The Rules of Magic: A Novel

When she turned 17, Franny Owens, according to family custom, was summoned from her Manhattan home to the Owens homestead in Massachusetts. It was time for Aunt Isabelle to instruct her in her family heritage – witchcraft. Those who do not enjoy sci-fi or fantasy need not worry, this beautifully written family saga transcends genre. In this prequel to Practical Magic, Hoffman introduces readers to the Owens family whose history dates to colonial era New England and whose powers create fear and suspicion in the community. Over the course of about 50 years, the reader follows Franny and her siblings Jet and Vincent as they deal with who they are and grapple with its affects on their relationships. I found the love stories of the three, particularly Franny and Hay, especially compelling. Readers won’t soon forget these vivid and fully realized characters.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Elena Richardson’s carefully engineered perfect life in Shaker Heights, OH is literally and figuratively in flames on the first page of Celeste Ng’s new novel. The reader is plunged into a tangled web of relationships, both positive and heartbreaking. Elena discovers she doesn’t know her four children as well as she believed as she deals with their growing bond with a new tenant and her teenage daughter. As a custody case further inflames the community, Elena feels compelled to involve herself in her tenant’s past, dredging up pain long buried.

Joy: 100 Poems

If there is a poet on your gift list, anthologies are often best; and Christian Wiman, a professor at Yale Institute for Sacred Music, has compiled a thoughtful edition appropriately titled for the holiday season. Rather than including classic offerings, his decision to include only selections from modern-era poets will introduce readers to lesser known writers and their works, with so many interesting and unusual selections that even the most jaded writer will be delighted, even joyful.

The Bettencourt Affair

Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L’Oreal fortune and the world’s wealthiest woman, greatly valued her friendship with Francois-Marie Banier, an artist and photographer twenty-five years younger, but attentive and entertaining. Liliane and her husband Andre thought of Banier almost as family. When Liliane mused that she might adopt him and make him an heir, the Bettencourt’s daughter and only child took action, bringing to light the hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts her mother showered on Banier. The ensuing lawsuits fractured a family, entangled a president, fascinated Paris for years. A great read!

Alternate Side

Nora Nolan lives with her husband, Charlie, and their two college age kids on the Upper West side of Manhattan on a dead end street. They live in an old, stately Victorian home on a street populated by wealthy residents. A violent incident happens in the neighborhood that will affect all who live in this community. The author’s narrative is an exceptional character study on the complexities of neighborhood, family, class, and race. It is also a lively and often humorous look at living in New York City.

August Snow

August Snow
by Stephen Mack Jones

August Snow is an ex-police detective who was fired from the Detroit police department. He was a whistleblower in a scandal that involved a corrupt police department and the mayor. August settled for $12 million dollars and left town for a year. When he returns to Detroit, he settles in his old neighborhood, Mexicantown. (August is half African-American, half Mexican). There he is contacted by a wealthy woman, Eleanor Page, who wants him to investigate her investment bank for suspicious activity. August refuses. What follows is murder, lots of dead bodies and assassins. This is a fast paced debut crime novel with well written characters and unexpected plot twists. Hopefully, this will be a new series.