Monday, July 31, 2023

Gone Tonight

Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen
8/1/23; 352 pages
St. Martin's Press

Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen is a very highly recommended novel of suspense.

Catherine Sterling and her mother Ruth have always presented a united front against the world. She knows her mother has always worked hard to care for her. Now that Catherine has her nursing degree, she has accepted a job and is planning to move, but she has to put her plans on hold when Ruth begins to show symptoms of  Alzheimer’s disease, symptoms Catherine is familiar with since she currently works at a nursing home with an Alzheimer's unit.

However, Catherine makes a discovery which lead to doubts Ruth's diagnosis and perhaps everything her mother has told her about her life. At this point a cat and mouse game begins between the mother and daughter. Alternating chapters are told from Ruth and Catherine's points-of-view and they are eye-opening. Ruth has been trying to protect her daughter from the real story of her past. Catherine is trying to uncover who her mother really is.

Both women are very original, fully realized characters. Catherine's suspicions are understandable based on the information she has and readers will believe her suspicions. However, as Ruth tells her backstory all of her present actions make perfect sense and readers will quickly realize that the situation is much more complicated and potentially dangerous. The suspense increases as each woman tells us what they know while they have no clue what the other is really thinking. The pace is even at the beginning and then as more information is revealed, the tension increases as the threat is real.

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

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Deadly Depths

Deadly Depths by John F. Dobbyn
8/1/23; 320 pages
Oceanview Publishing

Deadly Depths by John F. Dobbyn is a very highly recommended action/adventure thriller.

Matthew Shane is a law professor in Salem, Massachusetts, when his mentor and friend, Archeology Professor Barrington Holmes, is found murdered in his office. His death is made to look like a suicide, but the truth soon becomes clear. Matthew promises his widow to find the truth and the murderer. This requires looking into a group of four other notable archaeologists who along with Holmes, called their alliance “The Monkey’s Paw society.” They all had one of five clues that purported to show the way to a valuable historical artifact and it appears someone is targeting the members for death.

While Matthew is currently a law professor, he formerly practiced criminal law and was an Intelligence officer in the Air Force, so he brings some observational skills, insight, and abilities in the search for the professor's killer. I rather loved the fact that he often gave credit to God in the narrative. The direction of the search and the novel changes and goes global part way through the novel, which ups the tension and suspense with several breathe-taking scenes.

Deadly Depths is an action-packed hold-on-to-your-hat thrill ride of a novel. I was engrossed in the action from start to finish. Yes, you most certainly need to suspend your disbelief while reading. I will admit to three moments of dramatic eye rolling, perhaps a few more dramatic sighs, but I wasn't about to set the novel aside. This is the kind of global action/adventure novel meant to provide pure reading pleasure while escaping reality and I was full-in for the armchair adventure. 4.5 rounded up

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

Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Last Ranger

The Last Ranger by Peter Heller
7/25/23; 304 pages
Knopf Doubleday

The Last Ranger by Peter Heller is a very highly recommended, exquisitely written novel following a realistic account of a national park ranger.

Officer Ren Hopper is an enforcement ranger with the Yellowstone National Park Service. His many duties vary greatly as he deals with often clueless tourists, a park full of wildlife, and local residents. Off duty, he enjoys spending time with Hilly, the wolf biologist, who is passionate about her work. There is trouble brewing between Hilly and a local hunter/trapper, Les Ingraham, who may be poaching too. And then there is someone who is specifically leaving notes that are targeting and threatening Ren.

Heller does a magnificent, poetic job capturing the beauty and danger found in the natural environment of Yellowstone, as well as the conflicts between people in The Last Ranger. It is an even paced novel that is part mystery novel with several incidents to investigate and part ode to the natural world. Heller has seamlessly written into the plot many facts and information about wolves, bears, and other animals in the wilderness. 

At the same time Heller also populates The Last Ranger with a cast of realistic characters with differences and conflicting emotions. Ren is a wonderful, complex, fully realized character.  He is thoughtful, contemplative, and purposeful while dealing with the conflicts and questions he encounters. His emotional wounds from his past are present, but help make him the man he is.

The Last Ranger would be a wonderful choice for a book club. There are so many details and questions that could be discussed.

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

Friday, July 28, 2023

Zero Days

Zero Days by Ruth Ware
6/20/23; 368 pages
Gallery/Scout Press

Zero Days by Ruth Ware is a very highly recommended thriller in a race against time format.

Jack (Jacintha) cross and her husband are penetration (pen) specialists who test out security systems for companies. Jack does the physical, on the ground work, while her husband Gabe directs their operations and handles the cybersecurity tests. When Jack is picked up by the police after a job one night, Gabe doesn't pick up the phone to have their client vouch for her and their work for him. After she is finally released, Jack makes her way home, exhausted, and discovers why Gabe didn't answer her call. He was murdered.

Jack is in shock, back at the police station, now being questioned by police about the murder of her husbands. The next day it becomes clear that Jack is the main suspect in Gabe murder. If she wants to find out who killed Gabe and clear her name, she needs to go on the run. With very few people she can trust and a count down before she will eventually get caught, the tension rises with each page.

Jack is a fully realized character and readers will be anxiously wishing her success in finding answers. She is experiencing physical difficulties and grieving Gabe's death, even as she searches for information about who was responsible for his murder all while evading the police and trying to survive.

Zero Days is an un-put-downable, compelling thriller. The fast-paced novel counts down the days as Jack is on the run. This means tension and suspense rise along with every action Jack takes and every twist in the plot.  This would make an excellent movie.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Gallery/Scout Press via NetGalley.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

What Harms You

What Harms You by Lisa Black
7/25/23; 336 pages
Kensington Books
Locard Institute Thriller#2

What Harms You by Lisa Black is a very highly recommended mystery/thriller and the second book in the Locard Institute series.

The first thing that happens when Dr. Ellie Carr arrives for her first day as an instructor at the Locard Institute, a forensic research center which holds classes for law enforcement experts, is that her key card didn't work. The second event was that Dr. Barbara Wright, the instructor she is replacing, is found dead on the floor of a supply closet. The death appears to be an accident, but Ellie and her supervisor Dr. Rachael Davies are suspicious. When another death occurs, the two team up to try and find the connection between the two murders. Two different classes are being held and it seems the guilty party must be one of the attendees.

With What Harms You Lisa Black has written another excellent forensic mystery/thriller. The real-life scientific details she provides as an crime scene analyst and investigator add depth and realism. Completing the exceptional narrative is the carefully crafted intricate plot. Add in the complex, fully-realized characters and the result is a compelling mystery that will hold your complete attention to the tense, exciting denouement.

Even though this is part of a series, beginning with Red Flags, What Harms You works well as a stand alone. Anyone who appreciates novels with details about the forensics and scientific details involved in an investigation along with strong, competent female characters will enjoy What Harms You immensely. I'm looking forward to the next installment of this series.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Kensington Books via NetGalley.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Night Candy

Night Candy by Max Tomlinson
7/25/23; 336 pages
Oceanview Publishing
Colleen Hayes Series #5

Night Candy by Max Tomlinson is a highly recommended mystery and the fifth novel in the Colleen Hayes series.

Ex-con and current private investigator Colleen Hayes moved to the San Francisco area to reconnect with her daughter Pam. Now it's 1979 and Pam has left the area after losing her baby. Colleen is heartbroken, but keeping it to herself and working on her cases as a PI. She is very concerned about the serial killer known as Night Candy who is still on the prowl and those who are most vulnerable to be targeted by him.

At the same time another case more personal to Colleen. SFPD Inspector Edmund Owens has been arrested for the murder of his ex-wife. Colleen knows he is innocent and sets out to prove this. She is up against the investigator assigned to his case who is openly hostile to Owens as well as Colleen. The danger and tension increases as Colleen exposes information and clues in two different complicated cases leading up to an intricate and very satisfying conclusion.

Night Candy is a fast paced, intelligent and sophisticated investigative mystery. It is enjoyable to follow the investigation and try to piece together the clues as Colleen works the cases. Colleen is a wonderfully complicated and intelligent character. Sure, she has issues and imperfections, but most readers are going to like her and will closely follow her investigations, wanting her to succeed.

Set in the seventies, Tomlinson brings it all back (for the best and the worst) from clothes to cars. There were a few phrases/words used by characters that wouldn't have been said in the seventies, but, to be honest, most readers won't notice this at all. It also portrays a San Francisco from decades ago and not today.

Although this can be read as a standalone, it does feel like I'm missing some vital information and backstory about the characters and wish I had at least read the previous novel first. The series includes Vanishing in the Haight, Tie Die, Bad Scene, Line of Darkness, and Night Candy.

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

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Prom Mom

Prom Mom by Laura Lippman
7/25/23; 320 pages

Prom Mom by Laura Lippman is a highly recommended domestic psychological suspense novel.

Amber Glass was known as "Prom Mom," the girl who gave birth and allegedly killed her baby while her date Joe Simpson or "Cad Dad," chased after an ex-girlfriend. Even though Amber escaped from her past in Baltimore, which made the tabloids, she chose to return and stay after her stepfather passed away. She's opening an art gallery and plans to stay out of Joe's way, maybe.

Joe is still in town, a successful commercial real estate developer, and married to a plastic surgeon, Meredith, his soul mate but that doesn't stop him from having affairs. His current lover is a young realtor, Jordan Altman, but he pursues a relationship with Amber. When the pandemic and lockdown occur, it threatens Joe's way of life as well as his financial bottom line.

The writing and character development is phenomenal, as expected. Readers won't necessarily like any of the characters, but you will immediately know who they are and how they fit into the plot and the time period. The plot will pull you right into the story and hold your attention throughout. Prom Mom is a slow-moving novel but is worth the time to reach the end. There is a twist at the end that I didn't anticipate and appreciated quite a bit.

Parts of this narrative were very engrossing and parts made me roll my eyes. Any pandemic or lockdown plot element is an immediate negative for me. It sets the novel in a specific time period and immediately dates it. This one wasn't too pompous retelling those events, but enough to turn me off. 

And if you have to write about the pandemic, give us some realistic action featuring the people who were working everyday with no time off at home to provide you care or toilet paper and frozen food. Call all of us essential but admit, at the time, we were expendable.

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Her Father's Daughter

Her Father's Daughter by T. M. Dunn
7/18/23; 272 pages
Crooked Lane Books

Her Father's Daughter by T. M. Dunn is a recommended domestic horror story following a serial killer.

Anthony is devoted to his daughter, Linda. Now twenty-five, Linda is working for her father Donovan and Daughter Exterminators in New York City. While her father visits her mother's grave, Linda continues on to an apartment building do her job. In an apartment she finds the body of an elderly woman who was clearly murdered and sees that rats have been at the body. This looks bad for their exterminating services.

Alternating chapters are personal written accounts by Anthony, detailing horrific abuse from his father and his subsequent life as an actor/serial killer.

In this case presenting the narrative through the alternating voices of Linda and Anthony didn't totally work for me. Readers will know right from the start that Anthony is a killer with major issues, which reduces the amount of suspense and tension. Anthony's written accounts of his actions are oddly paced and worded, which can be just as off-putting as his actions. They do provide a deep look into his insanity. Linda's narrative is more interesting, but uneven. This was more horror than thriller or mystery.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley.

Monday, July 17, 2023

The Rain

The Rain by Joseph A. Turkot
7/18/23; 354 pages
Blackstone Publishing
Rain Trilogy #1

The Rain by Joseph A. Turkot is a highly recommended survival novel set in a postapocalyptic America.

Civilization has collapsed. After almost twenty years of rain, almost all of North America is underwater. Any survivors have boats and/or made it to land on higher elevations while avoiding the face eaters, people addicted to "Red" a drug that makes them murderous and cannibalistic.

There are two story lines that are told through alternating chapters. In the first, Tanner, seventeen, and her adoptive caretaker, Russell, have long been searching by boat for Leadville, Colorado, which is rumored to be "the highest-elevation city in America, the last place where it’s not raining." In the alternate chapters, the plot follows Rook Wallace. Rook is a meteorologist who joined a a pharmaceutical company called Yasper. His job there is to help the company maintain a trade route between groups of survivors. He kept up contact with his parents until he stopped receiving their letters.

This is a bleak end-of-the-world climate science fiction novel with Yasper, a pharmaceutical company, an equal antagonist in the overall plot. The two different narratives remain separate until the very end when a connection is made that most readers will have deduced much earlier, but the journey of these characters is the point.

Character development is most certainly present, but, as with any mythological tale, the more important element is the struggle and encounters on the journeys of the heroes. It is obvious at the open ended conclusion of The Rain, that there has to be second novel.

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

Saturday, July 15, 2023

The Bitter Past

The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos
7/18/23; 320 pages
Minotaur Books
Porter Beck #1

The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos is a very highly recommended mystery and the debut novel in the Porter Beck series. This is an excellent start to a new series and I will eagerly be awaiting the next investigation from Nevada's Sheriff Beck.

Sheriff Porter Beck's domain is in the high desert north of Las Vegas, Nevada. He left and worked in Army intelligence for years, but now Beck's back, doing the same job his father did before he developed dementia. Normally this is a quiet part of the state until an old, retired FBI agent is murdered after being brutally tortured. When FBI Special Agent Sana Locke show up to assist in the investigation, it confirms many of Beck's suspicions. The clues point to something that happened in the past, in the 1950's during the early days of the atomic testing program happening in the desert and the KGB's plans to infiltrate the program.

The chapters alternate between two timelines and narratives. The present investigation unfolds through Beck's first person account while events starting in 1955 are recounted in the third person. In 1955 the story of Freddie Meyer and Kitty Ellison is told. After they begin dating, Kitty's father helps Freddie get a job in security at the atomic testing site in the desert. The current murder investigation must look to the past for the information needed to solve it.

Beck is a great character, intelligent, clever, perceptive, and well-developed as a character. He, along with the astute writing, is a reason to absolutely look forward to the next book released in the series. The high desert of Nevada is also realistically portrayed.

The writing is exceptional and absolutely exceeded all my expectations. The novel is told in an intelligent manner and both of the two narrative threads are gripping, compelling, and complex. They held my complete attention equally and even though I wanted to continue the story in whatever timeline I was in, I correspondingly wanted to continue following the action in the alternate chapter. The Bitter Past is un-put-down-able.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Minotaur Books via NetGalley.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Block Party

The Block Party by Jamie Day
7/18/23; 384 pages
St. Martin's Press

The Block Party by Jamie Day is a highly recommended domestic drama with murder, secrets and scandals emerging on every page.

In Meadowbrook, Massachusetts, Alton Road is known for it's exclusiveness and the annual Summer block party the wealthy residents hold every year. This year, however, something more serious than the egg toss competition occurs. Murder. Then a jump back in time introduces us to the residents and the secrets and scandals that lead up to the present.

The novel starts at the current block party and then jumps back a year in time to introduce all the residents. Readers follow these characters through a rich plethora of action, lies, secrets, and all the potential motives for murder leading up to the current party. Everyone could be a potential  victim or suspect.

The narrative is told through the alternating point of view of Alex, party organized and divorce mediator, and Lettie, her teenage daughter. They introduce you to the large cast of characters that are all distinctive and unique enough to easily keep track of who is who. And this cast of characters displays all manner of dysfunctional behavior and relationships, subterfuge, and secrets. As the action unfolds, interspersed between the chapters are excerpts from comments and speculation made on the Meadowbrook Online Community Page.

The Block Party is well-written and a great choice for an entertaining summer read that will hold your attention to the end. 

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

Monday, July 10, 2023

I Know What You Did

I Know What You Did by Cayce Osborne
7/18/23; 272 pages
Crooked Lane Books

I Know What You Did by Cayce Osborne is a highly recommended mystery novel that follows secrets from one woman's past.

Petal (Petta) Woznewski lives a quiet, introverted life in New York City where she self medicates too much and sees Gus Johnson, her friend with intermittent benefits, when she chooses to do so. She is shaken to the core when her name is used in an anonymously written thriller and the dedication page says: "I know what you did, Petal Woznewski. And now everyone else will, too." The novel seems to be based on events from thirty years ago when she was fourteen and living in Madison, Wisconsin.

At that time her parents had recently died and she was living with her aunt. She made two friends, Megan and Jenny. Megan died and Jenny and Petal kept the real story of that tragic night a secret, that is until the novel is published. The thing is, some details in the novel are correct but others aren't at all. The book is becoming a best seller, movie rights are sold, and Petta needs to return to Madison in order to find out who wrote it and why she is being named and targeted in the supposedly fictional novel.

Petta is an interesting character. She's not entirely likeable, but it is clearly her choice to keep her distance from everything and everyone. She can be cynical, funny, pessimistic, and introverted. Her character does experience growth and she is quite likeable despite her best efforts by the end of the novel.

I Know What You Did is a well-written, even paced debut novel. The narrative follows Petta's current actions and thoughts with excerpts from the questionable novel providing details about the past. The excerpts of a novel within a novel works well in this novel without feeling distracting. Clues are there as to who is the anonymous writer of the incriminating novel, so some readers are going to figure it out before Petta, but the journey is worth the ending.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Thicker Than Water

Thicker Than Water by Megan Collins
7/11/23; 320 pages
Atria Books

Thicker Than Water by Megan Collins is a highly recommended drama/murder mystery that closely relies on complicated family relationships while seeking the truth.

Julia and Sienna Larkin are sisters-in-law, best friends, and business partners. Julia is married to Sienna’s brother, Jason, and the two have a teenage son, Aiden. Sienna is sure her brother is perfect, while Julia knows he isn't but that he tries to do his best. Their relationship is tested when Jason's boss is found brutally murdered and Jason is hospitalized and in a medically induced coma after a serious car accident. Then the police reveal that Jason is the prime suspect in the murder. The two are convinced Jason is not guilty so they set out to investigate on their own.

The narrative is told through the alternating points-of-view of Julia and Sienna, which works out well because, although they are great friends, they also have very different personalities. Both of these women are portrayed as fully realized individuals with unique personalities.

The actual plot is a slow-burner. The interest lies in the very different approaches and temperaments of the two women and their search for evidence to prove Jason's innocence. Readers who like to explore complicated female friendships will appreciate this aspect of the plot. The mystery is more low key and somewhat predictable.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Go Find Daddy

Go Find Daddy by Steve Goble
7/11/23; 320 pages
Oceanview Publishing

Go Find Daddy by Steve Goble is a recommended investigative novel and the third book featuring PI Ed Runyon.

Ed Runyon is hired by the wife of a man wanted for murder. She wants Ed to find him. However, the case isn't quite as simple as that. A cop was found murdered in rural Ohio on Donny Blackmon’s property and Donny has disappeared with no way for anyone to find him. His wife needs to find him because she has just learned that their daughter is dying from cancer. Once the young girl asks Ed to find her Daddy, Ed knows he's taking the case.

You can still follow the plot and won't feel as if you are missing too much backstory, but as the third book in the series, it might behoove readers to start with the earlier two novel, City Problems and Wayward Son. Additionally, Ed can be a bit of an annoying character and his personality may not endear him to some readers. All in all, this is a decent PI novel, not a favorite, but not awful. Perhaps I would have liked it more if it was just a story and kept current events out of the plot. This element to the narrative is tiresome and dates the novel immediately, before it is even released.

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

With a Kiss We Die

With a Kiss We Die by L. R. Dorn
7/11/23; 336 pages
William Morrow

With a Kiss We Die by L. R. Dorn is a very highly recommended investigative mystery/thriller presented in the format of the dialogue/script from a true-crime podcast.

Ryanna Raines is an investigative journalist and the host of The Raines Report, a popular true-crime podcast. Jordan De Carlo and Victoria Berne are both theater majors at UC Santa Barbara and also murder suspects. The two are suspects in the violent, brutal murder of Jordan's parents in their multi-million-dollar estate in Southern California. Jordan and Victoria left the country and have been in Mexico for a month.

Now they are coming back and have contacted Ryanna. They want to share their side of the story before their arrest and indictment. Ryanna will have an exclusive inside look into their stories and will be able to record what Jordan and Victoria say for her podcast. She and her producer decide to proceed, which places Ryanna closer to a breaking story than is normal for her show and The Raines Report goes viral.

With a Kiss We Die is written like a script for a true-crime podcast that also includes discussions between Ryanna and her producer, contact with her family, and insight into other events happening around her. I liked the format for this novel and thought it added an interesting dimension to the narrative. It allowed new revelations and twists in the plot to be delivered at an even pace. It also introduces readers to Jordan and Victoria as they tell/perform their story to Ryanna.

The plot was very compelling and I was totally immersed in it. There are several clever twists and revelations along the way. Admittedly, what sent my evaluation to my top rating was the fact that my kindle lost its charge right during the final big twists and I had to frantically grab my phone to open the app and finish the novel. Any novel that has me that frantic to know what really happened is worth the bump up to five stars. (L. R. Dorn is the pen name for Matt Dorff and Suzanne Dunn.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of William Morrow via Edelweiss.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

What Never Happened

What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall
8/1/23; 428 pages
Thomas & Mercer

What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall is a highly recommended investigative mystery.

Twenty years before, Colette “Coco” Weber was the only survivor of a deadly home invasion the took the life of her parents and brother. She was more than willing to leave the Catalina Island home she inherited with her Aunt Gwen in residence and make a career on the mainland. She does well and finds success as an award winning obituary writer. Later, when her relationship breaks up and she learns Aunt Gwen may need some assistance, she accepts a job with the local paper and moves back to Catalina. Once she returns, strange and ominous things begin to happen.

Both Coco and Gwen are fully realized characters while the rest of the characters simply fulfill various roles in the plot. Coco has a prickly personality which may be off-putting, however she also has perfectly legitimate reasons for her attitude. The island and the inhabitants in general also become characters in the novel.

What Never Happened is plot driven by two different mysteries that beg to be solved. The first is who murdered Coco's family as new evidence exonerated the man convicted years earlier. The second mystery that officials seem unconcerned with involves the large number of elderly women who have recently been found dead on the island.

The pace of the novel is uneven. There were sections were I was fully engaged with the plot and immersed in the action. There were other times my interest in the narrative waned. Even with the murder mysteries I had to force myself to keep reading. At over 400 pages perhaps a bit more editing could have tightened up the narrative to keep the action moving along smoothly. Still, this is a very entertaining mystery.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

The Woods are Waiting

The Woods are Waiting by Katherine Greene
7/11/23; 288 pages
Crooked Lane Books

The Woods are Waiting by Katherine Greene is a highly recommended debut mystery.

Blue Cliff, Virginia, has a dark history pointing at the Hickory Man living in the woods preying on children. Children are taught to put soil from the woods in their shoes and carry silver coins to ward off the Hickory Man, but there is also a history of this not working. Cheyenne Ashby left five years ago without warning after three children were found dead in the woods. A local man went to prison for it, but doubts remain. 

Now Cheyenne is called to return home and help her mother, Constance, who lives in a cabin in the woods and is busy trying everything she knows to ward off the evil she sees coming. Another child has disappeared, which is what prompted her frantic activity. Cheyennes friend, Natalie, is still in town and the two are determined to discover what is really happening.

This is a solid debut mystery with a creepy something-is-in-the-deep-dark-woods plot element. Cheyenne and Natalie are not about to fall for the local rumors when looking for the answers to the latest missing child, as well as the truth about the previous three missing children. Greene does a respectable job of creating suspense and developing her characters while presenting local superstitions and the fear running rampant in the small town.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Bodies of Light

Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down
9/28/21; 448 pages
The Text Publishing Company
Winner of the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award 

Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down is a highly recommended traumatic and heartbreaking story of the life of one Australian woman. Maggie's life has consisted of one appalling, traumatic experience after an other, starting with her childhood, her time in foster/group care homes and continuing with heartbreaking, dreadful events into adulthood. This is the winner of the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

This is not a pleasant novel to read. It is distressing, bleak, and harrowing throughout the entire novel. Yes, the quality of the writing is excellent, but the narrative never gives the reader a true pause from the feeling of a life of futility and hopelessness. There are brief periods where you think she is going to overcome her past experiences and live a fulfilling life, but they are brief as another horrific turn of events will quickly follow. Maggie does keep trying to cope with everything. The first half of the novel is stronger than the last half.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Text Publishing Company via Edelweiss.


The Theory of Everything Else

The Theory of Everything Else: A Voyage Into the World of the Weird by Dan Schreiber
6/27/23; 368 pages

The Theory of Everything Else: A Voyage Into the World of the Weird by Dan Schreiber is a very highly recommended hilarious collection of eccentric beliefs, conspiracy theories and speculative encounters. As Schreiber notes: "None of the theories in this book are true. They're just ideas, speculations, beliefs and claims, begging to be accepted as truth." If you chose to believe any of them, that's on you. However, reading about them is sure to entertain you and perhaps become the impetus for some lively conversations.

Dan Schreiber collects several of the most interesting, humorous, and thought provoking stories in this collection. Some of the topics covered are obvious, while others are more obscure. Some topics include: time travelers, aliens, ghosts, seers, communicating with dolphins and plants, clairvoyance, pyramid energy, time travelers, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, a woman who reads butt cheeks, the hollow earth theory, reptilians, a fountain of youth, and more.

The Theory of Everything Else is a well-written, wildly entertaining compilation that doesn't take itself too seriously while discussing, in a conversational style, all manner of topics. As Schreiber writes, "Batsh*t makes the world go round and its footprint can be found everywhere you look. You won't always notice it, but it's usually there, hiding in plain sight." Here is an assortment of some of those wacky beliefs that is sure to hold your attention from start to finish.

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