Willowbrook Ballroom by Bonnie Classen (2011)

willowbrookballroomOn October 28, 2016, the historic Willowbrook Ballroom burned down. The legendary ballroom and banquet hall in Willow Springs started as the Oh Henry Ballroom in 1921. It had its heyday in the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s featuring bands such as Jimmy Dorsey and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When ballroom dancing was on the decline in the late 1960s and 1970s, Willowbrook Ballroom featured Cubby Checkers and such bands as The Cryan’ Shames. Supposedly it was the last place Resurrection Mary danced before she left and was hit by a car. There have been sightings of her ghost in the Chicago area.

Check out Willowbrook Ballroom by Bonnie Classen to reminisce.

 

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan (2013)

goldenboyHabo is an albino growing up in Tanzania. He is shunned by his community and even his own family, but the horrors do not begin until Habo and his family move from their rural village to Mwanza. He then finds he needs to stay on the run to avoid hunters who wish to kill him for a bounty because of his condition. The most unbelievable part of this story is that this barbarism exists in Tanzania today. In Golden Boy, Tara Sullivan allows readers to feel Habo’s pain and go along on his quest for freedom from the superstitious cruelty of Tanzanian albino hunters.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (2017)

notsoperfectSophie Kinsella introduces another delightful character in Katie Brenner. In My Not So Perfect Life, country girl Katie is fulfilling her lifelong dream of living and working in London. According to her Instagram account, life is rosy. And yet, reality is quite different.

In this fast-paced witty novel, Kinsella covers workplace culture, social media “truth” vs. reality, and making assumptions/being quick to judge people. A fun yet thought-provoking look at life in the 21st century.

Cemetery Girl by David Bell (2011)

cemeterygirlTom and Abby Stuart had a wonderful life—until their 12-year-old daughter Caitlin disappeared without a trace. Four years later, the police find their daughter alive. She refuses to discuss anything that happened to her during the time she was gone. Of course, she is a stranger to her parents, who are hanging onto their marriage by a thread.

Cemetery Girl is a good psychological thriller, told from Caitlin’s father’s point of view. When the villain is finally revealed, he is especially repulsive. I will definitely try more novels by David Bell.

I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi (2016)

imjudgingyouPopular blogger Luvvie Ajayi (Awesomely Luvvie) tells it like it is and gives voice to a generation that has mastered the perfect side-eye. I’m Judging You is a collection of humorous essays that will have you laughing out loud or nodding your head in agreement. Some of the topics she tackles are pop culture, dating, racism, fame, and social media.

Growing up in Nigeria and living her adult life in Chicago, Ajayi has a unique view of culture in America, but it will feel familiar to readers all the same. In fact, you’ll likely find that you’ve thought some of the same things to yourself!

Spotlight: Rick Riordan

swordofsummerWhile author Rick Riordan’s focus is currently aimed at children/teenagers, that doesn’t mean they’re off limits for adults. If you’re a fan of action/adventure and different types of mythology, you’re in for a treat! The characters are well developed and have great senses of humor despite the trying circumstances.

If you love Greek or Roman mythology, start with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (first book: The Lightning Thief). For Egyptian, give the Kane Chronicles a shot (first book: The Red Pyramid). Have a fix for Norse? Riordan has recently started on that with Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer!

The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (2015)

drifterHighly recommend this debut novel to fans of mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and especially fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. The main protagonist, Peter Ash, is an ex-Marine Lieutenant who served for eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon returning to the U.S. a year earlier, he decides to live in the mountains, as PTSD causes him to have extreme claustrophobia and panic attacks when indoors for any time. When he finds out that his best friend from the military committed suicide, he goes to Milwaukee to help out this friend’s widow and two sons. The mystery begins when he finds a suitcase with lots of cash and explosives under the porch of their house.

In The Drifter, the cast of characters are vividly-drawn and complex, even the dog, Mingus. A central theme in this book is the effects of war on returning vets. I’m looking forward to Nicholas Petrie’s next book with Peter Ash (Burning Bright, which was released earlier this month).

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (2016)

todaywillbedifferentEleanor Flood has decided to turn a new leaf—today she’ll dress nicely, exercise, be kinder to her husband, etc. As life often does when we pledge to start anew, her day goes down the tubes immediately. Eleanor’s mishaps point to the hurt she feels from her estranged relationship with her younger sister.

Maria Semple’s deft use of humor lightens the mood as Eleanor keeps moving forward through her challenging day. Today Will Be Different is the Semple’s latest novel, following mega-bestseller Where’d You Go Bernadette.

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith (2012)

cloudsA short novel with a good ending but one that makes the reader wonder who actually stole the valuable painting from the wall of the Scottish country gentleman. Isabel is a philosopher and maybe an amateur detective with almost a compulsion to help others with their ethical and love life problems. She has lots of ideas and is always ready to listen attentively but with great care not to offend those seeking her help. At home she has little Charley, husband Jamie, and a sometimes troublesome housekeeper. With all this, it’s hard to see how she has time to edit the philosophy journal she owns or to help out at her niece’s restaurant. Isabel is a good friend to have as she seems to relish clouds passing by. If you enjoy The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, there is a series of books by Alexander McCall Smith featuring Isabel Dalhousie.