The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Shakespeare said it best when he wrote” what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”   This is a taut, gripping novel of deception, financial ruin  and infidelity with lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very end. Toss in a character with a major mental illness and all of this leads to a book you won’t want to put down. The kidnapping of a 6 month old baby is the catalyst for the slow unraveling of three families. This will keep you reading until well past you bedtime but it’s so worth it.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

This novel, which is the basis of the PBS series,  is full of palace intrigue, family issues and ultimately a beautiful love story. Victoria is quite young when she assumes the English throne and finds herself surrounded  by those currying her favor for their own means, others wishing to see her fail because of her youth and those who are loyal to her no matter what. This is a quick, enjoyable read and a  grand companion to the series.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

This is quite a departure from Ms Kinsella’s Shopaholic series. Katie is a research assistant struggling in all facets of her life. She loses her job which forces her to return to her childhood farm. That’s where Katie begins to discover what’s really important and starts to shape her life into what she always wanted it to be. Although there are plenty of comedic events and situations to keep you laughing, this is a much more adult approach to addressing life’s issues and everyday struggles.

Maine by J Courtney Sullivan

A large, emotionally distant Irish Catholic family take turns returning to their childhood home to care for their elderly widowed mother. It becomes quite evident early on that the family members  have their own methods of dealing with thei issues and the overall dysfunction in the family. This dysfunction is highlighted when a secret held by the matriarch is inadvertently revealed  nvolving the Catholic Church and the family home. This is a really interesting read on family dynamics and the roles one holds in a family. There are some characters that aren’t very likable but they add an interesting angle to the story.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I admit to an affinity for books about bookstores and the contents they contain. The contents of an unopened and long forgotten letter are at the heart of this charming novel. Monsieur Perdu, the recipient of the letter, opens it after finding it 20 years after it as written. The letters contents prompt him to take his bookstore barge on a trip on the river Seine to find his lost love. Monsieur Perdu encounters a  number of interesting characters  and experiences on his journey.  The best thing about journeys is that while they may not bring the sought after answers  they can be a journey of growth and unexpected discoveries. This is a wonderful novel full of warmth, humor and lovely surprises.

Lucky Boy by Shanti Sikaran

The lives of a little boy and the two women who love him are intertwined in this novel.  Soli and Kavya couldn’t be more different: Soli is an illegal immigrant  pregnant and abandoned in an unknown country and Kavya pressured by family and friends to have a child but silently struggling through infertility. The women’s lives are connected when Kavya becomes foster mother to Soli’s  little boy. This is an emotionally charged novel as the reader is drawn into the plight of both women who want what’s best for the little boy. This is beautifully written and the pain and anguish of both women is felt throughout the novel.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

This is Milford’s latest entry in the “one book one city” series. Immigrants from a number of Latin American countries reside in one building and it’s their stories of coming to and adjusting to a new country that are the heart and soul of this novel. There is also a sweet love story  between two characters that has a Romeo and Juliet-esque  feeling to it  but with a much different ending. The reasons for the immigrants coming to the United States are as varied as the immigrants themselves: the hope for a better life, improved health care options and political freedom. This is very well written and an engrossing quick read.

The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

This is an enchanting tale of the founding of a small Midwestern town, its inhabitants  and a very sweet  and interesting perspective on the afterlife. Elwood Springs was founded by Swedish immigrants  and as the story unfolds the town grows along with it. This novel is full of charm and wit and a quick read. I’ve never read anything by Ms Flagg before and the question I ask myself is why did I wait so long.

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

This is an engaging novel of what it means to be different and the journey to embrace that difference. Joanna, her evangelical minister father and stepmother move from Atlanta to a smaller Georgia town. Aware of the prevailing attitudes of the town,Joanna and her father strike a deal: if Joanna can keep her sexual identity hidden for a year,she would be rewarded with a trip to Provincetown. This promise leads to a lot of complications for Joanna which slowly but surely get resolved. This is classified as a young adult novel but can be appreciated by all readers. The author does a good job in describing the life of a high school  senior trying to be accepted for who she is rather than being identified by a sexual label.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

This is a collection of short stories narrated by women in all phases of life.  All the narrators are damaged psychologically and it is that damaged part of themselves that  compel them to make the choices they make. Some of the stories are difficult to read but worth sticking with. I’m ordinarily not a fan of short story collections  as they tend to be inconsistent   This one however is uniformly  very good.