Staff Picks

Can’t Look Away: Books With Compelling Characters

Adult Summer Reading will soon be under way (June 4 - August 27), so it's time to find that next great read! 

If fascinating fictional people are your thing, here is a list of books full of "characters" from the quirky to the curmudgeonly, and from the alarming to the downright dangerous. (Jane Steele, you rock!)

If you are in the mood for something faster-paced, or a book with some steamy summer romance, click here and fill out our BookVine form.  In just 10 - 14 days, you will receive a personalized list of recommendations just for you! 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

Ove is surrounded by complete idiots.  No one fixes things anymore, or uses their common sense.  No one understands that right is right and wrong is wrong. The world is upside down, and nothing can make it better. When did everything become so complicated?

 Then Ove’s neighbors come knocking at his door, needing this and borrowing that, always requiring his help.  First, it’s the husband and very-pregnant wife who irritate Ove when he is forced to intervene before the husband wrecks his own vehicle, his wife rolling her eyes. What sort of man can’t back up a trailer?  Next, it’s the twenty-something male he sees at all hours of the day (lazy!) who barges in with a nearly frozen cat that needs rescuing. Ove is not amused. Over and over, Ove’s neighbors interrupt his life, whether he wants to see them (he doesn’t!) or not.

 This heartwarming tale, with it’s quirky and wonderful characters, slowly reveals Ove’s personal journey and explains his curmudgeonly attitude toward the world. If you enjoyed the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, then this book is for you.

The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband by E.J. Copperman

The Question of the Unfamiliar Husband

by E.J. Copperman

What do you get when you mix an Aspie (short for a person with Asperger’s Syndrome) with a dead body or two?  Throw in a helpful assistant, a straight-shooting mother, and an ex-military cab driver and you have a recipe for a wonderfully quirky mystery.

The main character, Samuel Hoenig, makes it clear that he is NOT a private investigator, but runs a consulting firm called Questions Answered.  He merely answers questions, and his success rate is 100%.  Plus, Samuel has Asperger’s Syndrome, which means that he is highly intelligent and incredibly logical, but completely inept when entering the realm of emotions.  This is where the other characters come in, to help him navigate in this unfamiliar terrain.

 Though the plot is a bit forced, the characters in this story are so fully realized that you will barely notice.  If you enjoyed The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, then this book is for you.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Jane Steele

by Lyndsay Faye

As the daughter of a widowed outsider, young Jane finds herself orphaned and at the mercy of an aunt who despises her, and a male cousin who abuses her.  To escape, she gets herself sent away to a harsh boarding school only to find herself under the thumb of a horrible headmaster.  Jane protects herself the only way she knows how - by killing her tormentors.  And the bodies start piling up.

After running away to London, Jane finds herself defending the wife of her landlord, and once again permanently “eliminating” the threat.  Fleeing the city and out of options, she returns to her aunt’s home as a governess to new residents at Highgate House. The new and decidedly unconventional master, Mr. Thornfield, has secrets of his own.  Is this a match made in Heaven or Hell?

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Be Frank With Me

by Julia Claiborne Johnson

After depleting her fortune by unwittingly investing in a Ponzi scheme, reclusive author Mimi Banning must publish a new novel or lose everything, including her gated mansion in Hollywood. To help her complete her book, the publisher sends fan and assistant Alice Whitley to troubleshoot the eccentric’s life, including playing nanny for Mimi’s delightfully quirky nine-year-old son, Frank.

There are few rules in the free-wheeling Banning household, but one must be followed.  Never touch Frank without his permission, which Alice learns the hard way.

Mimi has a way of soothing her super-intelligent child, but when she disappears without a trace, Alice is forced to care for Frank, who dresses like a 30’s movie star and acts much older than his elementary school years.  How will Alice and Frank find Mimi?  Will Frank survive until they do?

The characters in this book will keep your interest, especially the engaging, delightful, frustrating Frank.  He will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

by Jennifer Niven

Violet and Finch, two damaged teenagers, meet for the first time on the top of a high school bell tower, both inclined to jump. Finch talks Violet off the ledge, and gallantly forces her to be the hero, as his reputation as a "freak" is already beyond repair. As their relationship grows, we see the physical and emotional scars from trying to navigate in a world where accidents happen and good people suffer. 

The story of Violet and Finch is wonderful and heartbreaking. The characters are compelling, and the tone very similar to Eleanor and Park. It's a vivid window into the teenage heart, and one you won't soon forget. 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

by Phaedra Patrick

After the loss of his beloved wife Miriam, 69 year-old Arthur Pepper lives a very precise life. There are certain things he does, in a very certain way, with certainty.
One year after Miriam’s passing, at the urging of his two estranged children, Arthur decides the time has come to clean out her side of the closet. He stumbles upon an item of hers that he has never seen before - a gold charm bracelet full of little charms. But how can this be?!  He knows everything about his beloved wife!
The bracelet sends him on a journey to find the REAL Miriam, the one before she met him, the one who collected these meaningful charms.
This delightful and engaging story will warm your heart as Arthur finds his own way, engages with the world, and discovers his lovely wife all over again. For fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

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