LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Fiction from Daniels, Kent, Richardson, and Rita, plus a Passel of Debuts | Xpress Reviews

Week ending February 24, 2017

LOVE ON THE RANGE
Daniels, B.J. Renegade’s Pride. HQN: Harlequin. (Cahill Ranch, Bk. 1). Feb. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780373789269. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460397824. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Lillie Cahill has spent years trying to forget the devilishly handsome Trask Beaumont, who left the small town of Gilt Edge, MT, almost a decade earlier after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Now, between working at the historic Stagecoach Saloon with her twin, Darby, and keeping her aging, somewhat eccentric father out of the county jail where her older brother Flint runs a tight ship as sheriff, Lillie decides it’s time to take a chance on dating again. But when Trask suddenly returns, determined to win Lillie back and clear his name, any attempt at closure quickly evaporates. Lillie’s quest to help Trask find the real killer of local construction tycoon Gordon Quinn unwittingly places her life—and her heart—once again on the line. Parallel stories of a missing-persons case and Flint’s troubled ex-wife’s attempts to sabotage his newly forming relationship offer readers a first taste of the lively personalities that make up the Gilt Edge community and the entertaining Cahill clan.
Verdict Daniels (Wild Horses) launches her new “Cahill Ranch” series with a suspenseful story of a cool-headed cowboy whose pride is tamed but not diminished and a fearless, brilliant heroine who refuses to accept defeat. Contemporary Western romance fans will look forward to the next installment.—Annalisa Pešek, Library Journal

Richardson, Sara. Hometown Cowboy. Forever: Grand Central. (Rocky Mountain Riders, Bk. 1). Mar. 2017. 331p. ISBN 9781455540754. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455540730. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
hometowncowboy022417Jessa Mae Love has sworn off love and relationships—being dumped, again, has given her a new purpose. She’ll focus on rebuilding the animal rescue and shelter her late father founded here in Topaz Falls, CO. She has her gal pals; what more does she need? Then bull rider Lance Cortez comes calling. The oldest of the three Cortez brothers wants Jessa to watch over their father, Luis, Jessa’s dad’s best friend and a volunteer at the shelter. Luis, a former champion bull rider himself, at 67 has been acting a bit odd, a bit disoriented and forgetful. Lance hopes Jessa can sub for him, who, now 30, is training for what is likely his last competition. How had he never noticed Jessa before?
Verdict Richardson (More Than a Feeling) opens a new series with a wary cowboy with issues and a woman who has always put her faith in love. Richardson’s humorous flair will have readers smiling along with the tears shed over each misunderstanding. Romance fans will want to lasso these cowpokes.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Cavanagh, Emily. The Bloom Girls. Lake Union: Amazon. Mar. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781503942530. pap. $14.95; ebk. available. F
[DEBUT] In her debut, Cavanagh explores family relationships and the things we think we know about ourselves and our families as three sisters cope with the loss of their father. Cal, Violet, and Suzy each had different relationships with their father, so it is with mixed emotions that they all head to Maine after hearing of his death. Cal, who is struggling to balance work and family, was closest to her dad and has always been the go-to for planning and organization. Now, she just can’t care. Violet still has a lot of anger toward the man, while Suzy finds there are so many things she didn’t know about him and the family. As each woman tries to reconcile what they thought they knew with reality, they have to come together to plan the funeral.
Verdict
Cavanagh hits all the right notes with her characters. They are complicated and messy, one and all, which makes this an emotional and satisfying read. Those drawn to Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg will love this one.—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI

Kent, Christobel. The Loving Husband. Farrar. Mar. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9780374194123. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374716011. F
Fran heard her husband, Nathan, come to bed that night, but when she woke up in the morning, he was nowhere to be found. Moving past her infant son and four-year-old daughter, Fran is compelled to look outside, where she finds Nathan’s body in a ditch on their farmhouse property. She has no idea what happened and no concrete knowledge of the events that precipitated Nathan’s death. Now alone and still living in Nathan’s small hometown, Fran feels out of place and uncomfortable. She’s learning unsettling things about her late husband and struggling with what she “thinks” she remembers about the night of his death. Shifting between the past and present, Kent’s narrative flows well, although the section transitions could have been smoother. Still, that won’t deter readers’ interest in discovering the truth about Fran and Nathan.
Verdict Kent’s (The Crooked House) psychological thriller is reminiscent of B.A. Paris’s Behind Closed Doors, which is a more exciting example of stories in this subgenre (a wife realizes she doesn’t actually know the man she married). Readers who enjoy Fiona Barton and Shari Lapena may want to try this title.—Nicole A. Cooke, GSLIS, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Peterson, Zoey Leigh. Next Year, for Sure. Scribner. Mar. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781501145858. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781501145872. F
[DEBUT] Like a mumblecore movie in literary form, this first novel by short story writer Peterson delivers the tale of thirtysomethings Kathryn and Chris. Unfolding through rambling conversations that have an improvisational, wispy feel, it tells of their comfortable and compatible nine-year relationship, which may or may not be coming apart as serial monogamist Chris develops an infatuation for quirky new acquaintance Emily. When Kathryn decides that he should get it out of his system and date Emily, they obsess over the idea together, as Kathryn’s only other friend is preoccupied and disapproving. Readers feel they are sharing Kathryn’s and Chris’s unexpected yearlong experiences when exposure to Emily and her communal household becomes the catalyst for them both to take stock of their lives together and separately.
Verdict Dialog and thoughts take precedence over story line in this oddly moving, often funny debut novel about a heterosexual couple in an unnamed city who—with all their shared showers and snuggling—have been ignoring the state of their own relationship. Fans of Lena Dunham and Noah Baumbach movies may especially enjoy. [See Prepub Alert, 9/12/16.]—Laurie Cavanaugh, Thayer P.L., Braintree, MA

Rita, Carmen. Never Too Late. Kensington. Apr. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781496701329. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496701336. F
In many ways, best friends Cat, Gabi, Luz, and Magda have nothing in common. Cat is a television personality–turned–Internet sensation, while Gabi is a single mother whose ex cheated on her. Luz has an incarcerated father and a teenage half-sister who might be pregnant, and Magda is a powerhouse lesbian whose father condemns her lifestyle. But even though these fierce Latina women come from different backgrounds and live very different lives (albeit universally luxurious and trendy ones), they each struggle with their relationships. The only relationship safe from turmoil is that of the women’s friendship with one another.
Verdict Rita’s follow-up to her first novel (Never Too Real) holds high the value of female friendship, and any reader who likes gal pal stories with plenty of glamorous fashion, style, and scandal thrown in will enjoy this novel.—Anika Fajardo, St. Paul

Shafrir, Doree. Startup. Little, Brown. Apr. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780316360388. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316360371. F
startup022417[DEBUT] Mack McAllister, creator of the mindfulness app TakeOff, is making millions and is about to profit even more if the company’s new launch is successful. Katya Pasternack, a reporter at TechScene, needs the perfect story to save her job. Mother of two, Sabrina Blum is trying to keep up with current trends in her job at TakeOff. Meanwhile, Isabel, Mack’s underling, just hooked up with a new fling, pushing aside her “relationship” with her boss. In the start-up world, one tweet, snap, or post can change everything. So when Mack sends a risqué text to Isabel that both Sabrina and Katya inadvertently see, the clock starts ticking to the text going viral. More than a satire of the tech world, this story weaves three narratives, combining sexual politics, workplace drama, and the role women play in this business. Technology is not always as awesome as it seems.
Verdict Buzzfeed writer Shafrir’s debut is full of humor and layered in truth as she exposes the underbelly of start-up culture. Her characters will resonate with a variety of readers, from twentysomethings to CEOs. Fans of Camille Perri’s The Assistants will especially love this one.—Erin Holt, Williamson Cty. P.L., Franklin, TN

Werner, Ursula. The Good at Heart. Touchstone: S. & S. Feb. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781501147579. $26; pap. ISBN 9781501147586. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781501147593. F
[DEBUT] Leaving Berlin wasn’t enough for Edith and Oskar Eberhardt and their family to escape the war. It’s 1944, and now Hitler is on his way to visit their small German town near the Swiss border. Taking place over a period of three days, this first novel focuses on the complicated feelings the characters have about the war and on their relationships with their fellow residents of Blumental. Whether it’s a mother of three who helps smuggle two Polish children into Switzerland, a young child traumatized as the result of an Allied bombing, or the loving wife who struggles to reconcile with her husband’s relationship with the Führer, no one is left untouched.
Verdict Inspired by her great-grandfather’s experience, Werner has written an engaging if slow-paced story about good people and their wartime struggle to stay true to their convictions while protecting those they love. The vignette-style writing, reminiscent of Maeve Binchy, and the rich character development makes for a quaint narrative that provides a snapshot into the lives of ordinary Germans during World War II.—Vicki Briner, Broomfield, CO

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