Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Books

It is time for my list of best books read in 2018!

I've separated the selections into fiction, short stories, and nonfiction. My top books are listed in chronological order of when they were read rather than a definitive number one pick. After the title I've included the author, number of pages in the book and the date I reviewed it on She Treads Softly.  As usual, there were many excellent books to chose from that received my highest rating. I chose to do an honorable mention list this year. 

Fiction: Top Ten novels for 2018

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor, 288 pages, 1/10/18
The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn, 448 pages, 1/11/18
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, 448 pages, 2/7/18
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, 496 pages, 5/30/18
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman, 448 pages, 6/6/18
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, 304 pages, 6/27/18
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, 384 pages, 8/12/18
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter, 480 pages, 8/19/18,
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield, 480 pages, 11/24/18
Watching You by Lisa Jewell, 336 pages, 12/13/18 

Honorable Mention:
Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner, 368 pages, 1/25/18
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern, 384 pages, 2/21/18
The Flicker of Old Dreams by Susan Henderson, 320 pages, 3/14/18
The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman, 224 pages, 3/21/18
The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon, 440 pages, 4/8/18
The Overstory by Richard Powers, 512 pages, 4/8/18 
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, 368 pages, 4/22/18
The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop, 240 pages, 5/6/18
The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz, 512 pages, 5/9/18
Half-Truths and Semi-Miracles by Anne Tyler, 24 pages, 5/23/18
The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts, 192 pages, 6/14/18
The Distance Home by Paula Saunders, 304 pages, 7/29/18
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon, 384 pages, 8/8/18
Tear Me Apart by J. T. Ellison, 496 pages, 8/27/18
Broken Field by Jeff Hull, 360 pages, 10/3/18
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger, 352 pages, 10/4/18
The Witch Elm by Tana French, 528 pages, 10/14/1 

Top 6 Short Story Collections:
Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck, 176 pages, 2/7/18
Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. Wilson, 304 pages, 3/14/18
The Price of the Haircut by Brock Clarke, 240 pages, 3/20/18 
Property by Lionel Shriver, 336 pages, 4/22/18
The Mutual UFO Network
by Lee Martin, 304 pages, 6/14/18
Hits and Misses by Simon Rich, 240 pages, 7/22/18

Nonfiction: Top Ten
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, 352 pages, 2/9/18
Classic Krakauer by Jon Krakauer, 160 pages, 2/23/18
A Wilder Time by William E. Glassley, 224 pages, 3/1/18
Into the Storm by Tristram Korten, 228 pages, 4/22/18
The Perfectionists by Simon Winchester, 384 pages, 5/9/18
Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon, 144 pages, 5/20/18, essays
Calypso by David Sedaris, 272 pages, 5/23/18, essays
The Library Book by Susan Orlean, 336 pages, 10/21/18
Influenza by Jeremy Brown, 272 pages, 12/12/18
The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances by Alistair Begg, 256 pages, 12/20/18 

2018 Books

January – 13 books
1. Phone by Will Self, 624 pages, 1/2/18, so-so
2. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, 284 pages, 1/3/18, highly recommended
3. Strangers by Ursula Archer, Arno Strobel, 320 pages, 1/4/18, highly recommended
*4.  The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor, 288 pages, 1/10/18, very highly recommended
*5. The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn, 448 pages, 1/11/18, very highly recommended
6. City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, 368 pages, 1/12/18, highly recommended
7. Walking the Bones by Randall Silvis, 464 pages, 1/14/18, highly recommended
8. SINthetic by J.T. Nicholas, 176 pages, 1/14/18, highly recommended
9. The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith, 464 pages, 1/18/18, recommended
*10. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley, 384 pages, 1/25/18, very highly recommended
*11. Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner, 368 pages, 1/25/18, very highly recommended
12. The Day after Oblivion by Tim Washburn, 560 pages, 1/28/18, recommended
13. Perish by Lisa Black, 320 pages, 1/30/18, highly recommended

February – 19 books
14. Look for Me by Lisa Gardner, 400 pages, 2/1/18, highly recommended
15. The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch, 400 pages, 2/7/18, highly recommended
*16. Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck, 176 pages, 2/7/18, very highly recommended, short stories
**17. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, 448 pages, 2/7/18, very highly recommended
*18. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, 352 pages, 2/9/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
19. Going Viral by Dahlia Schweitzer, 256 pages, 2/9/18, highly recommended, nonfiction
20. Force of Nature by Jane Harper, 336 pages, 2/15/18, highly recommended
21. A Perfect Universe: Ten Stories by Scott O'Connor, 256 pages, 2/15/18, highly recommended, short stories
22. The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu, 256 pages, 2/15/18, highly recommended
23. The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn, 304 pages, 2/17/18, recommended
24. The One by John Marrs, 416 pages, 2/18/18, recommended
*25. Sunburn by Laura Lippman, 304 pages, 2/21/18, very highly recommended
26. Last Seen by Rick Mofina, 544 pages, 2/21/18, highly recommended
**27. Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern, 384 pages, 2/21/18, very highly recommended
28. The Hush by John Hart, 432 pages, 2/23/18, highly recommended
*29. Classic Krakauer by Jon Krakauer, 160 pages, 2/23/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
30. The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko, Tucker Carrington, 416 pages, 2/27/18, highly recommended, nonfiction
31. My Name Is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd, 368 pages, 2/27/18, highly recommended YA
32. The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd, 336 pages, 2/27/18, so-so
March – 24 books
*33. A Wilder Time by William E. Glassley, 224 pages, 3/1/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
34. If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin, 384 pages, 3/7/18, highly recommended
35. The Girlfriend by Sarah Naughton, 368 pages, 3/7/18, highly recommended
36. The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum, 304 pages, 3/7/18, highly recommended
37. They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen, 384 pages, 3/8/18, highly recommended
38. The Children's Game by Max Karpov, 384 pages, 3/8/18, highly recommended
39. The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes, 244 pages, 3/8/18, highly recommended
*40. Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. Wilson, 304 pages, 3/14/18, very highly recommended, short stories
41. The Girl in the Moon by Terry Goodkind, 488 pages, 3/14/18, so-so
42. The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon, 384 pages, 3/14/18, recommended
43. To the Edges of the Earth by Edward J. Larson, 352 pages, 3/14/18, highly recommended, nonfiction
*44. The Feed by Nick Clark Windo, 336 pages, 3/14/18, very highly recommended
**45. The Flicker of Old Dreams by Susan Henderson, 320 pages, 3/14/18, very highly recommended.
46. Lacking Character by Curtis White, 208 pages, 3/20/18, so-so
47. SINdicate by J.T. Nicholas, 180 pages, 3/20/18, highly recommended
**48. The Price of the Haircut by Brock Clarke, 240 pages, 3/20/18, very highly recommended, short stories
49. Tangerine by Christine Mangan, 320 pages, 3/21/18, recommended
*50. The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman, 224 pages, 3/21/18, very highly recommended
51. The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury, 304 pages, 3/22/18, so-so
52. Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen, 304 pages, 3/22/18, highly recommended
53. The Other Mother by Carol Goodman, 352 pages, 3/27/18, highly recommended
54. Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser, 336 pages, 3/27/18, highly recommended
55. How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister, 240 pages, 3/28/18, recommended
56. Worth Killing For by Jane Haseldine, 352 pages, 3/29/18, highly recommended

April – 17 books
57. The Waters & The Wild by DeSales Harrison,320 pages, 4/4/18, recommended
58. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, 464 pages, 4/4/18, highly recommended
*59. The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon, 440 pages, 4/8/18, very highly recommended
*60. The Overstory by Richard Powers, 512 pages, 4/8/18, very highly recommended
61. Macbeth by Jo Nesbø, 464 pages, 4/10/18, highly recommended
62. After Anna by Lisa Scottoline, 400 pages, 4/11/18, highly recommended
63. Go Ask Fannie by Elisabeth Hyde, 304 pages, 4/11/18, highly recommended
64. The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin, 336 pages, 4/12/18, recommended
65. The Life List of Adrian Mandrick by Chris White, 288 pages, 4/12/18, recommended
66. The Big Ones by Lucy Jones, 256 pages, 4/12/18, highly recommended, nonfiction
67. Raising the Dad by Tom Matthews, 320 pages, 4/18/18, recommended
68. The Plague by Kevin Chong, 256 pages, 4/18/18, recommended
69. Liar's Candle by August Thomas, 320 pages, 4/18/18, highly recommended
*70. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, 368 pages, 4/22/18, very highly recommended
**71. Property by Lionel Shriver, 336 pages, 4/22/18, very highly recommended, short stories
*72. Into the Storm by Tristram Korten, 288 pages, 4/22/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
73. Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel, 352 pages, 4/25/18, recommended

May – 20 books
74. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy, 336 pages, 5/2/18, highly recommended
75. 2020 by Kenneth Steven, 160 pages, 8/21/18, highly recommended
76. Everything That Follows by Meg Little Reilly, 320 pages, 5/2/18, recommended
77. The Fourth Sacrifice by Peter May, 512 pages, 5/2/18, recommended
78. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, 352 pages, 5/6/18, highly recommended
*79. The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop, 240 pages, 5/6/18, very highly recommended
*80. The Perfectionists by Simon Winchester, 384 pages, 5/9/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
*81. The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz, 512 pages, 5/9/18, very highly recommended
82. How It Happened by Michael Koryta, 688 pages, 5/15/18, highly recommended
83. The Crossing by Jason Mott, 336 pages, 5/15/18, highly recommended
84. The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll, 384 pages, 5/16/18, recommended
85. Tin Man by Sarah Winman, 224 pages, 5/16/18, highly recommended
86. Little Disasters by Randall Klein, 352 pages, 5/20/18, recommended
87. Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon, 144 pages, 5/20/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
88. Late-K Lunacy by Ted Bernard, 428 pages, 5/23/18, did not finish
*89. Calypso by David Sedaris, 272 pages, 5/23/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
*90. Half-Truths and Semi-Miracles by Anne Tyler, 24 pages, 5/23/18, very highly recommended, short story
**91. The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, 496 pages, 5/30/18, very highly recommended
92. The Maw by Taylor Zajonc, 320 pages, 5/30/18, highly recommended
93. Still Lives by Maria Hummel, 288 pages, 5/31/18, recommended

June - 17 books
94. When We Disappear by Lise Haines, 304 pages, 6/6/18, highly recommended
**95. Us Against You by Fredrik Backman, 448 pages, 6/6/18, very highly recommended
96. Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, 352 pages, 6/7/18, highly recommended
*97. The Mutual UFO Network by Lee Martin, 304 pages, 6/14/18, very highly recommended, short stories
*98. The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts, 192 pages, 6/14/18, very highly recommended
99. The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson, 368 pages, 6/20/18, recommended
100. The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris, 368 pages, 6/20/18, highly recommended
101. The Melody by Jim Crace, 240 pages, 6/20/18, recommended
102. The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton, 288 pages, 6/20/18, highly recommended
103. What My Sister Knew by Nina Laurin, 384 pages, 6/21/18, highly recommended
104. The Possible World by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz, 368 pages, 6/27/18, highly recommended
105. Remind Me Again What Happened by Joanna Luloff, 288 pages, 6/27/18, recommended.
106. It All Falls Down by Sheena Kamal, 336 pages, 6/27/18, recommended
**107. Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, 304 pages, 6/27/18, very highly recommended
108. Still Water by Amy Stuart, 336 pages, 6/29/18, recommended
109. Generation Game by Sophie Duffy, 256 pages, 6/29/18, highly recommended
110. Don't Make Me Pull Over! by Richard Ratay, 288 pages, 6/29/18, highly recommended, nonfiction

July – 15 books
*111. The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom by A. E. Hotchner, 240 pages, 7/3/18, very highly recommended
112. Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding, 352 pages, 7/6/18, recommended
113. Half Moon Bay by Alice LaPlante, 272 pages, 7/6/18, so-so
114. Creepy Crawling by Jeffrey Melnick, 352 pages, 7/8/18, highly recommended, nonfiction
115. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage, 320 pages, 7/8/18, recommended
116. The Last Thing I Told You by Emily Arsenault, 416 pages, 7/10/18, highly recommended
117. The Pharaoh Key by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, 320 pages, 7/15/18, highly recommended
118. Watch the Girls by Jennifer Wolfe, 400 pages, 7/15/18, highly recommended
119. Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey, 336 pages, 7/22/18, highly recommended
120. Believe Me by JP Delaney, 352 pages, 7/22/18, highly recommended
121. Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas, 336 pages, 7/22/18, recommended
*122. Hits and Misses by Simon Rich, 240 pages, 7/22/18, very highly recommended, short stories
123. As Wide as the Sky by Jessica Pack, 352 pages, 7/25/18, recommended
124. The Book of Ralph by Christopher Steinsvold, 416 pages, 7/25/18, highly recommended
**125. The Distance Home by Paula Saunders, 304 pages, 7/29/18, very highly recommended

August – 15 books
126. Read Me by Leo Benedictus, 256 pages, 8/2/18, so-so
127. Our House by Louise Candlish, 416 pages, 8/2/18, highly recommended
*128. Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon, 384 pages, 8/8/18, very highly recommended
129. The Drama Teacher by Koren Zailckas, 400 pages, 8/8/18, highly recommended
130. The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer, 368 pages, 8/12/18, highly recommended
**131. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, 384 pages, 8/12/18, very highly recommended
132. Feared by Lisa Scottoline, 400 pages, 8/16/18, highly recommended
133. A Curve in the Road by Julianne MacLean, 270 pages, 8/16/18, so-so
134. Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins, 480 pages, 8/18/18, recommended
*135. Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter, 480 pages, 8/19/18, very highly recommended
136. Ohio by Stephen Markley, 496 pages, 8/21/18, recommended
137. Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey, 272 pages, 8/21/18, highly recommended
138. Born Scared by Kevin Brooks, 256 pages, 8/23/18, recommended YA
*139. Tear Me Apart by J. T. Ellison, 496 pages, 8/27/18, very highly recommended
140. The Other Sister by Sarah Zettel, 384 pages, 8/30/18, highly recommended

– 14 books
141. Better Times by Sara Batkie, 156 pages, 9/1/18, highly recommended, short stories
142. Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart, 352 pages, 9/1/18, highly recommended
143. Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia, 336 pages, 9/2/18, highly recommended
144. When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica, 336 pages, 9/5/18, so-so
145. Three Little Lies by Laura Marshall, 352 pages, 9/16/18, highly recommended
146. In Her Bones by Kate Moretti, 320 pages, 9/16/18, highly recommended
147. Lies by T. M. Logan, 432 pages, 9/16/18, recommended
148. The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling, 304 pages, 9/19/18, recommended
149. Escaping the Rabbit Hole by Mick West, 304 pages, 9/19/18 highly recommended, nonfiction
150. The Watcher by Caroline Eriksson, 240 pages, 9/20/18, recommended
151. The Testament of Harold's Wife by Lynne Hugo, 304 pages, 9/26/18, highly recommended
152. I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan, 384 pages, 9/26/18, very highly recommended
153. The Night in Question by Nic Joseph, 320 pages, 9/30/18 recommended
154. Rainsongs by Sue Hubbard, 240 pages, 9/30/18, highly recommended

October -14 books
*155. Broken Field by Jeff Hull, 360 pages, 10/3/18, very highly recommended
156. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, 384 pages, 10/3/18, highly recommended
*157. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger, 352 pages, 10/4/18, very highly recommended
158. Under My Skin by Lisa Unger, 368 pages, 10/10/18, highly recommended
*159. The Witch Elm by Tana French, 528 pages, 10/14/18, very highly recommended
160. Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly, 304 pages, 10/17/18, highly recommended
*161. The Forbidden Door by Dean Koontz, 480 pages, 10/17/18, very highly recommended
162. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, 480 pages, 10/17/18, so-so
163. Gaslighting by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, 272 pages, 10/21/18, highly recommended, nonfiction
**164. The Library Book by Susan Orlean, 336 pages, 10/21/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
165. Resistant by Rachael Sparks, 216 pages, 10/24/18, so-so
**166. The Splendor of Birds: From National Geographic, 512 pages, 10/25/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
167. Shell Game by Sara Paretsky, 400 pages, 10/28/18, highly recommended
168. Deranged by T.R. Ragan, 288 pages, 10/28/18, highly recommended

November -12 books
169. An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, 272 pages, 11/2/18, highly recommended
170. We Were Mothers by Katie Sise, 352 pages, 11/2/18, so-so
171. Love and Invention by Benjamin Constable, 323 pages, 11/3/18, highly recommended
172. National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition, 592 pages, 11/6/18, nonfiction
*173. Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg, 288 pages, 11/11/18, very highly recommended
174. River Bodies by Karen Katchur, 290 pages, 11/11/18, so-so
175. Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates, 336 pages, 11/14/18, recommended
176. Milkman by Anna Burns, 360 pages, 11/14/18, recommended
**177. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield, 480 pages, 11/24/18 very highly recommended
178. Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani, 496 pages, 11/26/18, highly recommended
179. The Dark Heart by Joakim Palmkvist, 320 pages, 11/28/18, highly recommended, nonfiction
*180. Broken Ground by Val McDermid, 432 pages, 11/29/18, very highly recommended
181. We All Fall Down by Cynthia Clark, 288 pages, 12/5/18, recommended
182. Sound by Bella Bathurst, 224 pages, 12/5/18, highly recommended, nonfiction
*183. Influenza by Jeremy Brown, 272 pages, 12/12/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
*184. Watching You by Lisa Jewell, 336 pages, 12/13/18, very highly recommended
*185. The Hand of God  by Alistair Begg, 256 pages, 12/20/18, very highly recommended, nonfiction
186. The Guilt We Carry by Samuel W. Gailey, 336 pages, 12/28/18, highly recommended
187. Freefall by Jessica Barry, 368 pages, 12/28/18, highly recommended

Friday, December 28, 2018


Freefall by Jessica Barry
HarperCollins: 1/8/19
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062874832

Freefall by Jessica Barry is a highly recommended fast-paced, well-plotted thriller.

Allison Carpenter miraculously survives when her fiancé’s private plane crashes in the Rockies and her first thought is to escape and get away from a mysterious person who will be looking for her. She quickly packs up anything she can find that will help in her survival and hikes away from the crash site. Meanwhile, in Owl Creek, Maine, her mother Maggie Carpenter, learns that her only child is presumed dead. Maggie, who hasn't spoken to Allison is two years, knows nothing about her daughter's current life or her fiancé, wealthy pharmaceutical CEO Ben Gardner, but she refuses to believe Allison is dead until they find a body. Naturally, the media is all over the story.

Chapters alternate between the perspective of daughter and mother as Allison flees from the crash site and struggles for survival, while Maggie researches her daughter's life, searching for information that may help her find the answers she needs. There are a few brief chapters from the point-of-view of the man looking for Allison. Both women are equally focused and determined to reach their respective goals. Each chapter also provides additional back story to further develop the story and the characters through their alternate points-of-view. We know Allison is very frightened of who may be hunting her whereabouts and pushes herself to her limits in her struggle to survive and escape. Maggie is heartbroken about losing contact with her daughter, and readers will learn the family tragedy that was the impetus for the schism.

This is a fast-paced, exciting debut novel from Barry (pseudonym). The plot unfolds quickly and accelerates toward the conclusion. While there are some predictable elements in the plot, but the narrative steadily builds to a surprising, satisfying ending. The pluses in Freefall are the questioning of love and trust, the observations on mother-daughter relationships, female identity and empowerment issues in society and the depiction of two resolute women from different generations. (I do wish Allison had made better choices as far as finding a job after the magazine closed as her choice was the opposite of empowering.) Both characters were well-developed and you could understand their point-of-view based on their character. The pace is also a positive, as you will fly through this novel without your attention flagging.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

The Guilt We Carry

The Guilt We Carry by Samuel W. Gailey
Oceanview Publishing: 1/8/19
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781608093205

The Guilt We Carry by Samuel W. Gailey is a highly recommended thriller and tale of redemption.

In 2005 promising swimming star 15-year-old Alice O’Farrell is left to babysit her 4-year-old brother, Jason. He makes a huge fingernail polish mess in her bedroom and Alice yells at him. While she is trying to clean up the nail polish, Jason makes his way to the basement and somehow manages to trap himself in the dryer and dies. Guilt-ridden, Alice ran away from home soon after this. Six years later, she is an alcoholic working as a bartender at a strip joint in Harrisburg, PA. Since she ran away before she had a driver's license or a credit card, Alice has lived under the radar and moves frequently to avoid making any friends.

When she wakes up after another drunken night next to the dead body of her boss, she needs a drink to figure out what to do. Next, she looks around the trailer and finds a bag with drugs and $91,000 in cash. The cash could give Alice a way out and up from the pit she is in, but the cash is tied to the drug dealer involved. Soon, Alice finds herself on the run, trying to stay away from the drug dealer who relentlessly pursues her, wanting her dead and his cash back. Even while on the run, Alice can't help but see a predatory man trying to take advantage of a teenage runaway and, recognizing the scenario, she intervenes, inadvertently adding another dimension to her escape.

This is a tense, taunt, riveting thriller - violent, dark, and gritty. The scenes in the novel are very descriptive and visual, starting with Alice's promising skill as a swimmer to her excessive drinking to escape. The detailed descriptions continue throughout the narrative, increasing the anxiety and stress as you follow Alice's route to escape and the close pursuit of the drug kingpin who thinks nothing of leaving bodies in his wake.

I flew through  The Guilt We Carry. Alice is a flawed, but sympathetic well-developed character. Even while recognizing her flaws and failings, you will be hoping she escapes and finds a way out of the downward spiral she is in. While it is obvious a showdown of sorts will happen, the lead-up to it is intense. You will want her to find closure and redemption, and perhaps even a reconciliation and forgiveness with her parents. The supporting characters in the novel are also fairly well-developed and interesting.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Oceanview Publishing.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Hand of God

The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances by Alistair Begg 
Moody Publishers: 1/1/19 (reprint)
eBook review copy; 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9780802418951

The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances by Alistair Begg is a very highly recommended reprint of the classic Biblical study of the life of Joseph life. In it Pastor Begg presents a life-lesson for all Christians.

Most Christians know Romans 8:28: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." But how many of us actually believe what the verse promises? There is no place where the Bible promises an easy life for believers. Often too many of us think that there won't be trials and tribulations.  In fact, in John 15:33 Jesus said,  "In this world you will have trouble." What a better life to help us study the meaning of Romans 8:28 than the life of Joseph (son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham).

Joseph was blessed by God and guided by His hand, but his life was not easy. How many of us have been thrown into a well and then sold by our brothers to a passing merchant, who then takes us to another country, Egypt, and sells as a slave? Uh, not many. Sure we have problems, but usually nothing that awful. But Joseph kept his faith, even when he was doing his job, had a false accusation made against him, and was then thrown into prison/a dungeon. Most people know that Joseph still had more trials to endure beyond this.

Through it all, though, Joseph knew that God would work all things for His good. Joseph didn't blame God, he trusted God was in charge of the situation, good and bad, and kept his faith. Bad things do happen to good people. This is a vital lesson for Christians to learn. We need to keep trusting God's providence through the storms of life and not just expecting blessings. Joseph knew this and his faith in God allowed him to endure awful situations with complete confidence that God is in charge. Joseph trusted God and saw the hand of God in his life, lovingly guiding him through his trials and struggles, leading him to a place of peace and reconciliation.

This is an excellent Bible study and a wonderful reminder of what God can do in spite of the many circumstances we encounter. Embracing God's providence for our lives can bring a real sense of comfort that God is in control and our role is to just believe and trust in Him. Certainly during the holidays this can be a timely reminder that no matter what family drama may be going on, God is in charge and he only requires you to keep your faith and know He is in charge.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Moody Publishers.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Watching You

Watching You by Lisa Jewell
Simon & Schuster: 12/26/18
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501190070

Watching You by Lisa Jewell is a very highly recommended psychological thriller. Wait for the shocking ending!

As in most neighborhoods, everyone is watching everyone else and they all have secrets. Melville Heights is one of the good neighborhoods in Bristol, England, but that doesn't mean murder can't happen here. We know from the prologue that someone was murdered right from the start - a dead body lies on the kitchen floor at the Fitzwilliam family home - and we know very quickly who the main suspect is as far as the police are concerned. Now let the real fun begin as we are introduced to all the players in this drama and their interconnection to each other as well as the secrets they are trying to hide.

Tom Fitzwilliam is the new head-turning headmaster at the local school. He's charming and loved by everyone - or is he? Joey (Josephine) Mullin and her new husband, Alfie, have just moved back to Bristol. They are living with Jack and Rebecca, her brother and his pregnant wife. Joey quickly becomes infatuated with Tom. Tom's wife, Nicola, ignores her son, worships Tom, and is focused on herself. Tom's son, Freddie, is watching the whole neighborhood and some of the local teenage girls. He likes to keep logs and take photos of what is going on around him. Jenna Tripp and her friend Bess Ridley are two of the girls Freddie is watching. Bess has a crush on Tom, while Jenna is suspicious of him. Jenna's mother, Frances, is stalking Tom and is sure he did something wrong years ago. 

This may seem to be a complex tangle of characters, but it was very easy to keep them sorted out as you read. After the prologue, the story then begins, starting three months before and leading up to the murder. Each person has multiple secrets and concerns. The narrative unfolds at an even pace through multiple perspectives and keeps the tension high as each new twist to the multiple story lines unfold. Even when you think you have it figured out, you won't. You will be guessing right up to the unexpected ending and the shocking revelation on the last page.

Watching You is an engrossing and unforgettable psychological thriller. The writing is excellent, as is the development of each character. You may like or dislike them, be understanding or suspicious of them, but you will know each character by the end. And even more importantly, you will be surprised more than once about their secrets.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Influenza by Jeremy Brown
Simon & Schuster: 12/18/18
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501181245

Influenza: The Hundred Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History by Jeremy Brown is a very highly recommended, fascinating exploration of the history of the flu virus and the search for a cure.

The 1918 Flu pandemic left an estimated 50 to 100 million people dead worldwide. Ever since then the search has been on to find a cure before the outbreak another world wide influenza pandemic. Brown discusses where the 1918 flu may have started (we don't know for certain) and the various cures that have been tried over the years. Now we know influenza is a virus and that virus mutates into other strains of the flu, making a cure even more challenging. In a conversational style, Dr. Jeremy Brown, currently Director of Emergency Care Research at the National Institutes of Health, shares information from leading epidemiologists, policy makers, and the researcher who first sequenced the genetic building blocks of the original 1918 virus.
He doesn't shy away from the many questions and misinformation swirling around vaccinations, anti-viral drugs, and government preparation for the next epidemic. He also tackles the media's role in exaggeration and swaying public opinion through emotion, anxiety, and misinformation, as well as the more recent role of social media outbreak spreading misinformation, exaggeration, and fear faster than the actual flu virus was spreading. He also discusses the pharmaceutical companies influence and their lobbying efforts, which are largely based on fear.
Deaths from the flu do occur every year and there are groups of the population that are more susceptible, but this does not include everyone. Dr. Brown points out several different public panics over influenza outbreaks (which I clearly remember), and how the actual outbreak was not as huge as the fear spread through the media. Additionally, information people hear on the news, whether it is correct or fact-based or not, makes people and policy makers start quoting and spreading the misinformation.
This is an eminently well-written and engrossing examination of the history and current information about the influenza virus. The conversational writing style and the logical organization of the book make the information easily understood and assimilated, even for those readers who typically shun medical/historical nonfiction.  As is my wont for informational nonfiction selections, I always appreciated the inclusion of notes, a complete bibliography, and an index.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Sound: A Memoir of Hearing Lost and Found by Bella Bathurst
Greystone Books: 10/2/18
advanced reading copy; 224 pages
ISBN-13: 9781771643825

Sound: A Memoir of Hearing Lost and Found by Bella Bathurst is a highly recommended memoir of a young woman who lost her hearing, then regained it.

In 2004 Bella Bathurst was down to 30% of normal hearing. She had been slowly losing her hearing for six years. This began her twelve year journey of deafness and what she learned about her experience. She did regain he hearing through surgery, but her experience of losing her hearing taught her the richness that hearing brings to our lives. Bathurst explores more than her feelings bringing this beyond being only a memoir. She discusses the history of hearing loss and how it has been handled over the years. She shares interviews she conducted with others who have dealt with hearing loss, ear surgeons, psychologists, and professors. The book discusses the science of sound, the anatomy of the ear, the different types of hearing loss, depression as a result of hearing loss, hearing loss in musicians, and what she and others have learned and experienced as a result of losing their hearing.

This is a well-written, fascinating memoir and informational account about hearing loss. While the opening sailing experience felt over-long, the informational sections were varied, fascinating, and very well done. It made the science behind hearing accessible and engaging.  Included at the end are chapter notes for further reading. I felt a great deal of empathy for Bathurst and her experiences, especially after having recently experienced some issues with my sight. It is had to admit that you are losing something you have taken for granted and then have to deal with it and (hopefully) the recovery. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Greystone Books.

We All Fall Down

We All Fall Down by Cynthia Clark
Head of Zeus/Aria; 12/4/18
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9781786699664

We All Fall Down by Cynthia Clark is a recommended drama that focuses on the individuals involved in an incident and the aftermath of their actions.

In 1989 five children are living in a foster home with Miriam, their abusive care giver. Bea, her brother Sebastian, Helen, Sandra and John have all experienced pain, bruises, and abuse at the hands of Miriam so they decide on a course of action together and set out to execute it. Their plan was supposed to slow Miriam down and protect them a bit, while keeping the children together. Then a terrible accident happens that resulted in the children being separated from each other. Ronnie Moss was blamed for the accident and he ran as far away from Great Britain as he could to escape any recrimination.

It is now 2017 and some business men on vacation recognize Ronnie and he is arrested and now awaiting extradition. The children, now adults, are informed of the arrest and the police want their statements about what they remember from 1989 and the accident. This request brings them back together, but also causes them a great deal of anxiety and worry about how much information will be revealed or uncovered.

The story begins with ten-year-old Bea being abused at the hands of Miriam. The ongoing physical and verbal abuse the children have all experienced is revealed, as well as how close the children feel to each other. Their plan is revealed and the reasons for it. Then the accident happens, resulting in a different kind of pain for Bea, and the children are all separated.  The background information and the actions from 1989 is clearly presented and then where the characters of Ronnie, Bea, and Helen are looked at in the present day. This is not a mystery or a thriller. We know what happened. Rather, it is an exploration of the characters and their motives and thoughts.

We All Fall Down is a slow-moving novel that builds up and reveals the whole story slowly. I have to admit that the dilemma the surviving adults are concerned about due to their circumstances from 1989 is really a non-issue. I'm surprised that they didn't just come up with their final decision right away. I'm surprised they didn't say something about Miriam in 1989. Sure they wanted to stay together, but they could have said that while telling someone about the abuse. When they turn back as adults to the logic they used as children, it's unfathomable. Either speak up or don't. This is an airplane book. It's interesting, moderately well-written, and will help you pass the time, but you won't be too worried if you lose or misplace the book.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Head of Zeus/Aria.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Broken Ground

Broken Ground by Val McDermid
Grove/Atlantic: 12/4/18
eBook review copy; 432 pages
ISBN-13: 9780802129123
Inspector Karen Pirie #5 

Broken Ground by Val McDermid is the very highly recommended skillfully plotted police procedural set in Scotland featuring Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie of the Historical Crimes Unit of the Edinburgh Police.

A married couple is on a treasure hunt in a Scottish Highland peat bog. Based on a map made in 1944 by her grandfather, the two hope to unearth two vintage American motorcycles he and a friend buried. With help from the landowner, they unearth one motorcycle, but when start to uncover the second, they find a body. The body is well preserved from the peat bog and once it is quickly determined that the body is from a more recent time, 1995 rather than 1944, DCI Karen Pirie from the historical Crimes (cold case) Unit is called in to investigate.

Broken Ground features the peat bog case, but it also has several other on-going cases that Karen and her young sidekick Jason are investigating. There is also a healthy dose of interoffice politics with a boss who is out to sabotage Karen and in that attempt has assigned a snitch to watch her and report back what is going on in the unit. All the lines of investigation they are pursuing in the various cases are interesting. McDermid slowly reveals more clues as the narrative follows Karen's line of thinking and where the cases need to go. It is fascinating to follow along.
This is a totally engrossing, excellent police procedural which held my attention through the whole novel. It is extremely well-written, evenly paced, and expertly plotted. All the story lines are layered and interesting. Since this is a police procedural we know who the suspects are early on and have the satisfaction of watching the various cases reach some kind of conclusion or end point. The clues and lines of inquiry and investigation proceed at the pace of the investigation, rather than some shocking reveal.
While this is the fifth book featuring, don't let that stop you from reading Broken Ground. The characters are well-developed and the needed background from the previous novels in the series is provided to allow you to easily follow the plot. The dialogue feels natural and realistic. Karen is a great character and I liked the tone and pace of this procedural enough to look for the previous novels in the series.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grove/Atlantic.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Dark Heart

The Dark Heart by Joakim Palmkvist; Agnes Broome (Translator)
AmazonCrossing: 11/1/18
eBook review copy; 320 pages
paperback ISBN-13: 9781503904798

The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator by Joakim Palmkvist is a highly recommended true crime story.

Late in the summer of 2012, Sara, the oldest daughter of  Göran Lundblad reported several days after the fact that her father was missing.  Göran was a millionaire landowner in Sweden and everyone who knew him found it highly unlikely that the man would just leave without a word to anyone or after his business affairs were all settled. The investigation and search lead to nothing even after there was a phone call to investigators implicating Sara's involvement from Göran’s youngest daughter Maria. She made it clear that Göran was not pleased with Sara and her boyfriend, Martin. He was sure Martin's interest in Sara was due to her family's wealth and a long-simmering dispute between the two families. Other people shared the same information. With no clear evidence the case went cold.

Then Therese Tang became involved. She is a driven, hard working woman and the mother of three, but more importantly she leads a branch of Sweden's Missing People, a group that assists in searching for anyone who is reported missing. Therese begins a search for Göran that eventually leads to a dangerous situation. Much of her success is due to the fact that she was able to discern that what was being said wasn't true through the body language, speech, and actions of Sara, but especially Martin. She put her own safety at risk to crack the case.

There is no real mystery to solve in this true crime story since it is obvious who did it from the beginning. What is interesting is the background information and the way in which the case was solved. While the actual book, which may suffer from some problems with the translation (I'm not a translator, but the book didn't flow quite right) would perhaps receive a recommended rating, I bumped it up to highly based on some of the interesting facts in the book, including those that compared and contrasted the legal system and law enforcement investigations between Sweden and the USA.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author via Netgalley.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Tony's Wife

Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani   
HarperCollins: 11/20/18
ebook review copy; 496 pages
ISBN:13: 9780062319258

Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani is a highly recommended historical family drama that begins in the Big Band Era and flows through the decades.

Saverio Armandonada is kicked out of his home by his father on Christmas Eve, 1932, when he wants to forego working at the auto plant and pursue a singing career.  Later, before the start of WWII and after he experiences some success, he meets the feisty Chi Chi (Chiara) Donatelli at Sea Isle City on the Jersey Shore. She wants a career in music too, and although she is attracted to Saverio, she also realizes that he is a womanizer, and besides all that, she is very serious about a career on her terms and wants no part of marriage. Later she meets Saverio again. Now he has changed his name to Tony Arma. The two begin to work together as friends in Tony's band and become a successful singing act. She writes successful songs and Tony has hits singing them.

Then WWII begins and Tony joins the Navy. As he receives Chi Chi's friendly letters, he realizes he has strong feelings for her and pursues her. She is uncertain because she has seen him with many other women over the time she has worked with him. He swears she is the only woman for him and finally she agrees to marry him. Then, the girl who never wanted to get married, has twin girls while Tony is still enlisted. This marks a change in Chi Chi's life, because now she is the one who must set her career aside and take care of their family. In the meantime, Tony returns and returns to life on the road, singing, and womanizing. Now Chi Chi has some difficult decisions to make as she lives life on her own terms.

This is a drama following a passionate Italian family full of life and opinions. It is well written and follows the characters from the 1930s to the 1980's, although the earlier years are much more detailed and the later years rushed. Once the plot took shape, it did become a bit predictable. Chi Chi is the main character and the one who is truly portrayed as a complete individual. The historical setting adds a special touch to the saga, along with the strong family connections and opinions that Chi Chi holds. Trigiani definitely captures the emotions and closeness of a devoted Italian family and their many extended connections.

The first part of the book features a strong narrative voice from Chi Chi, with Saverio's character having his own issues and feelings that are also clearly presented. Then the novel changed, and the main narrative voice is Chi Chi. Tony becomes, quite frankly, a cad. I've been back and forth on this novel. There were parts where it is a page-turner that I enjoyed quite a bit, and others that left me a bit bored. It will appeal to Trigiani's many fans and does introduce an unforgettable character in Chi Chi. It's also a good choice for anyone who loves a sweeping family saga that covers a lifetime.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins.

TLC Book Tour

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Atria/Emily Bestler Books: 12/04/18
eBook review copy; 480 pages
ISBN-13: 9780743298070 

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is a very highly recommended, thoroughly enjoyable novel that combines, in part, elements of historical fiction, mysteries, Gothic romances, and folk tales.

At the end of the 19th century, on a midwinter's night at the Swan, an ancient inn, on the river Thames the regulars are gathered listening to story-telling. They are all startled when a wounded man bursts through the doors carrying a lifeless child in his arms. The stranger collapses and the child is caught by the inn keepers son. Someone is immediately sent to get Rita, the local nurse and midwife, to attend to the man. In the meantime, it becomes clear that the child is dead to those there, and she is moved to an unused room. After Rita attends to the man's many wounds, she asks to look at the child. Rita is also sure the child is dead when, unexpectedly, she takes a breath and returns to life. 

The miraculous return to life of the child defies explanation. The girl appears to be four years old, but she is mute and unable to answer any questions. The stranger is identified and recovering, but he knows nothing as the child is not his. Soon the tale spreads and in the morning three distinct people lay claim to the child. Helena and Anthony Vaughan, a young affluent married couple, are sure she is their daughter, Amelia, who was kidnapped two years ago.  Robert Armstrong, a successful farmer, believes the girl to be the result of a secret assignation child of his ne'er-do-well son, Robin. Lily White the parson’s housekeeper, impossibly believes the child may be her younger sister. Each family has a story, unrevealed secrets, and may have a claim to the girl, but she can't belong to all of them. And what about the murmurings that she may have a tie to the mythical ferryman, Quietly. 

Once Upon a River is an excellent story and features exceptional storytelling and character development. The narrative is atmospheric, suspenseful, and complex. The plot features elements of myth, folklore, science, magic, secrets and rumors. This is a wonderfully-written historical novel with a Gothic feeling but it also has several mysteries that need to be resolved and swirling around the plot are mythical details. Each word is meant to be savored. I was immersed in the story right at the beginning and held enchanted and full of anticipation and anxiety right to the absolutely perfect conclusion.

The character development is phenomenal. Each character is truly a unique individual and Setterfield does an outstanding job developing and expounding on their individual traits. Their stories are intertwined and separate as the plot evolves and the story develops.  We learn more about each family and each person just when we need to do so. The novel is largely character driven, so the rich diverse characters make this novel a pleasure to read.

Once Upon a Riverwill likely be in my top ten books of the year and it is certainly worthy of my highest recommendation. (I should admit that I generally don't enjoy historical fiction, but this is a perfect reason why exceptions sometimes need to be made when choosing a novel.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria/Emily Bestler Books.