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Staff Picks

March/April 2023

The Pale Blue Eye
by Louis Bayard

In 1830 at West Point Military Academy cadets are being murdered and their bodies mutilated.  A retired New York City police detective is recruited by the Academy to solve the mystery with help from an unusual cadet, Edgar Allan Poe.  Dark and atmospheric, it reads like one of Poe’s own stories while having the suspenseful twists and turns of the best murder mysteries.

~ Lisa

Cold Mountain
by Charles Frazier

My husband kept telling me to read Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier. I had already read Thirteen Moons by him and enjoyed it immensely, but I felt as though I was too familiar with the story of Cold Mountain after watching the movie several times over the years.  I finally picked it up and I am so glad that I did. The lyrical prose is captivating and transport you into the harsh yet beautiful worlds of two people making their way in a changing world at the end of the Civil War. Inman, an injured AWOL soldier is journeying back to his beloved, Ada. Ada, the daughter of a preacher, is dealing with her father’s death, loneliness and a decrepit farm. A neighbor sends Ruby, a woman wise of all things natural and practical, to help Ada revive the farm. Frazier infuses the characters with real qualities and describes their interactions with a poet’s touch. A classic in our time.

~ Mary W.

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

Black-and-white stripe tents appear out of nowhere. When you approach the gates, you are met with a sign that says ‘Le Cirque des Rêves.’ The events do not occur until dusk has begun to fall and then you may enter. Each tent hosts a performer so otherworldly and unique that it could take days or weeks to explore them all. Behind the magical aura, a fierce competition 20 years in the making takes place between two unknown contestants. Only one contestant can be left standing and the circus is the stage for the imaginative and creative dual between illusionists. Despite the stakes, Celia and Marco fall into a deep and magical love that with the slightest brush of a hand can make the lights flicker and the room glow. Love or not, the game must continue for the fate of the circus, their friends, and themselves are at stake.

Have you ever read a book that you feel was made for you? This is that book for me. There isn’t too much plot here but the imagery, atmosphere, and prose combine to create a beautiful silhouette for the circus of my dreams. The cast of characters is vast and easily the highlight of the novel. I cannot begin to describe how breathtaking and romantic this book is. The setting is lush within the circus with tents full of magic, gardens of ice, acrobats, talented kittens, and a tree that grants wishes that only appears when you need it most. I don’t believe this type of book will be for everyone but for me, this book quickly became one of my all-time favorites. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves atmospheric writing, whimsical settings, and romantic plots. This is magical realism at its finest.

~ Danielle

Kingdom of the Wicked
by Kerri Maniscalco

Twins Emila and Vittoria Di Carlo are a part of a coven of witches who are secretly hiding among humans on the island of Sicily. They live a pretty normal life, working at their family’s popular restaurant while learning how to use their magical powers. When a serial killer begins to target witches and Emilia stumbles upon her twin brutally murdered, she vows to do whatever is necessary to find her sister’s killer, even if it means using forbidden dark magic. As she investigates, Emilia discovers that events leading up to her sister’s murder don’t add up and there might be more to her death than previously thought.

~ Jenny

Just the Nicest Couple
by Mary Kubica

In this twisty thriller, expectant couple Lily and Christian descend deeper and deeper into a web of lies and deceit to cover any connection they have to the disappearance of Jake, their friend Nina’s husband.  Lily may have been the last person to see Jake alive, but they don’t go to the police, for fear of divulging a devastating secret that could destroy Nina’s life. As the truth unfolds about what really happened to Jake no one is what they seem, leading to a startling conclusion.  Kubica’s novels never disappoint – recommended for fans of Riley Sager, Gillian Flynn, and Ruth Ware.

~ Mary D.

Remarkably Bright Creatures
by Shelby Van Pelt

This charming and unique novel is told in three points of view.  Tova works the night shift cleaning at the aquarium.  Having recently lost her husband, and trying to cope with the death of her son 30 years ago, she finds solace in working alone among the marine animals.  Marcellus is a giant Pacific octopus that was rescued by the aquarium, and the chapters told from his point of view are full of wisdom and humor.  Tova and Marcellus develop a strong connection that is the heart of the book.  Cameron is a young man who was raised by his aunt, and is on a trip searching for his father whom he never met.  All three characters are dealing with loss in some way, and find healing in unexpected ways.

The beautiful cover initially attracted me to this book, but the charm and warmth of the story kept me reading.  While the story deals with grief, loneliness, and aging, the book is very uplifting and shows the power of human connections with animals and the love that can be found in the most unlikely friendship.

~ Noreen