I truly could hold a piece of history in my hands. My obsession continues with my daughter who holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from the College of Charleston and currently works as an architectural historian. She actually appears in the last two Tradd books (as well as Dreams of Falling) as graduate student Meghan Black.
JA: Can you give readers who may not have read any of your other books about Melanie and Jack a description of The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street?
KW: In this penultimate installment (book #6) in the series, we find OCD Realtor (who also happens to be able to speak with dead people) Melanie Middleton and true crime mystery writer Jack Trenholm happily married and living with their toddler twins and teenage daughter, Nola, in their historic home on Tradd Street. Christmas is approaching and all seems to be going well for them—-except for a few money problems, Jack’s writing career taking a curveball, and an unpleasant specter seen haunting Nola’s bedroom that seems to be connected to the ancient cistern being excavated in their back yard. Unwilling to burden Jack with one more problem and distract him from his writing despite promises that they wouldn’t hold secrets from each other, Melanie takes it upon herself to attempt to solve the mystery behind the ghostly presence—with unsettling results that Melanie may or may not be able to resolve.
JA: Are your ghosts based upon real life (if you can call it that when it comes to ghosts) tales of hauntings in Charleston?
KW: Growing up, my father loved to read true ghost stories to my brothers and me—usually right before bedtime. I also had a grandmother who always spoke about conversations she’d had with dead relatives. I suppose that’s the reason why I thought ghosts were like doilies on the backs of chairs—some people had them, some people didn’t. I continue to enjoy ghost stories (I listen to several podcasts on the subject) and, even though I have never had an experience, my son has three times.
When visiting Charleston, I love going on haunted walking tours (especially the graveyard ones) and always pick up fascinating tidbits to be used later in my books. I’ve never borrowed a ghost story for my books, but tend to pick and choose certain parts of favorites and mix them together to fit into my stories.
JA: Do you live in an older home?
KW: Sadly, no. My husband isn’t a fan of old houses (and in my first book, the derogatory remarks Melanie makes about old houses came right from his litany of why he dislikes old houses—mostly having to do with the expense of heating them). Every house I’ve lived in since the old Edwardian building in London has been brand new. I’m hoping my daughter and I can get sway him to our side when it’s time to move again. Hopefully to Charleston.
JA: Besides a great story and enjoyable read, are there any other take-aways you’d like for readers to get from The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street?
KW: This installment can be read on its own. However, I do think that readers might enjoy the series more if read in order starting with the first book. The books each have their own mystery to be solved, but the growing cast of characters and Melanie’s growth through the series is an important element and best understood if readers meet her in book #1.
JA: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
KW: Yes, there are ghosts and some spooky scenes in all of the books. But these are not paranormal or thriller type books. These are character-driven stories centered around Melanie Middleton and her relationships with family and friends and set in the gorgeous and historical city of Charleston, South Carolina. This is Southern Women’s Fiction—with the added bonus of a few spirits who need Melanie’s help to solve a mystery.