Staff Picks

Staff members of the Boca Raton Public Library share some of their favorite books.

Recommended by Lynne, Youth Services

Emma in the Night

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Two teenage sisters have been missing for 3 years. One returns with a tale of kidnapping, isolation, and a mysterious island with a plea that the search for the other sister needs to be started immediately. To the forensic psychologist assigned to the case, the story doesn’t add up. Is the returning sister telling the truth about what happened? Where is her sister? Captivating read…

Recommended by Kodi, Account Services

Bonfire

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Brilliant debut novel! I was hesitant about a thriller as a first novel, but it was very well done. The story follows a woman who breaks free of her small town only to find herself back in the middle of everything when a case pops up that demands her attention. Ritter weaves past memories into the story giving the reader a full look into a complicated and harrowing story. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Recommended by Nancy D., Collection Services

Dark Lake

The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

This is a great detective story set in Australia.  Gemma Woodstock, a local police officer in a small Australia town, had attended high school with the beautiful Roselind Ryan. Now, Gemma is the lead detective in the death of her old school mate who has been murdered and left floating in a nearby lake.

Roselind was always a quiet beauty who had a mysterious air about her. She had left the small town years before, only to return later to teach in the same high school that she and Gemma had attended. During the investigation, Gemma finds herself reliving some painful memories from those high school days. Everyone is a suspect from the woman's family members who didn't always get along with her, to the school principal who's relationship with Roselind seemed to be unusually close, to even her students, who sometime were infatuated by her beauty and brooding manner.

Doll Funeral
The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

On her 13th birthday, Ruby's parents tell her she's adopted.  Although she is shocked at the revelation, she is also relieved.  She hates her father, who is brutal in his punishments and she is always disappointed in her mother, who seems unable to intervene in the cruelty he inflicts on her.

She immediately makes it her mission to find her birth parents, hoping they can tell her why she was given up as a baby and start a new life with them.   She runs away from home.  Ruby has the gift of communicating with the spirits of those who have passed away.  This gift leads her to live with a family of three teenagers living in the deep forest near her home.  They offer her shelter but the lines quickly blur between real and unreal as she becomes involved in their lives and continues the search for her biological family.  Highly recommend.


Good Daughter

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

This book was impossible for me to put down. Two young sisters, who survived a horrific trauma that took their mother's life and their childhood innocence, have gone on to lead virtually separate lives as adults. Charlotte chose to stay in the home town where the trauma played out and became a lawyer, like her father. Samantha, the older sister, moved on to city life and a career in the corporate world.

Now a school shooting in their home town of Pikeville brings them all back together. They relive old memories as they try to sort out the local murder and their own volatile relationships with each other. The present becomes tied to their past and they try to work through emotions that they buried years ago.

 This is a fast moving novel with lots of twists and turns and a much unexpected ending.

Keep Her Safe

Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah

In an attempt to "get away from it all" Cara Burrows instead finds herself right in the middle of an American crime novel scenario.

After traveling from the UK to an exclusive spa & resort in Arizona, Cara checks into her luxurious room only to discover a man and a young girl already occupying the room. She has been given the wrong key by the desk clerk. Cara later suspects that the girl she saw that night was really someone thought to be a murder victim from a sensational murder case that had taken place years before in the U.S. If that is the case, the girl is not really dead and the mystery begins.

As Cara tries to unravel the mystery of who she really saw that night and what really happened to the girl years before, she realizes her own life is in danger. But, she can't give up on finding out what the real story might be and if innocent people are in prison for something they did not do. Her life is turned upside down in the process.

Recommended by Oyuki, Program Services

Crooked Saints

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is a master storyteller and her descriptive language always brings her magical settings to life. She has always incorporated magic and otherworldliness in her writing but in reading “All The Crooked Saints” it really hit me full force that she is a magical realist at heart. The enigmatic desert setting, the Mexican American Soria family, the promise and power of miracles, the pilgrims, and a pirate radio station all blend together for a wonderful tale that explores concepts of love and belonging.

Recommended by Kim, Collection Services

Two Lost Boys
Two Lost Boys by L.F. Robertson

Two Lost Boys is a debut novel by L.F. Robertson, a practicing defense attorney in California.  The main character is Janet Moodie, a death row appeals attorney.  She's called on by another attorney for her expertise on a case for client Andy Hardy, who is on death row.  Along with his brother, Emory, Andy was convicted of the rape and murder of two women.  However, Emory only received a life sentence.  Janet feels that Andy's lawyers missed some mitigating evidence that would have kept him off death row.  Andy has a very low IQ, is very slow and shy, and Janet feels that he really wasn't the ringleader of the crimes that he and Emory are serving time for.  Through Janet's research into Andy's background, she unearths some deep family secrets and discovers what a terribly dysfunctional family he grew up with.  I enjoyed this story as I found the character very realistic and it was also a very fast and easy read.
Small Great Things
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This story begins with parents at a hospital to have a baby insist that one of the nurses be reassigned; they are white supremacists and Ruth is black. The hospital complies, but Ruth is the only nurse available when the baby goes into cardiac arrest, and her caution about rushing to the baby's aid leads to tragedy—and a trial. Ruth is aided by a white public defender, who's initially reluctant to make race an issue. I enjoyed this story because the topic is very timely with our country’s recent current events. Jodi Picoult grabs your attention from the get go and I couldn’t put this book down.

Recommended by Marcella, Collection Services:

Give me the Child

Give me the Child by Melanie McGrath

British author Melanie McGrath, known for her historical nonfiction and Edie Kiglatuk mystery series, branches out into the psychological suspense genre with her latest novel Give Me the Child. Narrator Caitlin (Cat) Lupo is a London-based neuro-psychiatrist whose work focuses on troubled children. Her work hits a little too close to home with the middle of the night arrival of young Ruby Winter, who proves to be the troubled product of her husband Tom’s past infidelity. Ruby comes to live with Cat, Tom, and their young daughter Freya and Cat quickly begins to suspect that Ruby may have some involvement in her mother Lilly’s death and poses a danger to Freya. Cat’s past mental instability and Tom’s refusal to believe her cause her to question her own intuition, while new revelations about Tom cause her to question everything she thought she knew about their marriage. The result is a suspense packed race to protect her daughter and find out the truth behind Lilly Winter’s death.

Blind
The Blind by A.F. Brady

A. F. Brady’s debut novel The Blind is at its heart a  fascinating psychological portrait of a deeply troubled woman. Psychologist Sam James has a sterling reputation but is barely holding her own troubled life together and the seams are starting to show. An independent psychological examination of the staff at her institution gave her a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder but budget cuts and overworked staff allow her  to hide the results from her supervisor. Just as she is seriously questioning her own sanity, she is assigned to Richard McHugh, a new, challenging, secretive patient with an unknown criminal past and no clear diagnosis.  Richard is at first silent and uncooperative, but Sam soon discovers that he is not as aloof as he appears. He steals her hidden stash of alcohol and uses his newfound leverage to turn their therapy sessions into mutual exchanges rather than therapist-patient interactions. The tension builds towards a surprise plot twist as Sam desperately tries to clean up her life, uncover Richard’s past, and figure out his motives.
Savage Country

Savage Country by Robert Olmstead

Savage Country is a spare, somber work of historical fiction that vividly captures a pivotal moment of change in American history and in its characters’ lives.  It is 1873 and the last of the great herds of buffalo are being hunted into extinction on the vast American plains. Elizabeth Coughlin, a  lost, lonely farmer’s widow, joins forces with her late husband’s enigmatic brother Michael to carry on the buffalo hunt he had planned as their financial salvation before his untimely death. Nomadic hunter Michael has been overseas living with his own demons for many years before returning to America to settle his late brother’s debts. Together, they lead an expedition filled with a variety of colorful characters into the vast unsettled wilderness, where dangers include wild storms, raging brushfires, rattlesnakes, and the omnipresent threat of both Comanche and the moneylender bent on their destruction. They survive due to Elizabeth’s growing determination and Michael’s uncanny survival instincts as they slowly turn to each other for comfort. Just as the buffalo slaughter heralded the end of a way of life, so Elizabeth and Michael slowly but inexorably sever their ties to the past. Olmstead’s spare prose perfectly captures the haunting qualities of the transformations.

Ten Dead Comedians
Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente
 
 

This debut novel is a unique, clever, and laugh out loud funny blend of classic Agatha Christie murder mystery and satire of the comedy scene. The premise involves a group of comedians stranded on a Caribbean island who begin dying off one by one. If you don't mind irreverent, slightly off color humor, this original book is a fun read.

Seance Infernale

Séance Infernale by Jonathan Skariton

Modern film memorabilia collector Andrew Valdano hunts down rare objects for wealthy clients to escape his haunted despair over the disappearance of his young daughter ten years ago. He stumbles upon a mystery while seeking the rumored lost film of Victorian inventor Augustin Sekular, who some film historians credit with the invention of the moving picture and who mysteriously disappeared. Ultimately, present-day and historical mysteries become intertwined as Valdano and associates follow clues embedded in Sekular’s film through the hidden tunnels and dark alleys of atmospheric Edinburgh. Skariton’s blend of history and fiction, suspense and psychological drama create a unique, compelling read.

Recommended by Nancy J., Collection Services:

The Address
The Address by Fiona Davis
   

This intriguing novel by Fiona Davis center around the most famous apartment building in New York City, the Dakota.  The story goes back and forth between 1984 when the building was built and 1984. In 1884 Sara Smythe arrives in New York from England to help manage the opening of this new apartment building and manage the staff.  She falls in love with the much-married architect Theodore Camden and their affair has far reaching consequences in 1984 for Bailey Camden an interior designer and questionable descendant of this man. The building holds many secrets, especially in its basement storage area and the halls of the apartments themselves.  This is a good read, and sophomore novel of writer Fiona Davis.  Her debut novel was The Dollhouse, and after reading The Address, I’m planning on backtracking and reading Ms. Davis’s first book.


Recommended by Lydia, Account Services:

We Were Strangers Once
We Were Strangers Once by Betsy Carter

Fascinating book since this was written from a different perspective compared to other World War ll books.  The characters who are Jewish escape Germany as things start to get difficult for Jews in Europe before the war actually begins. They come to America and the book shows the difficulties they faced as immigrants here. The book starts with their family history so it gives you a sense of who they were before and what they had to sacrifice as immigrants.
Shadows on the Lake
Shadows on the Lake by Giovanni Cocco

A beautifully descriptive mystery that slowly unfolds. During road construction a body was uncovered as they were demolishing an old house. Stefania the police investigator became obsessed with uncovering the identity of the body and story behind his death. Great read if you are in the mood for a light mystery.
Before We Were Yours
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

For readers of The Orphan Train and The Nightingale, Lydia recommends Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, a tale inspired by firsthand accounts about the notoriously corrupt Tennessee Children's Home Society. This is a poignant novel about a family brought up on a river boat in Tennessee with subsequent tragic and cruel circumstances tearing the family apart and away from the river. Years later the story is uncovered by the granddaughter of one of the children leading her on a journey through her family's long-hidden history.

Recommended by Laura, Account Service Services:

The Space Between the Stars
The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett
   
Lola poses as the innocent girlfriend of a “Crenshaw Six” gang member in South Central Los Angeles. In reality, she’s the gang’s ruthless leader. Her life changes when she meets a four year old girl from the neighborhood. She makes it her mission to improve the little girl’s life. Lola is torn between being a strong leader to her men and being there for a child in need. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a story with a strong female protagonist.

Recommended by Amy, Instructional Services:

Spoonbenders
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
 
Johnny Carson stole his Carnac the Magnificent from the amazing Telemachus family; Teddy the charismatic con man, his wife Maureen, a real psychic, and their three gifted children. Or, more accurately, Carson mocked them with his act after one disastrous night on national TV. This is the story of the no long amazing Telemachus family – or maybe they really are amazing! Frankie who tries too hard and almost loses everything, Irene who is afraid to risk anything, and Buddy, who lives in his own world. Or maybe he is more in the real world than any of them. This is a riotous and moving romp which includes the supernatural, the mob, love, teen angst and coming of age in one glorious tale!
Painted Queen

The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters

This is sadly the last Amelia Peabody book, finished from the author’s partly completed manuscript by her friend and mystery writer, Joan Hess. This book is a welcome and sad farewell for fans of the series and yet leaves so many questions about the future of Amelia, her family, and Egypt. For those new to the series, the tone, befitting the life and times of a turn of the century confirmed spinster, suffragist, and scholar, is as uncomfortable as a maid asked to tea with the ladies. It both grates and grows on the gentle reader. It grew on this reader enough to start the series from the beginning. And yet the relations between "natives" and the British still grates even as it likely represents the best of upper class British behavior in these circumstances. Joan Hess has done a wonderful job and one can only hope she is allowed to move the series forward; and that we have a chance to follow Amelia and her family on their next adventure.

Recommended by Ellen, Public Services:

Reincarnation Blues
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
 
Milo, a soul close to “Becoming One with Everything,” can’t get it right even after 9,995 lives. Does he care? No, he does not. He relishes living and, when he dies, he hangs out with Death, his friend and lover. Unfortunately, Milo’s time is almost up: a soul must graduate in 10,000 lives or fall into oblivion. He tries the usual gambits - hermit, philanthropist, holy man, self-sacrifice – nothing works. In the meantime, Death decides her job is unfulfilling and quits. Now, how will Milo ever find her again? The cleverly-written story is engaging and smart, with amusing insights about philosophy, religion, and the net effect of being oneself. If you like Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, or Jasper Fforde, you’ll enjoy Michael Poore.

Recommended by Helen, Collection Services

Blondes

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

Hazel is a grad student living in NYC.  As the novel opens, she learns she is pregnant from an affair with her married professor, at an apocalyptically bad time:  random but deadly attacks on passers-by, all by blonde women, are terrorizing New Yorkers.  Soon it becomes clear that the attacks are symptoms of a strange illness that is transforming blondes into rabid killers.  Sounds like a horror story but hilarious and whip smart.

Midwinter Blood
Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick
  
An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of Midwinterblood?
The Fireman
The Fireman by Joe Hill
 
When a bizarre virulent plague breaks out in the world's major cities, causing victims to spontaneously com-bust, a dedicated nurse resolves to survive until her baby is born and receives protection from a mysterious infected man who uses his fire symptoms to help others.
Unraveling Oliver

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children's books; their life one of privilege and ease-- until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma. As Alice hovers between life and death, the couple's friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act.

Gather the Daughters

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers-- chosen male descendants of the original ten-- are allowed to cross to the wastelands. At the first sign of puberty, their daughters face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. One summer little Caitlin Jacob sees something so contradictory to the laws of the island that she must share it with the others.

Recommended by Deborah, Youth Services

Logical Family

Logical Family by Armistead Maupin

Armistead Maupin, in the southern tradition, is a natural born storyteller and in "Logical Family" he gives us the story of his life from privileged son of an ultra-conservative unreconstructed father in Virginia to renowned author and gay activist in San Francisco. Along the way, we get honest and searing insights about America's history, the turbulent fight for gay rights, and his personal struggles to find his way to his "logical family." Great read.

Marsh Kings Daughter
The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne
  
Reading the Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne is a layered experience, much like tasting a fine wine. Top layer is a compelling, intricate mystery/adventure; the kidnapping/hostage plot could have been plucked out of newspaper headlines. Underlying that is the richly described natural world, almost primeval in its fecund, unforgiving wildness juxtaposed against the normalcy of a modern world, comfortable but complicated. Weeks later, one remembers both worlds, in stark contrast to each other, existing side by side and reflects on that fundamental dialectic.
Pieces of Happiness

Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby

This was is a thoroughly enjoyable easy read about the lives of five women, all childhood friends from the same small Scandinavian town, whose lives diverged and then quite unexpectedly merged again in Fiji - at the invitation of the most adventurous of the group, Kat. Therein lies the engrossing tale of five lives, of ordinary and yet extraordinary women. Strongly recommend.

Lies She Told

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

Cate Holahan's "romantic suspense novel" aka psychological thriller grabbed me on the first page and didn't let go until the very last. There is the real life Liza, author, childless, desperate to be a mother and her husband David whose best friend just went missing. Then we meet Beth and Jake, new parents to Victoria who are characters in Liza's latest work in progress.  Holahan keeps us guessing with plot twists and turns and surprises to the very last page.

Recommended by Robin, Collection Services

Five Carat Soul

Five-Carat Soul by James McBride

The short stories in James McBride’s much anticipated Five-Carat Soul are fresh and inventive.

The story about Blub, a neighborhood teen charged with murder, will break your heart as will the stories about Buck Boy Robinson, who was killed by Mr. Woo, the grocer who lends the five-member Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band the space above his store to practice; and the story about the ever-pleasing Ray-Ray, a brother of one of the band members, who shares some titillating photographs with neighborhood kids.  Another story, Goat, is about a band member named Goat whose teacher works to get him a scholarship when he demonstrates a remarkable running ability.

There are two stories featuring Abraham Lincoln.  On the eve of Lincoln’s visit to Richmond, VA near the end of the war, there is a story about a black orphan boy who has been given the name Abe Lincoln. He wanders away from the orphanage that night and meets Sgt. Abe Porter.  A conversation they have about the meaning of freedom will change both of their lives.

In the other Lincoln story, The Fish Man Angel, the President who is still mourning the death of his son Willie, goes to the White House stable where Willie’s pony stays and overhears a conversation between a man who works at the stables and his son about the Fish Man Angel who awarded the man’s late wife – for her honesty – “to deliver to you a son, and I’mma ask him to give a promise to your boy that His will and deliverance will come to your boy’s life.” And then says the father, “the word was these: here…thenceforward…forevermore…free,” which, in essence, became part of the Emancipation Proclamation, in this story.

“The Christmas Dance,” was the story that made me weep. It is a new story about the Hispanic and black soldiers who fought in Italy in WWII that McBride wrote about in his novel Miracle at St. Anna. Highly recommend.

Sons and Soldiers

Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

Near the end of Bruce Henderson’s Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler, just after James M. Gavin, Commanding General of the Army’s 82nd Airborne division, accepted Germany’s surrender in Ludwigslust, Germany, the Wobbelin concentration camp was discovered nearby. Two hundred unidentified corpses were found among the nearly dead. Among those who saw this horrific campsite were U.S. Army soldiers Manny Steinfeld and Werner Angress, central figures in the book.

Steinfeld and Angress, German-born Jews whose desperate families were able to get them out of Germany and to America when they were teenagers, eventually joined the U.S. Army, became U.S. citizens and both became “Ritchie Boys,” soldiers trained by the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Center at Camp Ritchie, in Cascade, Maryland. The Ritchie Boys’ language skills, interrogation-training, and knowledge of German culture and psychology, were invaluable to the Allied Forces.

Henderson follows Steinfeld, Angress and four other young men from their pre-war lives in Germany to their post-war years. In addition, he tells the story of two Ritchie Boys, also German Jews, who were murdered by a German firing squad.

The two hundred people murdered by the Nazis and found at Wobbelin were given a public burial - per General Eisenhower’s mandate for victims of atrocities - on the grounds of the Ludwigslust Palace.

Steinfeld supervised the digging of 200 graves by the townspeople of Ludwigslust. For their indifference to the atrocities, Gen. Gavin ordered all the adult townspeople to attend the ceremony.

Angress helped guard the recently arrested German prisoners-of-war, who were also required to attend. He drew his .45 pistol and put it to the head of one captain who, with other German POWs, had turned around when the ceremony began. Angress told them all to face the graves.

After the war, Steinfeld learned that his mother and sister died at a Polish concentration camp, and that his brother, thought to be safe in Palestine, was killed by British troops. After the war, Angress learned that his father died at Auschwitz.

The Ritchie Boys' families’ desperate attempts to leave Germany is heart-breaking. The Ritchie Boys’ bravery and skills are heroic. Henderson’s book is a captivating read.