Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Last Call at Coogan's

Last Call at Coogan's by Jon Michaud
6/6/23; 320 pages
St. Martin's Press

Last Call at Coogan's: The Life and Death of a Neighborhood Bar by Jon Michaud is a very highly recommended history. This neighborhood bar opened in New York City’s Washington Heights one block from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in 1985 and closed during the pandemic in the spring of 2020. For 35 years the beloved local landmark often called Uptown City Hall was a vital part of the neighborhood.

Librarian Michaud wrote an article in the New Yorker about Coogan's which was the impetus for this account, which is the very interesting, easy to read story about the history of Coogan's. From 1985 to 2020 the bar and neighborhood faced a plethora of serious issues and changes which are all recounted here. The wide variety of stories included cover the owners, some of the staff, and many regulars, along with the social history of the years Coogan's was open and the community it created.

This is an excellent, well-researched book that captures and brings to life the history of a place and the people who were a large part of the story. Last Call at Coogan's would especially appeal to anyone who knows the area or ever visited or frequented Coogan's over the years. A wide variety of readers will appreciate the interesting background stories of the history and the people, but the greater appeal is going to be for those who know the area or Coogan's.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press via NetGalley.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Survivor

The Survivor by Iris Johansen
6/6/23; 352 pages
Grand Central Publishing
Eve Duncan Series #30 

The Survivor by Iris Johansen is recommended, highly for fans of the series.

In this latest thriller, the caretaker/ruler Maya of the remote island nation of Paladan located in Southeast Asian asks for help from archeologist Riley Smith. When Riley consults with forensic sculptor Eve Duncan, her life is endangered by those threatening Maya. There are several mysterious secrets on the island that Maya protects but now animal poacher Nadim and former associate Bevan are both determined to eliminate Maya and anyone else so they can profit from the spoils.

This is an entertaining and action packed novel of suspense. Those who can easily embrace unicorns, a legendary female warrior, a secret potion, and a few more magical ideas can carry on and enjoy the action. It will require most readers to set a heavy handed double dose of disbelief aside in order to enjoy the plot. If you can set disbelief aside and have been following the series this will be heart-stopping diversion. I did struggle to care for the first third of the novel, but once I accepted the premise and the action really got going, it was compelling and enjoyable. 3.5

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley.


Monday, May 29, 2023

The Feast

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
6/6/23; 336 pages
McNally Editions

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy is an intelligent, literary novel being re-release by McNally Editions. Originally published in 1949, this very highly recommended novel is a morality play covering the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. Set at the Pendizack Manor Hotel at the seaside in Cornwall in the summer of 1947, readers will know from the start that a cliff will destroy the the hotel and only sixteen survive the collapse. Before we know who survives, we are introduced to the guests, the family that runs the inn and their staff.

As a character driven novel, The Feast excels as both a character study and a morality story. The focus is on the characters, their actions, integrity, and true nature. It is a pleasure to read and discover such a delightful,  thoughtful, and memorable novel. It is quite clear why The Feast was re-released for a new generation of readers. This would be a perfect summer vacation read.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of McNally Editions via Edleweiss.

The Road to Dalton

The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring
6/6/23; 250 pages
Europa Editions

The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring is a highly recommended debut literary novel about small town Maine.

The narrative of The Road to Dalton follows citizens of the fictional small town of Dalton in 1990 Maine. The narrative carefully and compassionately follows three couples and the tension and dilemmas they face. Rose is being abused by Tommy. Richard, the local doctor, sees it all while tolerating a loveless marriage to Trudy. Trudy is in love with Bev, wife of Bill and mother to Nate. Nate's wife Bridget is suffering from post-partum depression. Sarah and Greg are struggling with the unique challenges of adolescence.

This is a character driven novel that relies upon your compassion and care about the people who populate Bowring's small town in order to hold your attention and interest. The interconnected chapters follow the reactions and emotions of the characters who inhabit the town. You might have to set some disbelief aside, but you will be interested in the feelings and reactions of these characters.

The writing is incredible and insightful, although you may have to set some disbelief aside. These characters and their situations will resonate with many readers. This is an excellent debut and Bowring is an author to watch in the future.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Europa Editions via Edelweiss.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

The Second Ending

The Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman
5/30/23; 352 pages
Random House

The Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman is a highly recommended humorous and captivating debut novel about two pianists and a reality show competition.

Prudence Childs, 48, was once a household name as a child prodigy and star who played the piano for the famous and influential until she gave it all up to live an anonymous normal life and raise a family. Alexei Petrov is a current, young virtuoso who hosts a reality show competition with a large following. For reasons of her own, Prudence agrees to a competition facing Alexei on the dueling pianos TV show where the winner will take home a million dollars.

Adding to the drama is an ex-husband who hopes to extort money from Prudence, an HOA president who wants revenge, and a show producer with increasing demands. Both Prudence and Alexei have to win the competition for differing reasons but the two don't realize how much they have in common. The subject of controlling/stage parents is also readily present and the result of domineering actions is illustrated in the development of the characters.

The Second Ending is a compelling novel that will especially resonate with those who love music and play any instrument, but will certainly be enjoyed by any reader who loves well-written character based novels. The eccentric characters come to life in this novel that is packed with drama, humor and the love of music. Challenging and difficult issues are tackled with humor and passion. The narrative held my attention throughout and the ending was satisfying. This is a great debut novel!

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Wishing Game

The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer
5/30/23; 304 pages
Random House

The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer is a very highly recommended mystery/family/romance novel. This is for adults who always dream of finding a golden ticket.

Lucy Hart grew up without parents who cared and found escape through the Clock Island book series by Jack Masterson. When she was 13 she ran away to the real Clock Island and met Masterson. Now she is twenty-six and a teacher's aide. She wants more than anything else to adopt seven-year-old Christopher Lamb, but she doesn't make enough money for proper housing or a car so she is unable to qualify to foster to adopt.

Then author Masterson announces a contest. He is inviting four contestants to Clock Island to compete in a series of games/riddles. The winner will receive the only copy of his new novel, worth a fortune, and can do what they please with it. Lucy is one of the lucky contestants. While on the island she must also deal with the curmudgeonly but handsome Hugo Reese, the illustrator of the Clock Island books.

The Wishing Game is an excellent debut novel and is going to appeal to all Willy Wonka fans. It's compelling, engaging and held my rapt attention from beginning to end. It could be a YA book, or certainly appropriate for YA readers, but as an adult reader it resonated with me too. There are some heavy themes in the plot but they are handled circumspectly. The narrative is mainly told through Lucy's point-of-view, with excerpts from one of the Clock Island books interspersed between the chapters. There are also several chapters from Hugo's perspective.

We don't have in-depth character development of everyone, but we do have Lucy, Hugo and Masterson developed to some degree, enough that readers will care what happens. The ending is absolutely perfect in every way. This is a novel about hope and the power of books in a life. The Wishing Game would be a wonderful choice for summer reading!

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Revenge List

The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon
5/23/23; 368 pages
MIRA Books

The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon is a very highly recommended thriller with a jaw-dropping opening. You'll be glued to the pages to see what led to this scene.

According to everyone who knows her Frankie Morgan has well-known anger issues, so it is no surprise that her father has asked her to attend six sessions of an anger management group. During the first class, she is asked to make a forgiveness list of the people she believes have wronged her. She makes the list in the notebook she always carries, but during the break she skips the rest of the class to get coffee with another attendee. Then an incident has her getting angry at him and loosing her notebook. She eventually recovers it, but not until she notices that accidents are happening to some of the people on her list. Frankie is desperately trying to find out who took the notebook and who is targeting the names on her list.

The Revenge List is an excellent, well-written thriller that was impossible to put down once I started reading. I liked this book at the beginning and then began to love it as I continued reading. After the opening, the tension is already high and keeps climbing. Events in her life are adding to the pressure. As the plot unfolds almost everyone is a suspect and nothing is as straightforward as it originally appears. There are several twists along the way as well as encounters with the police as Frankie does her investigating. The final denouement will provide you with a thrilling shocking jolt.

Adding to the interest are the background stories of the people who are on her forgiveness list and why they are on the list. Once these stories start being told, Frankie's anger becomes more understandable. Sure she still needs to work through the anger and forgive people, but the causes of it are more justifiable. Frankie becomes a fully realized character through her backstories and you will care about her.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of MIRA via NetGalley.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Body in the Web

The Body in the Web by Katherine Hall Page
5/30/23; 272 pages
Faith Fairchild Series #26

The Body in the Web by Katherine Hall Page is a recommended mystery for some readers and the 26th book in the Faith Fairchild Mysteries series.

In January 2021 Faith Fairchild's husband, Tom, is one of the earliest recipients of the vaccine. Since March 2020, Faith and her family have been in lockdown together in Aleford, Massachusetts. "As the pandemic spreads, Faith and her family readjust to life together  Her husband, Tom, continues his sermons from Zoom; their children, Ben, who's in college, and Amy, a high school senior, are doing remote learning at home." Faith's business has turned into a delivery service. At a town Zoom meeting things go terribly wrong one evening when nude photos of a friend of Faith are shown on everyone's screens. After her friend is found dead, Faith is sure it is murder and begins investigating.

It is a good mystery and fans of the series will likely enjoy it, but it was a struggle for me. Thank goodness the page count is low and I could quickly read through it to follow the mystery and Faith's investigation. I thought I could do it, I thought the mystery would be the focus. It's a satisfying mystery, there are recipes, but, nah, it was a struggle for me. The problem is that this is a pandemic novel. One person's reality during the pandemic in a specific location during this time period was not everyone's reality. (I really must make sure novels are NOT pandemic stories rather than looking at an author's name.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins via Edelweiss.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Sing Her Down

Sing Her Down by Ivy Pochoda
5/23/23; 288 pages
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Sing Her Down by Ivy Pochoda is a recommended gritty, violent, dark, feminist Western thriller.

Set during the pandemic, Florence "Florida" Baum and Diosmary "Dios" Sandoval are both inmates at Arizona women's prison. Dios thinks the two are bound by what they are capable of doing. Florida wants nothing to do with Dios. They both receive an early release. When the two go on the run from their two week quarantine, another murder occurs. LAPD officer Lobos is on their trail.

The narrative is divided into two parts and chapters alternate between the point-of-view of Dios, Florida, Kase, another prisoner, and Lobos. Dios is fixated on Florida and wants her to admit that darkness lives in women too. As the two are on the run, they make a plethora of bad choices.

There are sentences and observations included in Sing Her Down that make you want to yell, "Yes! That!" and then there are the over-the-top actions, reactions, violence, and swearing in the novel. I felt myself wildly swinging between loving the writing to cringing over excessive language and violence. These are interesting characters who always seem to be in dramatic situations and in conflict with each other. I appreciate the quality of the writing, but I'm not sure about the characters and the plot. This could be a novel I need to return to in the future.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux via NetGalley.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

One Little Spark

One Little Spark by Ellie Banks
5/23/23; 416 pages

One Little Spark by Ellie Banks is a recommended domestic drama.

A fire destroys a small town and the lives of four women are thrown into turmoil. The story is about these four survivors who are left to pick up the pieces. They also must confront and deal with the many secrets that are now exposed. Do you ever really know the people living around you?

The narrative jumps back and forth in three time periods: the day of the fire, a year before the fire, and a year after the fire. The time jumps make it a struggle to get a handle on the characteristics of each individual, who they are, and how they fit into the plot. Additionally, once I got the characters all sorted out, I discovered that I really didn't like any of them. At a certain point, I was wondering if I really cared about decoding everything that much. The second half of the novel is more compelling and stronger than the first half, which does make up for some of the struggles and confusion at the beginning.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Harlequin via Edelweiss.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Senator's Wife

The Senator's Wife by Liv Constantine
5/23/23; 320 pages
Random House

The Senator's Wife by Liv Constantine is a highly recommended psychological thriller. Set disbelief aside and this one is a rollicking good time.

After their spouses are killed two tears earlier, D.C. philanthropist Sloane Chase and Senator Whit Montgomery are marrying and moving on. The only drawback is that Sloane's Lupus has had a flare up and she need to have a hip replacement. They hire a home health aide, Athena Karras, to assist Sloane in recovery and running her foundation. The only question that clearly arises is whether Athena is helping Sloane or harming her.

Chapters are told through the point-of-view of Sloane, Whit, and Athena. It needs to be said again that you need to set disbelief aside. Just roll with the plot and the actions of the characters in order to enjoy the narrative. Both Whit and Athena will clearly be suspect in Sloane's delayed recovery. The plot is a slow-burner, and full of outlandish developments, but it still moves quickly in the same way that a soap opera moves along, holding your attention. There is nothing hidden to uncover or carefully pay attention to here, but there is a whole lot of scheming and subterfuge going on. Careful readers will know exactly where this one is going, but those looking for escapism and thrills will enjoy it. The final twist is epic and fans will be elated.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Lock-Up

The Lock-Up by John Banville
5/23/23;320 pages
Hanover Square Press

The Lock-Up by John Banville is a highly recommended literary historical mystery.

Set in 1950s Dublin, Ireland, pathologist Dr. Quirke and DI St. John Strafford are working together to solve a globe-spanning mystery.  Rosa Jacobs, a young history scholar, is found dead in her car. Her death is at first thought to be a suicide, but Dr. Quirke is sure that the death needs to be investigated as a murder. Rosa's older sister Molly discovers a lead that could crack open the case.

The quality of the writing is absolutely incredible in this slow-burn mystery. There are complexities in the narrative that the two must figure out by untangling the clues. Those who appreciate literary fiction will immediately be drawn in by the excellence of the descriptive writing. Additionally, the context of the plot is based on historically accurate information for the time period. This is very important to many readers.

Both Quirke and Stratford are well-developed. The authentic portrayal of the characters as fully realized individuals as realistic and flawed men is part of what makes the narrative so compelling and interesting. This is really a character driven mystery. They are both working on the case in their own way and must look into Rosa's life and involvement with Kesler, a wealthy German industrialist.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Hanover Square Press via Edelweiss.

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Last Songbird

The Last Songbird by Daniel Weizmann
5/23/23; 336 pages
Melville House

The Last Songbird by Daniel Weizmann is a highly recommended neo-noir mystery set in and around Los Angeles.

Lyft driver, Adam Zantz’s life changes when 1970s music icon Annie Linden becomes a regular customer and an important part of his life for the next three years. Then Adam arrives to pick Annie up and she's not there, but the police are. Annie's body is later found later and Adam begins his own investigation into Annie's life to find out who killed her. Before her death she had asked him to look into some things from her past and he thinks this may be the key to her murder. He ends up discovering Annie is not quite the person he thought she was.

The writing is excellent and thoughtful as it captures a cross-section of LA during Adam's investigation. It also illustrates the thoughts of a struggling singer/songwriter. The narrative moves at an even pace and is told with some humor and a whole lot of psychological insight into the individuals Addy meets along the way. The mystery is interesting and the various unexpected twists and shifts in the plot make it even more compelling.

Addy is an appealing character. The various people he meets as he investigates are wildly varied and equally interesting. The Last Songbird is a very good debut and seems to clearly be a set up for more Adam (Addy) Zandt PI novels.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Melville House via NetGalley.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

True Crime Trivia

True Crime Trivia by Michelle Tooker
12/3/22; 310 pages
Beguile Media

True Crime Trivia: 350 Questions & Answers to Quiz Yourself and Challenge Your Friends by Michelle Tooker is a very highly recommended trivia book that is perfect for a game night. We undertook the challenge with a mixed group of true crime fans and others up for the quiz. More on that later.

The book is organized into seven chapters on the following topics: Unsolved Mysteries & Cold Cases, Serial Killers, Podcasts, Celebrity Crimes, Heists & Robberies, Facts & Figures, and a Grab Bag for a total of 350 questions. Each of the questions is multiple choice or true or false. Each chapter is followed by a separate/corresponding chapter with the correct answer and a paragraph of additional information about the case or topic involved. The organization of the book makes it very easy to use this for a trivia game night. At the end of the book the sources for each chapter question are listed for those who want to look it up.

You can follow each chapter straight through, or pick and choose from various chapters. This book has the content for multiple game nights, or at least with the group I had gathered together. There were plenty of additional discussions about a topic after the answer was revealed. You can also sign up for the VIP readers group and get a link to a printable scorecard as well as a bonus chapter on cults.

We ended up starting at the beginning and then soon started jumping to different chapters, sampling questions from several. We did not have time to sample questions from every chapter. The group decided to not use the score cards this time, however we are planning to do this again and may use them then. Honestly, we hardly made a dent in all the questions presented in each chapter we sampled and had an enjoyable evening tackling the questions that we did.

You would have thought that the true crime fans had an advantage, but those who follow or pay attention the news also did well. (We did by-pass the podcast chapter, which would have given the true crime fans an advantage.) The discussions prompted by many questions were fun and lively. I'm looking forward to several other trivia nights with True Crime Trivia and tackling the additional chapter on cults.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Beguile Media via LibraryThing.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The Time Has Come

The Time Has Come by Will Leitch
5/16/23; 304 pages

The Time Has Come by Will Leitch is a highly recommended character study following seven people leading up to a dramatic event when one of them has a psychological break and takes matters into her own hands. The story is set in Athens, Georgia and culminates at Lindbergh’s Pharmacy, a long established local store. The opening chapter gives readers insight into what may be happening in the future and then the intervening chapters introduce us to these people.

The characters are the star of the novel and all of them are portrayed as complex, realistic individuals. Characters include: Tina Lamm, a fourth grade teacher; Theo, the heir to the Lindbergh Pharmacy; Daphne, a nurse and military veteran; Dorothy, a widow trying to recover from her grief; Jason, a building contractor and concerned father; Karson, a lawyer who works at a nonprofit organization; David, a musician and recovering alcoholic.

The chapters fully establish these characters, with insight into their daily lives, concerns, and goals. You will care about these characters. The suspense builds as the final scene is carefully foreshadowed throughout the novel until you reach the culminating final scene where the diverse cast is all involved. The final encounter is expected, but the event itself is full of tension. The Time Has Come is an excellent choice for those who appreciate excellent character development in a suspense novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins via Edelweiss.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Liquid Shades of Blue

Liquid Shades of Blue by James Polkinghorn
5/16/23; 208 pages
Oceanview Publishing

Liquid Shades of Blue by James Polkinghorn is a highly recommended mystery.

When ex-lawyer and Key West bar owner Jack Girard hears from his father, Claude “The Duke” Girard, that his mother has committed suicide, which brings up his brother Bobby's suicide when the two were in college. Jack heads to the family home in Miami to face his controlling father and to uncover what really happened to his mother.

This mystery is a short, fast paced novel that moves quickly, almost too quickly. A little more complexity might have made the plot more compelling. On the other hand, the short and to-the-point narrative did hold my attention and it was nice to read a novel swiftly. There are several little twists in the plot as it briskly reaches the final denouement, and you will want to find out the answers Jack is seeking.

Jack is an interesting character, but a bit more nuanced character development might have been nice. There is additional intrigue created with Anna. Both Bobby and their mother had secrets, and these secrets obviously are the impetus to their deaths. The secrets and the real menace in the novel are easily deduced, but it is a quick, entertaining journey to the end.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Oceanview Publishing via NetGalley.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Guest

The Guest by Emma Cline
5/16/23; 304 pages
Random House

The Guest by Emma Cline is a very highly recommended literary tale of a lost 22-year-old female grifter.

"A misstep at a dinner party, and the older man she’s been staying with dismisses her with a ride to the train station and a ticket back to the city." This is a deep dive into the life of a young woman who is  a sex worker and is desperate to try to survive by using and manipulating a man to survive. She has been kicked out of her lover's house and has five days to survive before the big Labor Day party, where she is sure Simon will welcome her back.

The writing is excellent as Cline captures all of Alex's desperate attempts to just survive and get by five days, only five days, until the Labor Day party where she is sure her recent lover will welcome her back. It is depressing, but inevitable that she will be struggling in her attempts to ingratiate herself with others in order to have some shelter and sustenance to simple survive. Her failures and shortcomings are foretold by her brief backstory. The class differences are glaring in this explosive novel.

Alex is exposed as the person she is currently, but her past is never revealed, so she is never a full realized character, but that is seemingly the point. Her work is selling her body, not her backstory, and she is an expert at being who she needs to be in order to get by. You know where this plot is heading long before you arrive at the end. Even as she makes mistakes, you actually will want her to succeed, even while knowing she won't.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Abbreviated reviews

 Abbreviated reviews for awhile due to a hectic life.

Little Lost Dolls

Little Lost Dolls by M.M. Chouinard
5/4/23; 326 pages
Detective Jo Fournier #7

Little Lost Dolls by M.M. Chouinard is a very highly recommended procedural/crime fiction.

Detective Jo Fournier is called because Madison Coehlo, a young pregnant woman, is missing. She learns where the woman's dog was found, in Crone Ridge Woods, and the search there discloses the woman's body. In her hand is a tiny baby from a king cake, but how does this tie into the murder. It becomes obvious that it does when a second pregnant woman is found with the same plastic baby in her hand. Is a serial killer targeting pregnant women?

This is an excellent installment of the Jo Fournier series which can be read as a standalone novel. Every step of the investigation and the clues uncovered is disclose. Jo is a great detective, detail oriented and careful as she investigates her cases. Each complicated case is full of drama and complications, along with twists and surprises. There are plenty of suspects along the way and expect twists and surprises.

At this point Jo is a fully realized character, but new comers to the series can still follow along and appreciate her cases as enough background information is provided.  The writing is excellent and the pacing is fast and furious as the pressure builds during the investigation.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Bookouture via NetGalley.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The Bird Hotel

The Bird Hotel by Joyce Maynard
5/2/23; 432 pages

The Bird Hotel by Joyce Maynard is a very highly recommended literary novel. This one is absolutely wonderful and transformative. It will be on my best books of 2023.

Irene, formerly Joan, has had a broken childhood and a challenging time growing up. After her mother died, she lived with her grandmother, who changed her name to Irene, to avoid any connections to her mother. Irene went to art school and we meet her when she is twenty-seven and planning to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge because she cannot handle the most recent tragedy in her life. Rather than jumping, she ends up traveling a long distance into Central America where she ends up in La Esperanza at a lakefront hotel called La Llorona, and meets Leila, the owner.

The Bird Hotel is a sweeping story spanning four decades, starting from her childhood in the 1970s. This is the story of her life and her healing in La Llorona, a place of overwhelming beauty with carefully chosen plants in the garden, a volcano nearby, and many different species of birds. The title comes from something Leila said, that La Llorona should be called the bird hotel due to all of the birds.

Maynard's writing is exquisite, lyrical, descriptive, and perceptive. Her words create a rich, textured story that will transform you. In a plot which encompasses a life, the same incredible care to detail is used to describe people, the landscape, and situations. This is a narrative that encompasses grief, healing, courage, empathy, and passion, with a little magical realism.

Irene is a richly drawn, fully realized character who comes to life. This same care to detail is taken when describing people in Irene's life and guests at the hotel. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys literary fiction, sweeping sagas covering a life. The Bird Hotel will be on my list of best books in 2023.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Arcade via Edelweiss.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

No One Needs to Know

No One Needs to Know by Lindsay Cameron
5/9/23; 320 pages
Random House

No One Needs to Know by Lindsay Cameron is a highly recommended domestic drama involving wealthy residents of Manhattan’s exclusive Upper East Side. This would be an excellent choice for summer vacation reading.

Someone was murdered, but who and why. The drama unfolds through the perspective of three different women who all have 8th graders in a private school. Heather is all about keeping her daughter Violet's eyes on the prize - getting into the best schools. Poppy is ultra wealthy and used to money buying everything. Norah is a high powered executive and the main earner in her family. These three women are all on the track to keep their children a part of the elite class.

When UrbanMyth, an anonymous discussion board grouped by zip code, becomes all the rage in their neighborhood, gossip abounds and rumors are spread on the sight. However, when a photo of Violet vaping is posted to Instagram, UrbanMyth erupts with vicious, viral posts accusing the girl of dealing drugs to her schoolmates. Heather is furious and thinks she knows who did it. Then a “hacktivist” group breaks into the forum and makes it so everyone's posts are no longer anonymous, which means all heck breaks loose.

This is a fun, entertaining novel that doesn't take itself too seriously and simply asks the readers to enjoy the action and the twists in the over-the-top plot. The narrative alternates between the points-of-view of each woman with snippets included from UrbanMyth and police interviews.

None of the characters are remotely likable. In fact, Heather and Poppy are over-the-top disagreeable. We have some despicable husbands too. It makes it rather enjoyable to have characters you don't even have to try to like.

The writing is excellent. Suspend disbelief, freely dislike all the characters, and watch the drama unfold. There are plenty of secrets and all sorts of bad behavior to hold your attention while you enjoy the social satire, drama, and intrigue.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

Saturday, May 6, 2023


Cultured by D. P. Lyle
5/2/23; 320 pages
Oceanview Publishing
Jake Longly #6

Cultured by D. P. Lyle is a recommended investigative mystery and the sixth novel in the Jake Longly detective series.

Jake and Nicole, are at his restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama, when his PI father, Ray, calls him into help with the investigation of a missing young woman. April Wilkerson has gone missing from Lindemann Farms, the resort built by financial guru Jonathon Lindemann, founder of The Lindemann Method (TLM). Lindemann recruits wealthy people to join his program, promising healthy returns on their investment. Ray needs Jake and Nicole to visit Lindemann Farms posing as potential investors. The goal is to see if TLM is a scam and look for the missing young woman.

You can read Cultured as a stand alone mystery. The writing is great, the pace is fast, and the investigation is interesting. Jake, Nicole, Ray and the always hungry Pancake are all here, working to uncover the truth. The banter between the characters can be lighthearted and quick, which is entertaining, but it can also turn serious when required. The subject matter is serious in this investigation. This is my giving Jake and Nicole another chance book as their suggestive banter between each other dampened my enjoyment of The OC. While it is still present here, it was less distracting in Cultured.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Oceanview Publishing via NetGalley.

The Well-Lived Life

The Well-Lived Life by Gladys McGarey M.D.
5/2/23; 256 pages
Atria Books

The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor's Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age by Gladys McGarey M.D. is a recommended, highly for some, self-help book. The foreword is written by Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. McGarey is called the mother of holistic medicine and in The Well-Lived Life she shares the six principles, or secrets, on the key to living a fulfilling life of purpose and vitality. Her advice and insight is presented through stories from her life and from patients she has seen over the years. Following each section is a Practice section that gives activities or exercises to help you shift your perspective and achieve health.

Her six principles for life, and the six sections the book is divided up into are:
You are here for a reason: How to find the everyday “juice” that helps you stay oriented in your life’s purpose.
All life needs to move: How to move—spiritually, mentally, and physically—to help let go of trauma and other roadblocks.
Love is the most powerful medicine: Learn to love yourself—and others—into healing.
You are never alone: How to build a community that’s meaningful to you.
Everything is your teacher: Discover the deep learnings that come from pain and setbacks.
Spend your energy wildly: How to embrace your life fully and feel motivated every day.

The Well-Lived Life may certainly be helpful and beneficial for many people and can assist them in finding a fulfilling balance in life which will impact health in a positive way. A change in perspective can result in an improvement in attitude and outlook, which will help in many ways. However not every medical condition can be handled in this manner and there are many other very well recommended books out there on the mind/body connection. An average book for me, but many people will appreciate her advice.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books via Edelweiss.

Friday, May 5, 2023

The Ferryman

The Ferryman by Justin Cronin
5/2/23; 560 pages
Random House

The Ferryman by Justin Cronin is a very highly recommended dystopian/speculative science fiction marvel.

The idyllic archipelago of Prospera is a socially regimented island state founded by the Designer. Citizens enjoy long fulfilling lives until their next “iteration,” where their personalities reemerge in younger bodies. Proctor Bennett works as a ferryman, which means he assists aging Prosperans to travel to the Nursery, an island where their bodies are restored. All citizens have monitors embedded in their forearms which measures their health. If it fails below 10 percent, it is time to retire.

Proctor has always had problems with dreaming, which is not supposed to happen, but now his monitor percentage has been dropping too. When he is called to retire his own father, events go amiss and he receives an enigmatic message from him before getting him onto the ferry. At the same time the support staff for Prospera who all live on the island called the Annex, are now becoming disgruntled and a resistance group known as Arrivalists is growing.

At this point hold on tight, set expectations aside, and keep reading because so many unexpected twists and events happen one after another that it is pointless to predict anything. This will be easy to do because the quality of the writing is exceptional and the plot is fast-paced and riveting. Cronin is in perfect control of the plot and his characters so just keep reading. I promise you that the pages are going to fly-by quickly.

The excellent writing will be the first plus you notice as you begin reading. The prose is simply phenomenal. This will quickly be followed by the awareness that the characters are fully realized and believable individuals with strengths and flaws who are firmly part of the narrative. Then the twists begin and new information is revealed. Follow the prose and plot carefully and, even when you think you don't know what is going on, you soon will understand that you do before the next twist hits.

No spoilers here. If you like science fiction and literary fiction, just read The Ferryman and thank me later. It's sure to be on my list of best of 2023.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Bad, Bad Seymour Brown

Bad, Bad Seymour Brown by Susan Isaacs
5/2/23; 400 pages

Bad, Bad Seymour Brown by Susan Isaacs is a highly recommended detective novel and the second novel in the Corrie Geller series.

Corie Geller, former FBI agent, and her father Daniel (Dan) Schottland, retired NYPD detective are living a quiet life until April Brown, a film professor, calls Dan. April was five-years-old when her parents were killed and she survived. The twenty-year-old case was never solved, so when April tells Dan about an attempt on her life, both he and Corie immediately start investigating. The overriding question is who would want April dead? She is well-liked and has no enemies, so is the attempt on her life related to the fire that killed her parents years earlier? They know that April’s father, Seymour, laundered money for the Russian mob.

The focus of the narrative is solving the mystery, but along the way there is plenty of clever dialogue intermixed with the action. Corie and her dad become PIs in this case, which may indicate future cases. There is humor in the plot and plenty of twists along the way.  It does drag a bit and some editing might have been beneficial.

The investigation may be the reason for the novel, but the real focus is on the characters. They are all portrayed as fully realized, likeable individuals and the father/daughter duo work well together. This is an entertaining, humorous novel which can certainly be read as a stand-alone. 3.5 rounded up.

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

The Daydreams

The Daydreams by Laura Hankin
5/2/23; 368 pages

The Daydreams by Laura Hankin is a highly recommended reunion novel about the stars of a popular teen show in 2004.

In 2004, the wildly popular teen TV show "The Daydreams" featured four teens who sang and danced. Summer was the star and played an innocent girl next door. Noah was the handsome heartthrob. Kat was the mean girl and Lillian was the best friend of the three. Then, during the live season two finale, it all fell apart in a spectacular manner leaving the story arc unfinished and the four went on to other things.

In 2018, Summer's life has been covered widely in tabloids, as she was in and out of rehab and relationships. Katherine (Kat) is now a lawyer in Washington, DC. and on the partnership track. Liana is well known as the wife of a famous athlete and social media influencer. Noah has continued in the entertainment industry and is a star. When Noah is asked about a reunion of "The Daydreams" during an interview, he shockingly says he'll do it if the other three agree. This sets a reunion special into motion.

The entertaining narrative alternates between 2018 and 2004 and is mainly told through Kat's point-of-view, with some insights from the others, along with tabloid articles and journal entries. The realities the group faced as young stars is portrayed along with their struggles, successes, and secrets. The plot is well-paced and compelling throughout as the scandals and secrets of each character are exposed. The realities of the double standards and toxic atmosphere in the entertainment industry is evident in the narrative.

There is a great deal of intrigue as each character is developed since each of the four have their own reasons for coming back to the reunion show. They are all portrayed as fully realized, interesting individuals. And there are several surprises along the way. The Daydreams should be very enjoyable to those who followed various teen TV dramas in the early 2000s.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin via NetGalley.