Bracing February Reads

By Leslie Zemeckis   |   February 14, 2023

Fans of Bret Easton Ellis will be thrilled with The Shards, his first book in 13 years. Bret (fictional Bret) is 17 years old, attending a preppy academy, taking massive quantities of drugs, and obsessing over Robert, the new kid in school – handsome and a threat – and a serial killer roaming around Los Angeles. Ellis returns to the 1980s and his genre of louche, superficiality, and beautiful characters obsessed with themselves. Don’t be lulled by the lingering pace, its Ellis masterfully drawing his audience in towards a bloody climax. 

Maddie is in her twenties, often the only Black person in a room, and doesn’t have the perfect family. Her father is sick with advanced stage Parkinson’s, her mother spends years in Ghana, and her brother is mostly absent, except when he needs to borrow money. It falls to Maddie to care for her father which earns her the nickname “Maame” – the responsible one – and the title of Jessica George’s debut novel. Maddie struggles to break free of her responsibilities and insecurities, endlessly Googling for the answers about dating and job interviews and life. George charmingly captures Maddie’s struggles with the marginalization she faces every day, and I am sure you will fall in love with Maddie as much as I did.

Nick Tabor’s Africatown is a moving portrait of the last slave ship out of West Africa that landed in Alabama. The treatment of the enslaved persons is not a happy tale, nor is their eventual freedom, even though they built a community called Africatown that exists today. Tabor explains with heartbreaking details the lack of reform, restitution, and any sort of fairness the formerly enslaved people endured once slavery was abolished. 

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is the third installment from Elle Cosimano. Finlay is a suspense writer who continually finds herself mixed up with real life criminals, being chased by the mob, and dead people inconveniently turning up where she is. Her nanny/assistant Vero is a hoot of a character, who manages to get the duo into dangerous and hilarious situations. 

The two fall in and out of trouble at lightning speed as a Russian mobster threatens their lives. It is complicated, and a funny romp worth diving into. 

It’s One of Us by J.T. Ellison is a wholly original premise. Olivia and Dan can’t remain pregnant. When a woman’s body is found and the DNA irrefutably points to the killer being Dan’s child, the couple are thrown into a nightmare situation. Dan doesn’t even know he has children, though he admits to donating to a sperm bank in his college days. Turns out there are at least 28 potential killers out there and it might just be up to one of them to solve the murder. 

The Woman with the Cure is Lynn Cullen’s latest about Dorothy Horstmann, who helped develop the polio vaccine. Turned away from a residency at Vanderbilt because of her sex, Dorothy went on to prove polio traveled through the blood, despite her male colleague’s skepticism. Cullen movingly describes what it was like to have polio in the 1940s, and Dorothy’s compassion and determination to find a cure.  


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