A Necessary End by Holly Brown (2015)

necessaryendAdrienne is 39 and desperate to be a mother. Her husband Gabe isn’t that anxious to have a family, but goes along with the idea to please his wife. After failed IVF attempts and being scammed by a fake birth mother, Adrienne is willing to do anything to fulfill her dream. Into their lives comes 19-year-old Leah, who is pregnant and not interested in keeping her baby. Leah, however, has some stipulations, including living with Adrienne and Gabe for one year before signing the adoption papers. What could possibly go wrong? Well, just about everything.

A Necessary End is a good psychological thriller, told from two different viewpoints. Holly Brown’s novel includes some unexpected twists toward the end.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (2015)

godinruinsAfter reading – and very much enjoying – Life After Life, the idea of more Todd family adventures was appealing. Kate Atkinson calls A God in Ruins a companion novel to Life After Life, not a sequel. She takes one of the alternate realities of Ursula’s adored younger brother Ted, and develops the storyline after his miraculous recovery from a plane crash as a bomber pilot in World War II. The novel alternates between Ted’s wartime experiences and his civilian life as father and grandfather. Curious readers of Life After Life will also be treated to an excerpt from Aunt Izzie’s The Adventures of Augustus, the character she modeled after Teddy. Atkinson continues to test the reader’s concepts of time and fiction with this engaging novel.

My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders by Mike MacDonald (2015)

chicagojourneyA paean to the wild beauty of Chicagoland’s nature preserves, prairies, and wetlands. Mike MacDonald’s stunning photos and beautiful prose will inspire readers to visit the natural areas highlighted in his book, and to learn more about the plants and animals that inhabit the wilds of Chicago.

Watch an interview with the author and photographer on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight to learn more about My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago.

The Children by Ann Leary (2016)

childrenA rambling Connecticut lake house is the refuge for widowed Joan and her two grown daughters, bipolar concert violinist Sally and near-recluse Charlotte. Charlotte spends her days in the attic working on her very popular, but thoroughly fictional, mommy blog and hooking up with neighbor Everett whenever she can. Into this sheltered environment comes beloved stepbrother Spin with his too-good-to-be-true fiancée, Laurel. Is Laurel all she says she is, or do her lies rival the stories fabricated by Charlotte about her completely adorable but fictional children? A little quirky and humorous, Ann Leary’s The Children provides a glimpse into how the “other half” lives.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015)

deadwakeIn his acknowledgments, Erik Larson reveals his own enjoyment in researching and writing the account of this final voyage. In Dead Wake, the reader is allowed to share by introduction to this great ship, some of the passengers and crew, and then reading along with them about this 1915 Atlantic crossing. Even though there has been reports of German submarine activity, Captain Turner is reassuring as he speaks of the ship’s great size and speed. No one seems afraid but the reader knows what to expect. Sometimes the narrative departs the ship to see how President Wilson is doing after his wife’s death, how the British secret service is using information gained from breaking the German code, or what Churchill might do to bring America into the war.

The reader sees both sides as he rides along with Kptlt (Captain) Schwieger of the German submarine service on entering British waters looking for targets but avoiding British warships. Although deadly, these early submarines are slow and most incommodious for the crew as compared to surface vessels. Back on the Lusitania, lifeboats are uncovered as it enters Irish waters. And then nearly 100 years later, scuba diving archaeologists voice respect for the lost souls down below.

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (2011)

leftneglectedYou might recognize Lisa Genova from her blockbuster book (and movie) Still Alice. But you’d be remiss to skip Left Neglected, a fascinating and compelling story about a woman forced to reexamine her life following a car accident. 38-year-old Sarah leads a high octane life, juggling an 80 hour workweek with her family (husband and three kids). When a traumatic brain injury makes her unaware of everything on the left side, Sarah must rehabilitate her brain and body while reassessing her priorities.

A thought-provoking read and a great choice for your next book club.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman (2016)

wildelakeWhen Lu Brant is elected the first female state’s attorney of a county outside Baltimore, it should be the pinnacle of her career, but when she decides to try a murder case against homeless Rudy Drysdale, she’s forced to confront buried memories of her own childhood. Lu’s brother A.J. was involved at 18 in an incident where he broke his arm and another man died. Lu was ten at the time, enamored of popular A.J. and his group of friends. No charges were ever brought against anyone, but as Lu proceeds in her case, she finds that Drysdale was two years behind A.J. in school and that they might have known each other. Lu also reflects on being raised by her father, also a state’s attorney, after her mother died while Lu was very young.

Wilde Lake is a novel that transports you to 1970s and 1980s suburban Baltimore and fully immerses the reader in a world of childhood and family secrets. Like Laura Lippman‘s best novels, Wilde Lake is a book that stay with you even after the last page is turned.

Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland: A month-by-month growing guide for beginners (2013)

fearlessfoodThe Peterson Garden Project, which is based in Chicago, has created a simple, yet informative, guide for growing vegetables and herbs in your backyard or patio. What better way to connect with nature than eating food grown from your own garden! Check out Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland—and check out seeds from our Seed Library to get started.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Hotspur by Rita Mae Brown (2014 and 2002)

sleepingdogsSister Jane Arnold, Master of Foxhounds with the Jefferson Hunt, would never return with a fox tail flying from her horse’s mane, but rather puts out treats (some with embedded worm medicine) to keep her clever red-furred friends in fine form for the next chase. These two novels give an engaging overview of the Virginia foxhunting scene as well as good murder mysteries, literally dug up after decades under the earth.hotspur

On occasion, author Rita Mae Brown allows the foxes, horses, and foxhounds to tell parts of the story from their own viewpoints to better help the reader understand the finer points of the hunt. Thus the reader can gently learn of foxhunting traditions while following the unfolding mysteries of both Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Hotspur.