Wednesday, August 30, 2023

It Could Never Happen Here

It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall
9/5/23; 400 pages

It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall is a highly recommended domestic thriller told through multiple points of view.

In the town of Cooney in West Cork, a body has been pulled from the river behind the school. The parents and others in the school must be interviewed and the much anticipated play will be cancelled. Before this incident parents were jockeying for positions for their children or themselves in the play. 

Beverley Franklin is a highly controlled, tightly wound woman. As the director of the Glass Lake primary school play, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, she must make sure every goes smoothly to protect the school's reputation as well as that of her daughter, Amelia, who is the lead character. When she catches Amelia in a shocking action, she immediately gets to work to make sure the right decision is made concerning it. The problem is that Beverly has no idea what is really going on and gossip is created and past on at lightning speed in Cooney.

There are many characters in It Could Never Happen Here, but the majority are truly unlikable and written as such. The pleasure in the narrative is following the utterly despicable and gossipy bunch of rumormongers, which includes all the mothers associated with the primary school. These women aren't your average helicopter parents, they are Chinook helicopter parents.

Readers won't know who was murdered until the very end, so with this group of characters for most of the novel everyone could be the victim. Interspersed within the narrative are brief insights into the police investigation and clips from interviews with those present in the school. There is a subplot about a cat kidnapping that is odd but funny.

While the novel is interesting at first, things drag on way too long and the gossipy cliques, prejudices, and rehashing of past events begin to grate. For the review copy, transitions between character's viewpoints weren't clearly delineated which may be changed in the final copy. 3.5 rounded up

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

Monday, August 28, 2023

With Regrets

With Regrets by Lee Kelly
9/5/23; 320 pages
Crooked Lane Books

With Regrets by Lee Kelly is a very highly recommended domestic horror mixed with a science fiction locked room drama.

Liz Brinkley and her husband are invited to an exclusive soiree by Britta Harris-Che, an influencer and self-named lifestyle guru (#Brittasays). Liz, a writer absolutely does not want to go but her hand is forced by her husband. Their too-young sitter shows up and they leave for the dinner party. Seven guests show up, four wives, three husbands. At the beginning of the dinner a red alert comes through everyone's phones. Something strange is happening. An atmospheric phenomena that looks like 'glimmering clouds,' has been spreading through major cities and kills anyone they encounter. "Authorities have just one clear Find shelter. Immediately."

Guests are desperate to get home to their children, but after trying it is clear that they all are forced to shelter at the Harris-Che home. Since leaving is not an option, they must all gather supplies and take shelter in the wine cellar and family room/safe room. It is in the safe room that the atmosphere takes a decidedly different turn from a festive Soiree as tensions and suspicions quickly rise.

The narrative is told through the four viewpoints of Liz, Britta, Padme and Mable. Don't expect to truly like any of these characters, although some are more appealing than others. Certainly Britta is going to raise the ire of most readers. The men are basically all flawed side characters. None of the characters are deeply developed, but that is expected in a disaster/end of the world novel. The foe and the struggle is the point.

The beginning dinner party is the stuff of nightmares but once the red alert comes through the plot gets very interesting. The idea of some strange glimmering atmospheric phenomena where clouds of thread-like shiny things are attacking and killing every living thing is certainly a worthy horrific adversary, but the glimmer is not the only antagonist. Humans can also become a hostile party.

The writing was excellent. I was full-in once the glimmer started and the subsequent action held my full attention right up to the end. I will admit feeling slightly let down by the ending but I really enjoyed the journey getting there. 4.5 rounded up.

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

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Five Years After

Five Years After by William R. Forstchen
8/22/23; 352 pages
Forge Books
John Matherson Series #4

Five Years After by William R. Forstchen is a very highly recommended post apocalyptic thriller and the fourth book in the John Matherson series.

The most succinct introduction to the narrative is from the publisher:  "Five years after The Final Day, the Republic of New America has all but collapsed into regional powers and the world at large is struggling to remain stable as regional conflicts ravage the post EMP landscape. After several years attempting to lead a quiet life, John Matherson receives the news that the President is dying ... and is asked to step in to negotiate with what appears to be a new military power hidden in the wreckage of the world."

This is the fourth novel in the series and every book has been a winner. The series consists of One Second After, One Year After, The final Day and, now, Five Years After. While John reluctantly steps in and represents the Republic, he is up against more than he bargained for and must be ready to save what progress his community has made. As the plot unfolds, parts of the narrative will hit uncomfortably close to home, including the emergence of controlling, nefarious surviving bureaucrats.

Fans of the series will applaud this fourth installment. Those new to the series will likely be able to follow the plot easily as background information is provided and John Matherson continues to be a great character. After reading The Final Day, most new to the series will want to jump back and read the previous three novels.

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

Friday, August 25, 2023

All Good Things

All Good Things by Amanda Prowse
8/15/23; 320 pages
Lake Union Publishing

All Good Things by Amanda Prowse is a recommended family drama.

Daisy Harrop envies the Kelleway family next door. Compared to her family, with her mother depressed and sleeping all the time, her father working hard, her brother up in his room, the Kelleway family seem perfect from a distance. She looks out her window watching them and wishing she could be a part of their life, especially if it meant dating their grandson, Cass.

Winnie Kelleway is a clueless vain woman who is proud of her beautiful family. Now Winnie and Bernie are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at an Italian restaurant with all their family present and on display for everyone to envy them. The restaurant they celebrate at is the one where Daisy works, so she gets to see the event first hand.

The narrative is told through the point-of-view of the characters and it becomes clear after a very slow start that everything is not as Daisy believes it is and her family is not even close to how Winnie views them. As more points-of-view are brought into the story, it does become more complex and interesting. Clearly Daisy and Winnie are seeing what they want to believe and don't really know what is going on.

This is a "the grass is always greener on the other side" plot. However, beginning the novel with Daisy's musings made this feel like a YA book and then visiting Winnie's internal dialogue made this almost a DNF. It was simply an okay book for me but fans of Prowse will likely enjoy it much more.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2023

After That Night

After That Night by Karin Slaughter
8/22/23; 432 pages
Will Trent Series #11

After That Night by Karin Slaughter by Karin Slaughter is a very highly recommended, excellent, thriller and police procedural. This eleventh novel in the Will Trent Series is an absolutely must read thriller! One of the best of the year!

A current court case takes GBI investigator Will Trent and Dr. Sara Linton back fifteen years ago to a violent attack that changed her life. Three years previously, Sara encounters a young woman in the ER , Dani Cooper, who was brutally attacked and raped. The case is in trial right now and Sara, now a medical examiner at the GBI, is testifying at the civil trial of the young man believed to be responsible. Sara knew the parents of the defendant years ago and the mother hints in an odd way that this case is connected to other assaults. This confession sends Will, Sara, and Will's partner Faith on an off-the-books investigation into several cases that share a resemblance to each other.

Karin Slaughter is a must read and at the top of her game. After That Night is an exceptionally well-written procedural/thriller. The narrative is riveting, detailed, compassionate, and moves at a fast pace. The plot is engrossing and disturbing as Will, Sara, and Faith piece together connections between young women who were targeted and raped. The assaults all lead back to a group of men who were medical students at the same time as Sara. The details are gritty and horrifying as more is information uncovered. The final denouement is shocking.

Those following the series will know the characters intimately and gain more insight into them but new-comers will be as engaged with the characters as seasoned fans. They all are fully-realized characters that will prompt compassion and interest throughout the whole novel with all readers. Although this is the eleventh in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel.

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

Monday, August 21, 2023

Come with Me

Come with Me by Erin Flanagan
8/22/23; 300 pages
Thomas & Mercer

Come with Me by Erin Flanagan is a highly recommended thriller.

Gwen Maner, thirty-two, is a widowed single mom of Whitney, eight. She is broke and needs a job ASAP, so she decides to apply to the media agency she was an intern at ten years earlier, before she married and was in college. Two other young women were interns with her and one of them, Nicola Kimmel, is one of the leaders at the company. Gwen calls her hoping for some advice but Nicola does much more than that and Gwen is offered a high paying job at the company. She'll have to quickly move from Colorado back to Ohio, where her mother still lives. This job will mean she can take care of her daughter comfortably. 

As they settle in, Nicola inserts herself into their lives more and more, taking control of her and her daughter. At first all her help and support is welcome, but then Gwen begins to become increasingly uncomfortable. What does Nicola really want? What is the end game?

Come with Me is well-written and will hold your attention with a steady pace. Chapters alternate between the point-of-view of Gwen and flashbacks to Nicola's difficult childhood. This literary device allows suspense to build and foreshadows future events. Gwen is able to share her thoughts while Nicola's background allows insight into her character. Following the increasing creepy behavior of Nicola, a woman who wants to be in charge of everything, is entertaining.

The entertainment factor is very high because what reader of thrillers doesn't enjoy a novel where a character becomes increasingly menacing. Alternately, several of the twists are predictable and even the big twist at the end will be figured out by some readers. Also, some strong suspension of disbelief needs to be employed and it was a stumbling block for me. Gwen even thinking about applying for a job in another state somewhere she was an intern ten years ago is not credible especially after not working for ten years. 3.5 rounded up.

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

Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Keeper of Hidden Books

The Keeper of Hidden Books by Madeline Martin
8/1/23; 416 pages
Hanover Square Press

The Keeper of Hidden Books by Madeline Martin is a highly recommended historical fiction novel inspired by the true story of the underground library in WWII Warsaw.

Zofia and her best friend, Janina, who is Jewish, both love books. When bombs begin to fall and Warsaw is occupied by Hitler's forces, looting of the city begins, Jews are being locked up, and books are being banned. Zofia knows both her friend and all books need saving. She begins to salvage books from the wreckage, hiding them away, and even starts a book club. The one thing that continues to sustain Zofia and Janina is their love of reading. The struggle is to preserve the books along with the Polish culture and community.

The Keeper of Hidden Books is a very well-written historical fiction novel. The narrative is set in Poland from 1939 to 1944 and follows the campaign to eliminate Jews and the Polish population. The author's notes that follow the novel are must reading as they provide information about Martin's research into the story. The events she covers are based on the real life efforts to preserve the underground Warsaw Library during WWII. Real historical figures are woven seamlessly into the plot.

It is a story of struggling, loss, and grief, but is also an ode to the determination and bravery of those individuals who were courageous enough to risk their lives in a common goal. Those who love reading historical fiction, especially novels set in WWII will want to read this novel. 4.5

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

Saturday, August 19, 2023

North of Nowhere

North of Nowhere by Allison Brennan
8/8/23; 368 pages
St. Martin's Press

North of Nowhere by Allison Brennan is a very highly recommended race-against-time survival thriller that is compulsively readable.

After five years hiding in Montana with father figure Tony Reed, Kristin (Kris) McIntyre, sixteen, and her ten-year-old deaf younger brother Ryan, have to run again immediately. Tony has spotted men looking for them, sent by their real father, Boyd McIntyre, head of a Los Angeles crime family. The trio barely escape in a plane, which was shot at by his men. Tony is mortally wounded and the plane is malfunctioning from the gun fire but he manages to land the plane up in the mountains. With a blizzard quickly approaching and Tony dying, Kris needs to use all her learned skills to save Ryan from the men looking for them. Kris is old enough to remember what and why they went into hiding from the McIntyre clan.

North of Nowhere is an extremely well-written, compelling, fast-paced thriller that is un-put-downable. You may have to suspend some disbelief, but with an action-packed plot, characters confronting danger at every turn, and no clear outcome it is a pleasure to keep reading. The chapters are short, which keeps the pace moving swiftly and are told through the point-of-view of different characters. This adds complexity to the already tension-filled plot and ensures the just-one-more-chapter response right to the end.

There is a large cast of characters in the novel, but I found it easy to keep them all straight as Brennan takes care to provide them all with some development. The main characters all are fully realized and feel like real people. You will care about many of the protagonists and wish them well. Some characters you will feel uncertain about for a time, while the antagonists, especially a couple of them, will draw your ire.

Allison Brennan has written another complex, exceptional thriller in North of Nowhere.

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

Friday, August 18, 2023

My Other Husband

My Other Husband by Dorothy Koomson
8/18/22; 432 pages
Hatchette Book Group

My Other Husband by Dorothy Koomson is a highly recommended thriller.

The novel opens with Cleo Forsum Pryce being charged with attempted murder but she is not guilty. Then chapters jump back in time to weeks earlier when she begins to take steps to ruin her life. These chapters alternate with chapters set in 1996 when she was a student and best friends with Trina.  Weeks before the charge, Cleo is divorcing her husband. and is going to end the successful TV series 'The Baking Detective' based on her book. She is sabotaging her own life before her past secrets catch up with her. Now people around her are starting to get hurt and someone is trying to frame her for murder.

The alternating chapters work well to contrast Cleo then and now. She was fun, happy, and carefree and now is obviously carrying a heavy burden. The characters are fully realized and resemble real people, even the antagonists. It is revealed why Cleo is sabotaging her life through the look into her past.

However, the novel does have a a very slow pace after the attention-grabbing opening and doesn't really pick up until after the half-way point. The second half is intense, full of plot twists and suspense. It is a story about obsession, but is also full of murders and revenge. The final denouement is very satisfying. All in all, My Other Husband is a very good thriller but the slow pacing in the first half lessened my enjoyment.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Hatchette Book Group via NetGalley.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Bridge

The Bridge by Matt Brolly
8/8/2, 300 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Detective Louise Blackwell #6

The Bridge by Matt Brolly is a very highly recommended procedural and the sixth novel in the DI Louise Blackwell series.

Detective Inspector Louise Blackwell is called in to investigate when the body of a young woman is discovered in a shipping container in Bristol. Several theories are put forth, but they are all abandoned when a camera is discovered. Apparently someone was watching her trapped and slowly dying. The case may involve claustrophilia, someone who likes to watch people in very small, cramped spaces. It may also be tied to the case of two other missing persons. Complicating Blackwell's involvement in the investigation is that she is ten weeks pregnant and experiencing bad morning sickness.

The Bridge is a well-written, excellent, engaging procedural with a detailed complex plot. The opening scene will immediately grab your attention. Right from the start the suspense and tension keep increasing as the intricate plot unfolds. There are several twists along the way to keep you guessing and some heart-stopping moments. The narrative is mainly told through Blackwell's point-of-view with other voices included.

Louise Blackwell is a wonderful, fully realized character among a cast of great characters. Although this is the sixth novel in the series, The Bridge can certainly be read as a stand-alone, although you will subsequently want to read others in the series. Those who like procedurals are going to thoroughly enjoy The Bridge.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The Last One

The Last One by Will Dean
8/8/23; 448 pages
Atria/Emily Bestler Books

The Last One by Will Dean is a very highly recommended locked-room psychological thriller.

Caz Ripley is taking a luxury cruise liner RMS Atlantica with her boyfriend Pete. After an enjoyable first evening, Caz wakes up the next morning and Pete is gone. Upon stepping into the corridor and looking around, she discovers no passengers or crew. She appears to be alone on the empty vessel which is on autopilot heading into the mid-Atlantic and she is unable to radio for help.

The Last One was an un-put-down-able, heart-stopping thriller and twisty take on a locked-room mystery. The details of events on the Atlantica are perfectly presented and utterly frightening. Admittedly, you have to set all disbelief aside and roll with the intense plot, but the great news is that the plot is well-written, compelling, frightening, and suspenseful enough to make this very easy to do. 

Readers will have all sorts of theories and some clues while reading but won't really know what is going on until the end. I was absolutely glued to the pages. The Last One was the best novel to follow my last excellent review book and hold my rapt attention. I don't want to share much more to avoid spoilers, but read this book!

I loved The Last One as much as I loved First Born. Will Dean is now on my list of authors to automatically read any of his new novels.

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Tides of Fire

Tides of Fire by James Rollins
8/15/23; 480 pages
Sigma Force Series #17

Tides of Fire by James Rollins is a very highly recommended, action packed, heart-stopping thriller wrapped around a geological disaster. This 17th novel in the Sigma Force series is a winner! (Teaser: there is biomineralization of bodies.)

Sigma Force joins with the Titan Project which has an international research station off the coast of Australia in the Coral Sea. The researchers are looking at the Tonga trench and the otherworldly bioluminescent coral living there when a Chinese military nuclear submarine is lost in the trench. Obviously, the Chinese want to keep this a secret, setting up a raid on the research station, but what happens next is already set into motion. A geological disaster that destabilizes the entire region starts and could bring about the end of the world.

An excellent addition to the Sigma Series! The pace starts out fast and only picks up the pace as the various plot threads unfold. Rollins knows how to write a complicated, riveting plot that is science based, detailed, and includes historical facts. The new characters introduced for this adventure are all wonderfully interesting and capable or decidedly evil.

As a long time fan, I have read every Sigma force novel. Tides of Fire rates as one of the best in the series. It is incredible and everything anyone could want in a Sigma Force novel. If you have never read a Rollins novel you could certainly start here and just enjoy the non-stop action and intricate plot. He includes at the beginning a cast of characters to help you follow who's who. You won't know the backstory of all the characters, but enough information naturally occurs in the narrative to provide basic details about them. The story is the star.

Along with maps and pictures within the novel that relate to the unfolding plot threads, there is also included an informative Author's Note to Readers: Truth or Fiction section at the end of the novel which discusses the real science and technology and where artistic license was used, which I always appreciate and find informative. There will be a sequel to Tides of Fire.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Saving Myles

Saving Myles by Carl Vonderau
8/15/23; 336 pages
Oceanview Publishing

Saving Myles by Carl Vonderau is a highly recommended family drama.

Wade and his estranged wife, Fiona, are forced to send their teenage son Myles away to a treatment center after finding bags of OxyContin in his bedroom. After a year, he returns home, seemingly rehabilitated, but soon slips back into trouble. Myles and his girlfriend go to Tijuana to buy drugs, which results in Myles being kidnapped by a cartel and the cartel demanding a ransom for his return. The treatment center wiped out all their extra funds, so they are desperate to find a way to save Myles. With no help from the FBI, dealing with the cartel leads them down a dangerous path searching for another course of action.

This is a compelling well-written drama. The narrative is told in the third person, but each chapter concentrates on one of the three characters - Wade, Fiona, or Myles. Readers will feel great compassion and care about what happens to this fractured couple and their son. There are some descriptive sections to provide more information, but they just work as a way to explain events and serve to move the tension in the plot forward. This is a very tension filled novel and the suspense increases with each chapter. The plot is somewhat predictable, but is still a very satisfying family drama.

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

In a Quiet Town

In a Quiet Town by Amber Garza 
8/8/23; 336 pages
MIRA Books

In a Quiet Town by Amber Garza is a recommended family drama/thriller.

After Tatum's husband Shane, an influential pastor in their small California town, disowned their daughter, Adrienne, Tatum thought she'd lost her daughter forever until after several years she finally defied her husband and secretly went to see Adrienne at the bar where she now works. Now every Wednesday night Tatum goes to the bar to see Adrienne and is re-establishing a relationship with her daughter. Then one night Adrienne doesn't show up to work. No one knows where she is and she isn't answering her phone.

Tatum contacts the police and tells her husband about it, but none of them are taking her seriously. When Tatum meets a man claiming to be Adrienne's fiancé, he believes her and is also trying to find Adrienne. Even though Tatum knew nothing about this man, she needs to trust him in her search for her daughter.

The narrative is told through different points of views, alternating between Tatum, Adrienne, and the fiancé, from both the past and the present. Tatum's character is sympathetic, despite her deferential demeanor, although it is nice to see her allowing herself a measure of some fortitude. However, at the start it was also a stretch for me to believe that a mother would not talk to a daughter for years because her husband didn't want her to.

The pacing is slow and there is some repetition and over detailed explanations which bog down the pace further.  The overarching theme of Shane, the pastor and members of his church controlling the whole town was played a bit too heavy-handed and wasn't believable outside of a sequestered cult situation. There is a surprising twist. This was just an okay novel for me.

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

Friday, August 11, 2023

A Killer in the Family

A Killer in the Family by Gytha Lodge
8/8/23; 416 pages
Random House
DCI Jonah Sheens #5

A Killer in the Family by Gytha Lodge is a highly recommended murder mystery/procedural and the fifth book in the series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens.

In Southampton, England, the "Bonfire Killer" has struck again. Three months earlier his first victim was burned beyond recognition. The latest victim did not burn. Even more hopeful for the investigation is that blood was found at the scene. In the meantime, Aisling Cooley, single mom to two teenage boys, decides to upload her DNA to an ancestry website in a search for her father who left his family 30 years earlier. What she has is DCI Jonah Sheens contact her because her DNA is a close match with that of the Bonfire Killer, who apparently is a close relative of hers.

This is another well written novel by Lodge. After a attention grabbing opening, the beginning moves at an even pace until all the pieces are set into place and then A Killer in the Family takes off, racing against time. The plot is interesting, compelling, and realistic while also providing plenty of twists along the way.  Although it is the fifth book in the series, this solid procedural works well as a stand alone novel too. The characters are all fully realized and realistic. A Killer in the Family is another excellent novel by Lodge.

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

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Never-Ending End of the World

The Never-Ending End of the World by Ann Christy
8/8/23; 488 pages
Campfire Publishing

The Never-Ending End of the World by Ann Christy is a very highly recommended literary post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic. 

Love it. Absolutely one of the best books of the year. The Never-Ending End of the World is a spectacular, un-put-downable speculative sci-fi, post-apocalyptic dystopian, and scientific mystery all rolled together in a wonderfully written novel. I love everything about this novel.

When the looping started, Coco was twelve-years-old. All the people she sees now are on a continuous loop that last various different lengths of time before they repeat - endlessly. She somehow managed to survive for years in  Manhattan by mapping loops and keeping quiet. She has to map them to avoid their paths in search of food. The loopers ignore her/don't see her as long as she is silent but if she breaks a loop or makes a noise, the results can be deadly. After years of being alone, she meets another un-looped person and this sends her out of the city looking for more and a better way to survive in this strange world.

Coco is a fully realized character and you will meet some more survivors. The novel opens in year 39 of the loop and then jumps back in time to the beginning, covering the years in chunks of time - five years, 13 years, etc. until decades have passed. The narrative is written in five parts with an epilogue. Parts one, three, and five are from Coco's point-of-view and her journal entries , with parts two and four from the perspective of another character, Forrest. I was sobbing through the ending.

The Never-Ending End of the World is compelling and engaging throughout and really stands out as a totally original novel. This is an excellent choice for those who like literary novels as well as speculative sci-fi. Did I mention I love it?

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of via Campfire Publishing via Edelweiss.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Under the Influence

Under the Influence by Noelle Crooks
8/8/23; 352 pages
Gallery Books

Under the Influence by Noelle Crooks is a recommended, highly for some readers, novel set in the world of a major influencer.

Harper Cruz is looking for a new job and applies to work for self-help influencer Charlotte Green. Harper is hired as Charlotte’s Visionary Support Strategist in Nashville for triple her last paycheck. If she thought the job offer was high pressure, once she arrives in Nashville Harper realizes just how high pressure and cult-like the job at The Greenhouse really is where everything is all about making Charlotte Green look good and working long hours doing exactly what she wants.

This very easy to read novel feels like an update on The Devil Wears Prada. Readers who follow or are familiar with self-help "Hey you" social media influencers will likely relate much more to this novel than I did. It held my attention and I finished it, but ultimately it will be forgettable for me. However, I think a younger reader who follows influencers on social media will enjoy it more than I did. It also fits the description of an airplane book, interesting enough to hold your attention but you won't care if you misplace it. Apparently if you are familiar with the influencer the Charlotte Green character is based on, it makes it a better novel.

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

Monday, August 7, 2023

Epic True Tales And Crazy Stories

Epic True Tales And Crazy Stories by Owen Janssen
10/31/22; 276 pages

Epic True Tales And Crazy Stories by Owen Janssen is a very highly recommended entertaining collection of true stories, trivia, and trifles.

This is a good choice for those who love to collect and share interesting little facts. The short, pithy tales are told in an engaging manner with humor and details. As I was reading, I kept thinking that this would be an excellent choice for kids, upper elementary and up. It would captivate the younger group and could encourage older, struggling readers with the interesting stories. Each fact/story is presented in a succinct manner, fast and to the point. For the older crowd, the short selections make a perfect choice for quick reading while waiting or in-between tasks.

Chapters include: Histories Hidden Side; True Crime; The Famous and Their Little Secrets; Inventions; Stretching the Truth: Hoaxes and Scams; Sport and Sports; Science, Nature, and Animals; Pop Culture; and Fabulous Flops. Each chapter is followed by a Bonus Interrogation section (5 questions) and Answers to the questions.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Owen Jannsen via NetGalley.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Tom Lake

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
8/1/23; 320 pages

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett is a very highly recommended family drama and will be on my list of best books of 2023.

Set In 2020 at the Nelson family's orchard in Michigan, Joe and Lara have all three of their daughters back home for the lock down. Emily, the oldest wants to continue farming and will inherit the family farm. Maisie is a veterinarian, while Nell, the youngest, wants to become an actress. With other seasonal workers unable to help, they must all help pick cherries. When famous actor Peter Duke dies, Lara's daughters beg her to tell the story of her romance with Duke when she was young and they were both actors at Tom Lake's summer theater. While picking cherries, Lara tells the story of her short lived acting career.

The exquisitely written narrative gracefully moves between Lara's recollection of her past and the present never-ending work in the orchard set before the family. It is a gentle reminder that parents had lives before they became parents and that everyone has a story and lessons learned. The finesse utilized between retelling parts of her past story with the heavy lessons Lara learned all embedded within the present daily grind of never-ending cherry picking is masterful.

Both narrative threads, the past and the present, are equally interesting and compelling. Since Thornton Wilder's play Our Town is a major part of the plot, some knowledge of the play and characters would be very beneficial. This shouldn't be an issue for most readers.

Even though this is set during the pandemic, I appreciated the way this was handled more than I have with any other lock down novel. Lives and plans were disrupted, but work continued for many. Other lock down novels have not even remotely captured the experience of working even harder every day because it had to be done. There is a brief passage where Emily says she doesn't want children due to climate change, which danced too close to my lose rule to leave current events out of novels rule. But once it was added I do wish Patchett had continued the then-and-now theme and mentioned that in the late 70's the change being touted was a new ice age.

Tom Lake is an ode to life being made around choices and events that all lead to where you are today. The true gift of the story is Patchett's skillful handling of the dual narrative and her intelligent, beautifully written story of Lara's life. Tom Lake is one of the best literary books of 2023.

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

Friday, August 4, 2023

Dark Corners

Dark Corners by Megan Goldin
8/8/23; 352 pages
St. Martin's Press
Rachel Krall #2

Dark Corners by Megan Goldin is a highly recommended mystery/thriller and the second novel after Night Swim featuring Rachel Krall, a famous true crime podcaster.

Maddison Logan, a popular influencer, disappeared after visiting inmate Terrance Bailey. Bailey, convicted for breaking and entering, is scheduled to be released in two days, but he is still a suspect in the murders of six women. Rachel Krall's name came up in the investigation of Maddison's disappearance so the FBI asked her to visit Bailey before his release. The visit yeilds no new information but Rachel decides to stay in Florida and even agreed to attend, undercover, BuzzCon, a popular conference for social media influencers.  She thought she would be able to get more information about Maddison from those attending.

Readers will assiduously have suspend all disbelief that FBI agent Martinez would ask a true crime podcaster (no matter how famous or how many followers she has or how insistent she is) to assist in an investigation. Yeah they might infiltrate a conference undercover, but it would be with their agents. Sure, Rachel certainly has the right to stay in Florida and look into the case on her own, but the FBI wouldn't be giving her info. Rachel herself is an not entirely believable character.

Chapters in the narrative alternate between the voice of the killer, the FBI investigation, and Rachel. Adding to the mix are occasional excerpts from Rachel's podcast of the case, obviously told after the fact. Sometimes this presentation of alternate viewpoints and transcripts work for me and sometimes it doesn't. It wasn't entirely successful this time. Perhaps reading an increasing number of books all including excerpts from influencers, podcasters, or content creators in the plot is beginning to wear thin.

After a slow start the pace does pick up and the novel becomes more compelling. Dark Corners can be read as a stand alone, even though it is the second in a series. The ending is satisfying

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

Thursday, August 3, 2023

None of This Is True

None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell
8/8/23; 384 pages
Atria Books

None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell is a very highly recommended twisty psychological thriller. Un-put-downable from beginning to end!

Alix Summers and Josie Fair discover they are birthday twins, born on the same day at the same hospital, when they are both out celebrating their 45th birthdays at a pub. After this brief encounter, Josie becomes obsessed with Alix, a podcaster, and makes sure they meet again. Alix finds her odd, but Josie convinces Alix that her life story would be an interesting subject for a new podcast series. Alix decides to start interviewing her, which starts Josie's increasing intrusion into Alix's life. As Josie shares disturbing details of her past and her family, the story becomes increasingly ominous.

Jewell has done it again! This compelling, riveting novel is hard to put down once started and will keep you guessing about what is the truth. There is no doubt that the novel is unsettling. You will immediately feel that something is awry, which will put all your senses on alert for clues. All families can be dysfunctional, but some families are much more complex and ominous than others. 

Inserted between chapters in the narrative are excerpts and transcripts from interviews for Alix's podcast and these foreshadow something bigger and more ominous is coming. It is a literary device that is very effective in this plot and the different perspectives provide varying versions of events. Readers will have to discern where the truth may be as the sense of danger become palpable and nothing may be as it seems.

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

The Bone Hacker

The Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs
8/1/23; 336 pages
Temperance Brennan Series #22

The Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs is a highly recommended thriller and the 22nd novel in the series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance (Tempe) Brennan.

For this outing Tempe starts out in Montreal, Canada, but circumstances send her to a tropical setting in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). In Canada, while examining a young man thought to have been struck by lightning, Tempe notices a an unusual tattoo that she discovers is tied to the islands of Turks and Caicos. Tiersa Musgrove, the police superintendent there, enlists her help to solve the disappearance of male tourists over the years. These cases are ongoing and when new bodies turn up, the potential danger to Tempe also rises.

The writing is entertaining and intelligent, as expected, and Tempe is always a perceptive, strong and resourceful character. She is capable and able to uncover evidence and clues needed to figure out what is going on with her cases. And, while in the investigations of the cases are interesting, there is always danger nearby and it always comes uncomfortably close to Tempe. 

As with other books in the series, The Bone Hacker can be read as a stand alone novel. Author Kathy Reichs, much like her fictional character, is a forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and for the Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Quebec. This expertise and insight is brought into every novel she writes.

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

Just Another Missing Person

Just Another Missing Person by Gillian McAllister
8/1/23; 384 pages

Just Another Missing Person by Gillian McAllister is a highly recommended heart-stopping police procedural and thriller concerning a missing-person case and an impossible moral choice.

DCI Julia Day is the lead detective investigating the disappearance of 22-year-old Olivia Johnson. Olivia is on CCTV entering a dead end alley and never walked out. Julia know the time this case will involve and the potential heartbreak for the family. What she doesn't expect is an ethical dilemma, but this happens when a man blackmails her into planting false evidence or he will expose the biggest secret she has, one that will threaten the safety of her daughter, Genevieve. And there is one thing that Julia knows: she will anything she can to protect Genevieve.

After a slower start when all the characters and the case is presented, the pace picks up and doesn't stop until the end. There is a surprising and shocking twist about half way through the novel that will shake the world of everyone reading it since it is so unexpected. After the major twist, the procedural aspects of the novel become stronger.

The narrative is told through multiple points-of-view, with Julia being the dominate voice. This plot device works well in the novel as you question where the truth lies. Julia is a fully realized character, obviously with flaws, but also with strengths. Another excellent novel from McAllister.

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