Alison’s Book Reviews

At Headingley Library, we want to make sure you get your hands on all of the talked about books this summer! That’s why we are reading ahead to make sure we can recommend only the best titles! To be placed on the holds list for any of these upcoming releases, email the library at!  Thank you to Net Galley for providing us with advance readers copies of all of these titles.


marion palm

This quirky, fast-paced and, at times, hilarious first novel from Emily Culliton is one of my favourites of 2017.  Not one of the characters has enough redeeming qualities to be likeable and yet you will find yourself rooting for Marion, her husband and even the Russians (don’t ask!) anyway.  I would venture to say that most married woman with children will relate, on some level, to Marion Palm:  “Was his wife unhappy?  How was she unhappy? Was it work? Was it the kids? Was it him?  All three, Nathan told the detective.  Both Nathan and the school undervalued her. Both expected her to … calm others’ anxieties, whims and manias and this meant that she could never have any of her own”.  Marion has been embezzling funds from her part-time bookkeeping job for years.  When her employer announces that they are being audited, Marion decides to go into hiding – from her family, her job and her friends.  Culliton’s writing is similar to Joseph Heller’s in Catch-22.  The story is outlandish, outrageous and hilarious and Culliton is an expert at satirical writing.  I challenge you not to laugh out loud while, at the same time, realizing that, yes, every character in The Misfortune of Marion Palm is someone you’ve encountered in  your own life.  And that is what makes this comedic look at modern family life so relatable.


Everyone knows the rhyme:

Lizzie Borden took an axe; and gave her mother 40 whacks; when she saw what she had done; she gave her father 41.

Sarah Schmidt’s novel is historical fiction exploring the infamous murders of  Mr. and Mrs. Borden in the late 19th century.  Emma, Lizzie’s sister, is ten years older than Lizzie, and has assumed the role of caretaker and main confidante of Lizzie following the death of their birth mother when Lizzie was very young.  The bond between the sisters is a strange one, bordering on unhealthy. In fact, there are no healthy relationships whatsoever in See What I Have Done.  The novel is told from the alternating points of view of Lizzie, Emma and Bridget, the family’s servant who is desperate to escape the family and return to Ireland.

See What I Have Done is beautifully written in a strange, almost dreamlike manner, with the ominous tone and the forbading atmosphere of the house permeating throughout.  From the mutton soup which always seems to be on the stove – never refrigerated and eaten daily – to the descriptions of the bodies of the victims, to Mrs. Borden’s strange and unhealthy attempt to hold on to Bridget in spite of her desperate attempts to flee, it’s easy to get caught up in the chilling, dysfunctional atmosphere of this novel. Everyone in the Borden family is a bit off:  the maid, older sister Emma who desperately seeks separation from Lizzie (who is unhinged and creepy throughout), and Uncle John who is just a bit too touchy with the sisters and has it in for their beastly father Andrew… a deadly way.

Who really butchered Lizzie Borden’s parents?  The case was never solved and Sarah Schmidt is not saying either.  Readers will draw their own conclusions after reading this fascinating novel.


Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.



This is a psychological suspense thriller with an interesting premise: in a world where so many marriages fail, what would you be prepared to do to make sure yours will be successful? Jack and Alice are given a box as a wedding present from Liam Finnegan, a client of Alice. Once a singer, Alice is now a lawyer and Jake is, ironically enough, a marriage counselor.  The box contains a cryptic invitation to join an exclusive group.  On returning from their honeymoon, Vivian explains The Pact, a set of rules and regulations which aims to ensure that their marriage succeeds. They are presented with a manual with the rules for a successful marriage – they have to answer every phone call from their spouse, give monthly gifts, travel as a couple on a regular basis, for example. Failure to uphold the rules results in (rather unpleasant) penalties and punishments.   Jake and Alice are intrigued enough to join The Pact and, without looking closely at the contract, both sign it. At first, membership in the Pact is exciting and alluring. Jake and Alice’s social life become a string of glamorous parties held by members who refer to each other as ‘Friend’. However, Alice’s professional obligations impede her capacity to adhere to the rules, resulting in punishment.  Jake’s former connection with a member who implies that The Pact is not what it seems leads to Jake’s decision to leave the group. There is only one problem: it is difficult to disassociate themselves from the Pact, which is beginning to look more and more like a cult. The Pact never leaves you and you never leave The Pact and Jake and Alice have fallen down a very dark rabbit hole. This novel, at times, requires the reader to suspend belief and, if looked upon as a commentary on modern relationships,  is an intriguing read.

Coming July 25!

If you enjoyed “In a Dark, Dark Wood” and “The Woman In Cabin 10”, this book is a stay-up-past-your-bedtime must read! Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her now. Something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three best friends she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten. Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, after what they did. At school the girls used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. But for some, did the boundary between fact and fantasy become too blurred?
And how much can you really trust your friends?



                                                                                                                                                               Coming August 17!

“This thing I’ve planned for so carefully: it has all gone drastically, horribly wrong.’’ 

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.  This novel is told through a series of journal entries written by husband and wife which makes for an engaging read and a departure from the usual “he said, she said” format.  The House is a fast-paced psychological thriller perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Mary Kubica.

Coming June 6!

In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds their picture-perfect life unraveling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies. One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.
Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

Coming July 11!

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. No body—only a hiking boot—has ever been found. Billie’s husband and teenage daughter cope with her death the best they can: Jonathan drinks, Olive grows remote.
But then Olive starts having waking dreams—or are they hallucinations?—that her mother is still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he knew about his wife. Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, their family, and the stories we tell ourselves about the people we love.

Coming June 13!

When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine–growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.

Coming June 27!

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Coming July 11!

This is one of my favourite series ever and Down a Dark Road, the latest in Castillo’s Kate Burkholder mysteries does not disappoint. If you haven’t read this series yet, what are you waiting for?  Drop in today and ask for book 1. Eight years ago Joseph King was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to life in prison. He was a “fallen” Amish man and, according to local law enforcement, a known drug user with a violent temper. Now King has escaped, and he’s headed for Painters Mill. News of a murderer on the loose travels like wildfire and putting Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and her team of officers on edge. A nightmare scenario becomes reality when King shows up with a gun and kidnaps his five children from their Amish uncle’s house. He’s armed and desperate with nothing left to lose.

Coming June 27!

The sequel to Susie Steiner’s bestselling MISSING, PRESUMED
Manon has settled back into life in Cambridgeshire with her adopted son Fly. She’s perfectly happy working on cold cases until a man is stabbed to death just yards from the police station, and both the victim and the prime suspect turn out to be much closer to home than she would like. How well does Manon know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder?

Coming September 12!

Coming September 12!

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Coming June 20!

Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.