Suspense in ‘Best Day Ever’

The “best day ever” is what advertising executive Paul Strom promises his lovely wife Mia as they drive from their handsome Columbus home for a weekend getaway at their vacation home in Lakeside, the gated community west of Lake Erie. The Best Day Ever, a new suspense novel by Columbus native Kaira Rouda, is Paul’s narrative of this single day, which he expects to follow with “the best night ever.”

Although Mia stopped working at the advertising agency when she and Paul married, she could use a break. The younger of their two sons has just started first grade, and Mia has been suffering from nausea and weight loss; a doctor says it might be stress. She’s eager to see the progress of the strawberries she planted at Lakeside.

While Paul recounts the couple’s background and the events of the drive to the lake, he also keeps up with his internal commentary, which reveals his disdain for Mia’s strawberries and the neighbor who’s been keeping an eye on them, her conversion to vegetarianism and her rich parents. Paul tells us he has a surprise for Mia hidden in the car’s glove compartment, but we won’t know what it is until after dinner.

Using the device of the unreliable narrator, Rouda allows Paul to reveal his plan to the reader, who never is quite sure how much is genuine and how much is bluster or delusion. But Mia may have a plan of her own.

Best Day Ever (342 pages, hardcover) costs $26.99 from Graydon House. Kaira Rouda’s previous books include The Goodbye Year and All the Difference.

‘The Wonderling’ wonderful

Former Cleveland resident Mira Bartók’s The Wonderling is an enchanting fantasy for middle readers. It has a heart-stealing hero in a nameless “groundling,” a “hybrid mix of animal and human, or animal and animal.” He is known as Number Thirteen for the tin medallion that was around his neck when he was abandoned at Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures.

Number Thirteen is a one-eared foxlike creature who walks upright. He and his fellow groundlings are forced into lessons that remind them that they exist solely to toil and suffer, and they work in a factory where they produce odd widgets. The primary rule is silence, as Miss Carbunkle believes sound — especially music — is an abomination.

One day a bird flies over the wall and is tormented by bullies. Number Thirteen intervenes, and his new friend, Trinket, eventually helps him escape and names him Arthur, for the king. They find their way to the great city of Lumentown, inhospitable to groundlings, and its foul counterpart Gloomintown, where Arthur falls in with a gang of hoodlums.

Arthur discovers a magical music box that enters the listener’s dreams, and a secret plot that only he and his new friends can foil. With steampunky contraptions and wonderful names like Sneezeweed, Bonegrubber and Bunmuncher the cook, it seems that all readers have left to wish for is more of Bartók’s charming illustrations — and a sequel.

Mira Bartók attended Cleveland schools and studied at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her book The Memory Palace, winner of the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, tells of Bartók’s reunion with her mother, a formerly homeless schizophrenic.

The Wonderling (450 pages, hardcover) costs $21.99 from Candlewick Press. It is in development as a motion picture to be directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot). Mira Bartók will sign The Wonderling at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Rice branch of Cleveland Public Library, 11535 Shaker Blvd.

Events

Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights) — Stacie Sullivan-Simon signs her picture book I Am Me and You Are You, which addresses racism and bullying, 1 p.m. Sunday; Ellendea Proffer-Teasley discusses Brodsky Among Us, about her friendship with Russian exile and Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky, 7 p.m. Tuesday. At 6 p.m. Wednesday, “Shared Stories: Six Writers on the Bonds of Art and Friendship” presents Sarah Willis (The Sound of Us), illustrator Karen Sandstrom, Loung Ung (First They Killed My Father), Paula McLain (Circling the Sun), Sara Holbrook (What’s So Big About Cleveland, Ohio?) and Thrity Umrigar (Everybody’s Son) share stories about their creative process, including original drafts, photographs and illustrations.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Solon branch, 3412 Portz Parkway) — Dave Schwensen gives a presentation and signs The Beatles in Cleveland: The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts, 7 to 8 p.m. Monday. Register at 440-248-8777.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Goodyear branch, 60 Goodyear Blvd.) — Irv Korman talks about Antuan Was Hear: 30 Years of Kids’ Quotes, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Register at 330-784-7522.

Tuscarawas County Public Library (121 Fair Ave. NW, New Philadelphia) — Robert J. Roman signs Ohio State Football: The Forgotten Dawn, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Market Garden Brewery (1947 W. 25th St., Cleveland) — The Brews & Prose series enters its sixth year with author Eleanor Henderson (The Twelve-Mile Straight) and Ted Genoways (This Blessed Earth), 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Medina County District Library (210 S. Broadway) — Tom Batiuk marks the 10th anniversary of Lisa’s Story, taken from his Funky Winkerbean comic strip, and its two new associated books, Prelude and The Last Leaf, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Canfield branch, 43 W. Main St.) — Sean T. Posey signs Historic Theaters of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Bay Village branch, 502 Cahoon Road) — In the first of three “Ohio Sports History” evenings, James Sulecki talks about The Cleveland Rams: The NFL Champs Who Left Too Soon, 7 to 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. Register at 440-871-6392.

Mac’s Backs (1925 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Claire McMillan (Gilded Age) reads from and signs The Necklace, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Appletree Books (12419 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights) — Poet Mark Irwin reads from and signs A Passion According to Green, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Medina County District Library (Brunswick branch, 3649 Center Road) — Michael Eckers, author of Colors in the Earth, presents “Life in the Trenches,” discusses World War I strategy and signs his military history books, 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Visible Voice Books (2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland) — W. Dennis Keating signs A Brief History of Tremont: Cleveland’s Neighborhood on a Hill, 7 p.m. Friday.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Fairlawn-Bath branch, 3101 Smith Road) — Children’s author Lindsay Ward arrives for story time and signing of her books, including Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby and When Blue Met Egg, 1 p.m. Saturday.

Barnes & Noble (198 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake) — Author-photographer Seph Lawless signs Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks, 2 p.m. Saturday.

Cleveland Public Library (525 Superior Ave.) — Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, talks about the factors behind the surge in addiction, 2 p.m. Saturday.

Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (Fisher Auditorium, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster) — Bestselling romance author Debbie Macomber reads from and signs her works, 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Free, but tickets required; call 330-262-0916.

Plan ahead — Bestselling author John Sandford will discuss and sign Deep Freeze, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Parma-Snow branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library. Register at 216-661-4240. • Tickets are available for the Medina County District Library’s Writers Live luncheon, at noon Nov. 2 at Weymouth Country Club. Guest author Emilie Richards’ latest book is The Swallow’s Nest. $25, includes lunch. Call 330-722-6235 ext. 2930 or 330-635-7991.

— Barbara McIntyre

Special to the Beacon Journal

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.