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.
Set in a town on Long Island not unlike the one where she grew up. Sarah Langan’s Good Neighbors, an Amazon Best of February Pick, is formatted like a sociological study exploring a crime that happened in the past.
“My roots are in horror and I thought about making this a slasher book,” says Langan, who projects normalcy despite having written award winning horror novels. “But that seemed too simplistic for a book about our culture and themes like mob mentality.”
But the foreboding of horror books is prevalent here as we watch the neighbors on Maple Street turn on the Wildes, the newest family on the block.
It all begins with the falling out between two moms—beautiful, compliant and overwhelmed Gertie Wilde, an abused child grown into a beauty queen who is married to a once-almost famous rock and roller named Arlo. Their two kids have issues too. Julia’s vocabulary is profane but even more oddly, their son seems to believe he’s a robot. That’s quite a contrast with Rhea, an ultra-successful academic who seems to have the perfect everything—job, husband, and family that seems typical of all the families in the neighborhood.
The Wildes want to fit in but if there’s an unwritten rule book about how to act and what to say, they don’t have a copy and their differences set them apart from everyone else. But beyond that, climate change is wreaking havoc adding its own sinister atmosphere to Maple Street when a huge toxic sinkhole opens up in the neighborhood’s green space. But this is no ordinary gap in the ground. Instead it’s an ever growing malevolent force taking over the neighborhood. Evil, it first sucks up a family dog and then Rhea’s daughter who gets too close.
“Most horror writers are gentle people who are outraged at how people are treated and what is going on in the world,” says Langan.
For Langan, that outrage in Good Neighbors focuses on climate change and the toxicity of neighborhoods that occurs when people treat those who are different unkindly.
After staying up late reading The Other Mrs. by Chicago author Mary Kubica, I have a word of advice for women out there. If you’re husband’s sister commits suicide and her home on a remote island off the coast of Maine is yours if you agree to live there and take care of her defiant teen-aged daughter, just say no.
But unfortunately, Sadie, a Chicago physician didn’t do that. Instead, after a brief lapse in consciousness where she walked out of an operating room and was later found on the edge of a roof, she and her husband Will—a charming and handsome man with an eye for ladies—take the offer. Sadie was about to lose her job and her license and besides, she’s just found out that Will was having an affair. So the couple pack up their children and move into Alice’s home. It’s the kind of place where doors squeak at night, the wind howls outside and the frayed rope Alice used to hang herself still swings from the rafter in the attic. Then, things take even more sinister of a turn when Morgan, a nearby neighbor is found murdered in her home.
Obviously, the move was a bad choice and to make it worse, Sadie, working as a doctor in a clinic, still finds herself losing track of time and what she is doing. Add to that, she also worries about Will, a stay-at-home dad for their two sons, and his friendships with pretty mothers whose children play with theirs. If he cheated once, will he do so again, she wonders. Even worse, though Sadie never met Morgan, an elderly couple claim they saw her tear out a chunk of her hair during a fight in the days before her murder.
This is Kubica’s sixth novel and her last five have made the New York Times and USA Today best seller list.
“I love to work under the surface with people—there really is so much we don’t know about people,” says Kubica, a former high school history teacher who starts with a premise for her plots and then let’s her writing—and her characters—take her along for a ride so to speak. “My characters really drive what I write. I can start off in one direction and then the book can go a different way.”
Kubica seems to live a normal life. That is until after her teenaged children go to school, then spends her days in this dark, psychologically twisted world of sublevels and secrets. Two of her favorite authors are Megan Abbott and Paula Hawkins who also write about women in peril who are often unreliable narrators—causing readers to wonder if they can believe their stories. It all adds to the suspense. But readers should understand, Kubica is often just as surprised as they are.
“I have no idea what to expect,” she says. “But it’s fun.”
Intrigued by the tales his grandparents told of living in Tanacross, a small Alaskan village back in the late 1930s, Indiana author Raymond Fleischmann has woven a mystery set in that time frame and location.
“I grew up hearing their stories about Alaska, the cold, the isolation, the long days and the long nights,” says Fleischmann, the author of the just released How Quickly She Disappears. “So, the setting is very real though my characters are fictional and not based on my grandparents at all who were very much in love and married for over 60 years.”
That part is probably good as Fleischmann’s novel is about Elisabeth Pfautz who is living in Alaska with her husband and young daughter. The marriage is joyless, but her daughter is her delight and, more forebodingly, a reminder and connection with her twin sister, Jacqueline, who when she was eleven, disappeared. No one has seen or knows what happened to her since then.
Haunted by her lost sister, experiencing reoccurring dreams of 1921 and the circumstances of the disappearance and saddened by the state of her marriage, Elisabeth is drawn to Alfred, a substitute mail pilot who lands in Tanacross. Elisabeth, who grew up a small German community in Pennsylvania, feels a kinship of sorts with Alfred, who is also of German heritage. But then things turn distinctly weird and terrifying. Albert murders another man, apparently in cold blood. But he also knows, he tells Elisabeth, what happened to her sister, something he will reveal to her at a cost.
Fleischmann says he’s always been drawn to novels that are propelled by relatively simple, often violent acts, but do so in a way that’s careful, human, and deeply examined. From Alaska in 1941, Fleischmann takes us back to 1921 where we meet Jacqueline as well.
“I thought it was important for people to know about her as well,” says Fleischmann, who earned an MFA from Ohio State University, “To me, at the time of her disappearance, Jacqueline is a lonely and somewhat stunted child who is having difficulty navigating the transition from adolescent to adult, just like many of us. So is Elisabeth and Jacqueline’s disappearance has left a big void in her life. As an adult she still feels very much alone without her sister and appears to suffer in many dysfunctional ways.”
All this makes her vulnerable to Alfred’s cat and mouse game as does the voice she seems to hear, that of Jacqueline urging her to “come and find me.”