Sunday, December 31, 2023

Best books of 2023!

Best books of 2023!

240 books read this year. I have divided the top 5 star books list into extra categories and ordered them by the extra stars I gave to them on my list. The date of my review is after the title. The complete list by month follows the top picks.

Literary Fiction
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitan, 3/15/23, literary ****
Commitment by Mona Simpson, 3/22/23, literary ****
The Bird Hotel by Joyce Maynard, 5/9/23, literary ****
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, 8/6/23, literary ****
Far Creek Road by Lesley Krueger, 10/21/23, literary ****
Kinfolk by Sean Dietrich, 11/11/23, literary ****
All That Is Mine I Carry With Me by William Landay, 3/5/23, literary ***
Anna O. by Matthew Blake, 12/16/23 literary/mystery ***
Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls, 3/25/23, literary **
Maureen by Rachel Joyce, 2/7/23 **
The Guest by Emma Cline, 5/11/23, literary **
The Wren, the Wren by Anne Enright, 9/15/23,  literary **

Science Fiction
The Never-Ending End of the World by Ann Christy, 8/10/23,  sci-fi *****
The New One by Evie Green, 3/28/23 thriller/sci-fi ****
The Ferryman by Justin Cronin, 5/5/23, sci fi ****
The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis, 6/25/23, sci fi ***
The Glass Box by J. Michael Straczynski, 12/30/23 sci-fi ***
The Quiet Room by Terry Miles, 9/23/23 sci-fi **

Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers (There were so many in this category it was difficult to pair it down)
Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane, 4/23/23, thriller ****
Tides of Fire by James Rollins, 8/15/23, thriller ***** 
The Last One by Will Dean, 8/16/23, thriller ****
After That Night by Karin Slaughter, 8/24/23, thriller ****
Dark Ride by Lou Berney, 9/5/23,  thriller ****
The House of Love and Death by Andrew Klavan, 10/22/23, mystery ****
None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell, 8/3/23, thriller ***
Night Owl by Andrew Mayne, 10/7/23, thriller ***
American Girl by Wendy Walker, 10/8/23, thriller ***
With My Little Eye by Joshilyn Jackson, 4/22/23, suspense ***
The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer, 5/23/23, mystery ***
The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos, 7/15/23, mystery ***
The Last Ranger by Peter Heller, 7/29/23, mystery ***

Wonder Drug: The Secret History of Thalidomide in America and Its Hidden Victims by Jennifer Vanderbes 6/28/23 ****
The Longest Minute: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906 by Matthew J. Davenport, 10/12/23 ****
The Lost Tomb by Douglas Preston, 12/7/23 ****
In the Garden of the Righteous by Richard Hurowitz, 1/22/23 nonfiction***
The Watchmaker's Daughter by Larry Loftis, 3/1/23, ***
The Best Minds by Jonathan Rosen, 4/15/23, ***
Being Henry by Henry Winkler, 10/28/23 ***
The Dayhiker's Guide to the National Parks by Michael Joseph Oswald, 10/7/23 ***
Vanished in Vermillion by Lou Raguse, 2/19/23  **
The Theory of Everything Else by Dan Schreiber, 7/1/23 **


1. The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent, 336 pages, 1/1/23, so-so
2. Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica, 320 pages, 1/2/23, recommended
3. All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham, 336 pages, 1/4/23, highly recommended
4.The Hunter by Jennifer Herrera, 352 pages, 1/8/23, highly recommended
5. Killer Story by Matt Witten, 320 pages, 1/9/23, highly recommended
6.The Devil You Know by P. J. Tracy, 304 pages, 1/11/23, highly recommended
7. My Sister's Secret by Diane Saxon, 344 pages, 1/13/23, highly recommended
8. The Cabinet of Dr. Leng by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, 416 pages, 1/16/23, very highly recommended *
9. What Happens Next by Christina Suzann Nelson, 352 pages, 1/18/23, very highly recommended *
10. Don't Open the Door by Allison Brennan, 384 pages, 1/20/23, very highly recommended *
11. In the Garden of the Righteous by Richard Hurowitz, 480 pages, 1/22/23, very highly recommended, nonfiction***
12. The Devil's Ransom by Brad Taylor, 432 pages, 1/24/23, very highly recommended *
13. The Family Reunion by Karen King, 320 pages, 1/25/23, highly recommended
14. Exiles by Jane Harper, 368 pages, 1/27/23, very highly recommended *
15.The Drift by C. J. Tudor, 352 pages, 1/30/23, highly recommended
16. My Father's House by Joseph O'Connor, 440 pages, 1/31/23, very highly recommended *

17.The Sanctuary by Katrine Engberg. 336 pages, 2/2/23, very highly recommended *
18. Every Missing Girl by Leanne Kale Sparks, 272 pages, 2/4/23, very highly recommended **
19. A Killing of Innocents by Deborah Crombie, 368 pages, 2/6/23, highly recommended
20. Maureen by Rachel Joyce, 192 pages, 2/7/23, very highly recommended **
21. Trembling River by Andrée A. Michaud, 416 pages, 2/8/23, highly recommended
22. Her Final Breath by Carolyn Arnold, 323 pages, 2/9/23, very highly recommended, procedural *
23. The Weekend by L. H. Stacey, 322 pages, 2/11/23, so-so
24. Shore Lodge by Susan Specht Oram, 296 pages, 2/12/23, highly recommended
25. The Writing Retreat Julia Bartz, 320 pages, 2/12/23, so-so
26. Getting Even: Two Thrilling Novels of Suspense by Lisa Jackson, 512 pages, 2/14/23, recommended
27. Sea Castle by Andrew Mayne, 316 pages, 2/16/23, very highly recommended **
28. Vanished in Vermillion by Lou Raguse, 384 pages, 2/19/23, very highly recommended, nonfiction **
29. It's One of Us by J. T. Ellison, 400 pages, 2/21/23, highly recommended
30. Device Free Weekend by Sean Doolittle, 288 pages, 2/23/23, highly recommended
31. A Cry in the Dark by Jessica R. Patch, 368 pages, 2/25/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
32. Storm Watch by C. J. Box, 368 pages, 2/26/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
33. Are You a Miserable Old Bastard? by Andrew John, Stephen Blake, 176 pages, 2/27/23, highly recommended
34. The Ship Beneath the Ice by Mensun Bound, 416 pages, 2/27/23, very highly recommended * nonfiction

35. The Watchmaker's Daughter by Larry Loftis, 384 pages, 3/1/23, very highly recommended, nonfiction ***
36. The Kind Worth Saving by Peter Swanson, 320 pages, 3/2/23, very highly recommended **
37. A Flaw in the Design by Nathan Oates, 304 pages, 3/4/23, highly recommended
38. What Have We Done by Alex Finlay, 368 pages, 3/4/23, highly recommended
39. All That Is Mine I Carry With Me by William Landay, 338 pages, 3/5/23, very highly recommended, literary ***
40. Old Babes in the Wood: Stories by Margaret Atwood, 272 pages, 3/6/23, highly recommended, short stories
41. Forget What You Know by Christina Dodd, 384 pages, 3/8/23, highly recommended
42. The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell, 288 pages, 3/8/23, highly recommended
43. The Nature of Secrets by Debra Webb, 352 pages, 3/10/23, highly recommended
44. Collateral Damage by J. A. Jance, 320 pages, 3/11/23, highly recommended
45. Moths by Jane Hennigan, 312 pages, 3/12/23, highly recommended
46. I Love It When You Lie by Kristen Bird, 352 pages, 3/13/23, highly recommended
47. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, 416 pages, 3/15/23, very highly recommended, literary ****
48. No Good Lie by Claire Stibbe,348 pages, 3/16/23, recommended
49. Something Bad Wrong by Eryk Pruitt, 448 pages, 3/18/23, highly recommended
50. The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud, 304 pages, 3/19/23, highly recommended
51. Bones Under the Ice by Mary Ann Miller, 336 pages, 3/21/23, highly recommended
52. Commitment by Mona Simpson, 416 pages, 3/22/23, very highly recommended, literary ****
53. Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline, 432 pages, 3/23/23, highly recommended
54. Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls, 368 pages, 3/25/23, very highly recommended, literary **
55. Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni, 396 pages, 3/26/23, very highly recommended legal thriller **
56. The New One by Evie Green, 400 pages, 3/28/23, very highly recommended, thriller, sci-fi ****
57. The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth, 352 pages, 3/29/23, highly recommended
58. Homecoming by Kate Morton, 560 pages, 3/30/23, highly recommended
59. Blind Spots by Thomas Mullen, 320 pages, 3/31/23, highly recommended

60. Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling, 304 pages, 4/1/23, recommended
61. You Know Her by Meagan Jennett, 368 pages, 4/2/23, highly recommended
62. Paradise Cove by Davin Goodwin, 304 pages, 4/3/23, highly recommended
63. The Trackers by Charles Frazier, 336 pages, 4/5/23, highly recommended
64. Everything She Feared by Rick Mofina, 448 pages, 4/8/23, highly recommended
65. Standing in the Shadows by Peter Robinson, 368 pages, 4/10/23, highly recommended
66. The Garden of Evil by Genoveva Ortiz, 128 pages, 4/12/23, highly recommended nonfiction
67. The Atonement Murders by Jenifer Ruff, 289 pages, 4/12/23, very highly recommended procedural **
68. Where They Lie by Joe Hart, 240 pages, 4/13/23, highly recommended
69. The Best Minds by Jonathan Rosen, 576 pages, 4/15/23, very highly recommended, nonfiction ***
70. The Double Life of Benson Yu by Kevin Chong, 224 pages, 4/17/23, highly recommended
71. The Lie by Kathryn Croft, 332 pages, 4/19/23, highly recommended
72. In the Orchard by Eliza Minot, 256 pages, 4/22/23, recommended
73. With My Little Eye by Joshilyn Jackson, 336 pages, 4/22/23, very highly recommended, suspense ***
74. Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane, 320 pages, 4/23/23, very highly recommended, thriller ****
75. The Last Word by Taylor Adams, 352 pages, 4/24/23, highly recommended
76. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths, 368 pages, 4/25/23, highly recommended
77. Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan, 458 pages, 4/27/23, very highly recommended, procedural *
78. We Love to Entertain by Sarah Strohmeyer, 368 pages, 4/28/23, recommended
79. You Are Here by Karin Lin-Greenberg, 304 pages, 4/30/23, highly recommended

80. The Daydreams by Laura Hankin, 368 pages, 5/3/23, highly recommended
81. Bad, Bad Seymour Brown by Susan Isaacs, 400 pages, 5/3/23, highly recommended
82. The Ferryman by Justin Cronin, 560 pages, 5/5/23, very highly recommended ****
83. The Well-Lived Life by Gladys McGarey M.D., 256 pages, 5/6/23, recommended, nonfiction
84. Cultured by D. P. Lyle, 320 pages, 5/6/23, recommended
85. No One Needs to Know by Lindsay Cameron, 320 pages, 5/7/23, highly recommended
86. The Bird Hotel by Joyce Maynard, 432 pages, 5/9/23, very highly recommended, literary *****
87. Little Lost Dolls by M.M. Chouinard, 326 pages, 5/10/23, very highly recommended, procedural *
88. The Guest by Emma Cline, 304 pages, 5/11/23, very highly recommended, literary **
89. Liquid Shades of Blue by James Polkinghorn, 208 pages, 5/12/23, highly recommended
90. The Time Has Come by Will Leitch, 304 pages, 5/13/23, highly recommended
91. True Crime Trivia by Michelle Tooker, 310 pages, 5/14/23, very highly recommended, nonfiction **
92. The Last Songbird by Daniel Weizmann, 336 pages, 5/15/23, highly recommended
93. The Lock-Up by John Banville, 320 pages, 5/16/23, highly recommended
94. The Senator's Wife by Liv Constantine, 320 pages, 5/17/23, highly recommended
95. One Little Spark by Ellie Banks, 416 pages, 5/18/23, recommended
96. Sing Her Down by Ivy Pochoda, 288 pages, 5/19/23, recommended
97. The Body in the Web by Katherine Hall Page, 272 pages, 5/20/23, recommended
98. The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon, 368 pages, 5/21/23, very highly recommended, thriller *
99. The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer, 304 pages, 5/23/23, very highly recommended, mystery ***
100. The Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman, 352 pages, 5/28/23, highly recommended
101. The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring, 250 pages, 5/29/23, highly recommended
102. The Feast by Margaret Kennedy, 336 pages, 5/29/23, very highly recommended, re-release *
103. The Survivor by Iris Johansen, 352 pages, 5/30/23, recommended
104. Last Call at Coogan's by Jon Michaud, 320 pages, 5/31/23, very highly recommended, nonfiction *

105. Backstory by William L. Myers, Jr., 320 pages, 6/1/23, recommended
106. She Started It by Sian Gilbert, 352 pages, 6/2/23, highly recommended
107. The Island of Lost Girls by Alex Marwood, 480 pages, 6/3/23, recommended
108. Speak of the Devil by Rose Wilding, 304 pages, 6/3/23, recommended
109. Girls and Their Monsters by Audrey Clare Farley, 304 pages, 6/5/23 highly recommended, nonfiction
110. The Long Way Back by Nicole Baart, 384 pages, 6/7/23, very highly recommended, domestic thriller **
111. Be Mine by Richard Ford, 352 pages, 6/8/23, highly recommended
112. Don't Forget the Girl by Rebecca McKanna, 368 pages, 6/8/23, so-so
113. Malibu Burning by Lee Goldberg, 304 pages, 6/10/23, very highly recommended * thriller
114. Welcome to Beach Town by Susan Wiggs, 336 pages, 6/11/23, highly recommended
115. What the Neighbors Saw by Melissa Adelman, 304 pages, 6/13/23, highly recommended
116. The Hotel by Louise Mumford, 336 pages, 6/14/23, highly recommended
117. The Quiet Tenant by Clémence Michallon, 320 pages, 6/16/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
118. The Imposters by Tom Rachman, 352 pages, 6/17/23, recommended
119. The Last Sinner by Lisa Jackson, 400 pages, 6/20/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
120. The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue, 305 pages, 6/22/23, highly recommended
121. The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis, 416 pages, 6/25/23, very highly recommended *** sci fi
122. Have You Seen Her by Catherine McKenzie, 336 pages, 6/26/23, highly recommended
123. Wonder Drug by Jennifer Vanderbes, 432 pages, 6/28/23, very highly recommended **** nonfiction
124. Dead Man's Wake by Paul Doiron, 320 pages, 6/29/23, highly recommended

125. The Theory of Everything Else by Dan Schreiber, 368 pages, 7/1/23, very highly recommended ** nonfiction?
126. Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down, 448 pages, 7/1/23, highly recommended
127. The Woods are Waiting by Katherine Greene, 288 pages, 7/2/23, highly recommended
128. What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall, 428 pages, 7/4/23, highly recommended
129. With a Kiss We Die by L. R. Dorn, 336 pages, 7/7/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
130. Go Find Daddy by Steve Goble, 320 pages, 7/7/23, recommended
131. Thicker Than Water by Megan Collins, 320 pages, 7/8/23, highly recommended
132. I Know What You Did by Cayce Osborne, 272 pages, 7/10/23, highly recommended
133. The Block Party by Jamie Day, 384 pages, 7/12/23, highly recommended
134. The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos, 320 pages, 7/15/23, very highly recommended *** mystery
135. The Rain by Joseph A. Turkot, 354 pages, 7/17/23, highly recommended
136. Her Father's Daughter by T. M. Dunn, 272 pages, 7/18/23, recommended
137. Prom Mom by Laura Lippman, 320 pages, 7/20/23, highly recommended
138. Night Candy by Max Tomlinson, 336 pages, 7/22/23, highly recommended
139. What Harms You by Lisa Black, 336 pages, 7/26/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
140. Zero Days by Ruth Ware, 368 pages, 7/28/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
141. The Last Ranger by Peter Heller, 304 pages, 7/29/23, very highly recommended *** mystery
142. Deadly Depths by John F. Dobbyn, 320 pages, 7/30/23, very highly recommended * thriller
143. Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen, 352 pages, 7/31/23, very highly recommended * suspense

144. Just Another Missing Person by Gillian McAllister, 384 pages, 8/1/23, highly recommended
145. The Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs, 336 pages, 8/1/23, highly recommended
146. None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell, 384 pages, 8/3/23, very highly recommended *** thriller
147. Dark Corners by Megan Goldin, 352 pages, 8/4/23, highly recommended
148. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, 320 pages, 8/6/23, very highly recommended **** literary
149. Epic True Tales And Crazy Stories by Owen Janssen, 276 pages, 8/7/23, very highly recommended * nonfiction
150. Under the Influence by Noelle Crooks, 352 pages, 8/8/23, recommended
151. The Never-Ending End of the World by Ann Christy, 488 pages, 8/10/23, very highly recommended ***** sci-fi
152. A Killer in the Family by Gytha Lodge, 416 pages, 8/11/23, highly recommended
153. In a Quiet Town by Amber Garza, 336 pages, 8/8/23, recommended
154. Saving Myles by Carl Vonderau, 336 pages, 8/12/23, highly recommended
155. Tides of Fire by James Rollins, 480 pages, 8/15/23, very highly recommended ***** thriller/sci-fi
156. The Last One by Will Dean, 448 pages, 8/16/23, very highly recommended **** thriller
157. The Bridge by Matt Brolly, 300 pages, 8/17/23, very highly recommended ** procedural
158. My Other Husband by Dorothy Koomson, 432 pages, 8/18/23, highly recommended
159. North of Nowhere by Allison Brennan, 368 pages, 8/19/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
160. The Keeper of Hidden Books by Madeline Martin, 416 pages, 8/20/23, highly recommended
161. Come with Me by Erin Flanagan, 300 pages, 8/21/23, highly recommended
162. After That Night by Karin Slaughter, 432 pages, 8/24/23, very highly recommended **** thriller
163. All Good Things by Amanda Prowse, 320 pages, 8/25/23, recommended
164. Five Years After by William R. Forstchen, 352 pages, 8/26/23, very highly recommended ** thriller
165. With Regrets by Lee Kelly, 320 pages, 8/28/23, very highly recommended * thriller/sci-fi
166. It Could Never Happen Here by Eithne Shortall, 400 pages, 8/30/23, highly recommended

167. Killer Waves by Brendan DuBois, 292 pages, 9/1/23, highly recommended
168. The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves, 400 pages, 9/2/23, highly recommended
169. This is How We End Things by R.J. Jacobs, 336 pages, 9/3/23, highly recommended
170. Dreambound by Dan Frey, 400 pages, 9/4/23, highly recommended
171. Dark Ride by Lou Berney, 256 pages, 9/5/23, very highly recommended **** thriller
172. Blessing of the Lost Girls by J. A. Jance, 352 pages, 9/7/23, highly recommended
173. The Sky Vault by Benjamin Percy, 320 pages, 9/9/23, very highly recommended **** sci-fi
174. Normal Rules Don't Apply by Kate Atkinson, 224 pages, 9/9/23, highly recommended
175. I'd Rather Not by Robert Skinner, 176 pages, 9/10/23, highly recommended
176. North Woods by Daniel Mason, 384 pages, 9/12/23, highly recommended
177. Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter, 480 pages, 9/13/23, highly recommended
178. The Wren, the Wren by Anne Enright, 288 pages, 9/15/23, very highly recommended ** literary
179. Duplicity: My Mothers' Secrets by Donna Freed, 252 pages, 9/16/23, recommended
180. My Darling Girl by Jennifer McMahon, 320 pages, 9/18/23, very highly recommended ** horror
181. One Last Kill by Robert Dugoni, 351 pages, 9/20/23, very highly recommended ** procedural
182. The Quiet Room by Terry Miles, 432 pages, 9/23/23, very highly recommended ** sci-fi
183. The Death of Us by Lori Rader-Day , 384 pages, 9/26/23, very highly recommended * mystery
184. The Oceans and the Stars by Mark Helprin, 512 pages, 9/28/23, very highly recommended, **
185. The Lost Girls of Penzance by Sally Rigby, 254 pages, 9/29/23, highly recommended

186. Buried Dreams by Brendan DuBois, 326 pages, 10/1/23, very highly recommended ** mystery
187. The Day She Disappeared by Lisa Hall, 353 pages, 10/3/23, highly recommended
188. Sugar Birds by Cheryl Grey Bostrom, 352 pages, 10/5/23, very highly recommended ** literary
189. What We Kept to Ourselves by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, 416 pages, 10/5/23, recommended
190. Night Owl by Andrew Mayne, 315 pages, 10/7/23, very highly recommended *** thriller
191. The Dayhiker's Guide to the National Parks by Michael Joseph Oswald, 354 pages, 10/7/23, very highly recommended, *** nonfiction
192. American Girl by Wendy Walker, 352 pages, 10/8/23, very highly recommended *** thriller
193. The Exchange: After The Firm by John Grisham, 352 pages, 10/10/23, highly recommended
194. The Longest Minute by Matthew J. Davenport, 448 pages, 10/12/23, very highly recommended **** nonfiction
195. Remote by Brian Shea, Stacy Lynn Miller, 260 pages, 10/13/23, recommended
196. Fatal Lies by Anita Waller, 282 pages, 10/14/23. highly recommended
197. West Heart Kill by Dann McDorman, 288 pages, 10/16/23, highly recommended
198. Islands in Deep Time by Markes E. Johnson, 312 pages, 10/18/23, highly recommended, nonfiction
199. Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger, 224 pages, 10/18/23, very highly recommended * thriller
200. Far Creek Road by Lesley Krueger, 304 pages, 10/21/23, very highly recommended **** literary
201. The House of Love and Death by Andrew Klavan, 312 pages, 10/22/23, very highly recommended **** mystery
202. The Paleontologist by Luke Dumas, 368 pages, 10/23/23, recommended
203. When I'm Dead by Hannah Morrissey, 320 pages, 10/25/23, highly recommended
204. Being Henry by Henry Winkler, 256 pages, 10/28/23, very highly recommended *** memoir
205. The Manor House by Gilly Macmillan, 336 pages, 10/29/23, very highly recommended * thriller
206. Data Baby by Susannah Breslin, 224 pages, 10/30/23, recommended

207. Death at Paradise Park by Ross Greenwood, 469 pages, 11/2/23, very highly recommended ** procedural
208. The Railroad by Matt Brolly, 360 pages, 11/4/23, very highly recommended, ** thriller
209. The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen, 364 pages, 11/6/23. very highly recommended, ** thriller
210. Odyssey's End by Matt Coyle, 320 pages, 11/8/23, very highly recommended, ** thriller
211. Kinfolk by Sean Dietrich, 400 pages, 11/11/23, very highly recommended, **** literary
212. The Professor by Lauren Nossett, 336 pages, 11/11/23, highly recommended
213. Perfect Shot by Steve Urszenyi, 368 pages, 11/15/23, very highly recommended * thriller
214. The Night She Lied by Lucy Dawson, 371 pages, 11/15/23, highly recommended
215. The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell, 448 pages, 11/17/23, recommended
216. Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen, 413 pages, 11/19/23, highly recommended
217. My Husband's Lies by Liz Lawler, 342 pages, 11/21/23, recommended
218. Starkweather by Harry N. MacLean, 432 pages, 11/22/23, very highly recommended, ** nonfiction
219. Primary Storm by Brendan DuBois, 256 pages, 11/23/23, very highly recommended ** mystery
220. Unnatural Death by Patricia Cornwell, 432 pages, 11/25/23, highly recommended
221. The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor, 304 pages, 11/26/23, recommended
222. Welcome Home, Stranger by Kate Christensen, 224 pages, 11/28/23, recommended
223. Meet the Benedettos by Katie Cotugno, 256 pages, 11/29/23, highly recommended 

224. Perfect Little Lives by Amber and Danielle Brown, 368 pages, 12/2/23, so-so
225. Above the Fire by Michael O'Donnell, 256 pages, 12/2/23, highly recommended
226. Break the Glass by Olivia Swindler, 299 pages, 12/3/23, highly recommended
227. The Lost Tomb by Douglas Preston, 320 pages, 12/7/23, very highly recommended **** nonfiction
228. Deadly Cove by Brendan DuBois, 300 pages, 12/7/23, very highly recommended ** mystery
229. The Vacation by John Marrs, 464 pages, 12/9/23, highly recommended
230. The Vacation House by Jane Shemilt, 288 pages, 12/10/23, very highly recommended ** suspense
231. The Weekend Retreat by Tara Laskowski, 352 pages, 12/11/23, highly recommended
232. Two Dead Wives by Adele Parks, 400 pages, 12/13/23, highly recommended
233. Anna O. by Matthew Blake, 432 pages, 12/16/23, very highly recommended *** literary mystery
234. The Roadmap of Loss by Liam Murphy, 315 pages, 12/20/23, highly recommended
235. True North by Andrew J. Graff, 304 pages, 12/20/23, very highly recommended ** literary
236. Mercury by Amy Jo Burns, 336 pages, 12/23/23, very highly recommended ** literary
237. The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins, 304 pages, 12/25/23, very highly recommended * mystery
238. Northwoods by Amy Pease, 288 pages, 12/27/23, very highly recommended ** mystery
239. The Guests by Margot Hunt, 303 pages, 12/27/23, highly recommended
240. The Glass Box by J. Michael Straczynski, 350 pages, 12/30/23, very highly recommended *** sci-fi

Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Glass Box

The Glass Box by J. Michael Straczynski
1/9/24; 350 pages
Blackstone Publishing

The Glass Box by J. Michael Straczynski is a very highly recommended science fiction dystopian that feels closer to the future than you'd like to believe is possible in America.

Riley Diaz is arrested for protesting a new law that encroaches on our rights and is subsequently incarcerated under that same new defense act which limits the freedom of assembly. She is given the choice of prison or admittance in one of the new Department of Homeland Security American Renewal Centers (ARCs) for mandatory reeducation. The program is located in a psychiatric facility and Riley soon learns that it is not going to be as easy as she thought to escape from the facility. It also becomes clear that the ARC program is more insidious than people were led to believe and includes forced therapy, involuntary medication, solitary confinement, restricted rations, and more punishments. Riley takes a stand, endures the punishments, and refuses to submit to the manipulation.

The writing is outstanding in this fast-paced, compelling science fiction novel which is riveting from beginning to end. It is ultimately about the choices you make and the courage and determination required to stand firm on your principles while refusing to back down even when under duress. It also skirts close to reality and could portend a near future dystopian world.

Riley is wonderfully realized and realistic character. Her ability to think for herself and stand up for herself in an unjust system, even to her own detriment, is an admirable quality in a protagonist. It also makes her character likeable and trustworthy. She doesn't buckle under peer pressure or administrative sanctions. The relationship she forges with the patient known only as Frankenstein is a touching and important element in the novel.

The Glass Box is an excellent choice for readers who enjoy dystopian science fiction with a timely narrative and memorable characters.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The Guests

The Guests by Margot Hunt
1/9/24; 303 pages
Thomas & Mercer  

The Guests by Margot Hunt is a highly recommended locked-room thriller set during a Category 5 hurricane. Admittedly, you have to set disbelief and some logical reasoning aside, but once you decide to go for it, you will be entertained either by the action or betting who will survive.

Hurricane Celeste is due to arrive very soon and attorney Lee Davies and his heiress wife, Marlowe, along with their teens, Tim and June, are planning to ride out the Category 5 storm in their palatial home. Joining the family is Tim's friend Zack and Marlowe's assistant, Isabel. Staying secretly in June's room is her best friend, Felix. Just as handyman Mick Byrne finishes putting up their hurricane shutters with help from Tim and Zach, a stranger docks their boat at the house.

As they head down to the dock to see who they are, an accident incapacitates Mick and the strangers help carry him into the house. The strangers are brothers, Jason and Bo Connor, and Bo’s girlfriend, Darcy. Once they are in the house, Bo seems charming at first, but as the storm begins to intensify, tensions begin to rise with these uninvited guests. It is soon clear that they are not safe.

Each chapter is told through a specific character's point-of-view, with Marlowe being the prime voice. There are a few flashback chapters to provide background details. Yes, there are several times eye-rolling may happen and you have to suspend all disbelief, but if you are able to just roll with the action as written, it is very entertaining. There are some twists, surprises, and soap-opera material in the plot along with the more predictable parts.

The Guests is a fast-paced thriller that will hold your attention to the end if you commit to getting through the hurricane with these people. Me thinks it wasn't really written with character development in mind and wants all focus on the action, secrets, twists, and locked-room aspect of the plot, which I happily obliged to agree to do.

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


Northwoods by Amy Pease
1/9/24; 288 pages
Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Northwoods by Amy Pease is a very highly recommended mystery/procedural. This excellent debut novel set in a small Wisconsin town features a compelling mystery, substance abuse, a character seeking redemption, and portrays the strength of the bond between parents and children.

Eli North is struggling. His marriage is over, he drinks too much, and he suffers from PTSD and panic attacks. After he returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, his job as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigator was terminated. He did find a job as a detective with the small local sheriff's office in the town of Shaky Lake because his mother, Marge, is the sheriff in Sherman County, Wisconsin. When Eli is called to investigate a noise complaint at a lakeside cabin, he discovers in a boat tied to the dock the body of a teenage boy, Ben Sharpe. It is soon discovered that a teenage girl, Caitlin, is also missing and FBI agent Alyssa Mason arrives to help. The investigation appears to be tied to the opioid crisis but may have roots that extend much further out.

The writing is outstanding in this impressive debut novel. Pease does an exceptional job following the investigation and providing clues along the way while developing both the plot and the characters. With the ties to illegal drugs and the additional suspicions the investigation uncovers, the complexity of the case increases along with the tension and interest in finding out the truth. As the investigation into Ben's murder and the search for Caitlin is underway, it becomes clear that the bond between parents and their children is a central theme. The setting also comes to life and plays a role in the plot.

While the mystery and investigation are complex and compelling, where Northwoods really excels is in the depth and empathy found in the depiction of her characters, especially Eli. All of the characters are fully realized as unique individuals with strengths and weaknesses. The dialogue is well-done and the interpersonal interaction between characters is realistic. These characters feel like real individuals and they will garner your sympathy and compassion as they do the best they can.

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

Monday, December 25, 2023

The Heiress

The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins
1/9/24; 304 pages
St. Martin's Press

The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins is a very highly recommended mystery with Gothic overtones and oh-so-many secrets.

Jules and Camden McTavish met and married in California and are now happily living a simple life in Colorado where he is an English Teacher and she is working in a living history museum. When his uncle dies an email from his cousin brings Camden and Jules back to his mother's estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Ashby House. Camden was the sole heir to his mother's fortune, so he owns the estate and has control of all the money, something his great aunt and cousins resent. Camden's mother, Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore had quite a background. She was kidnapped as a child and then a widow four times. It has been ten years since Camden left and now he and Jules are back in the mire of secrets, resentment, greed, and, perhaps, danger.

The writing is skillful and perfectly paced to hold your attention throughout this mystery/psychological thriller. The narrative unfolds through chapters from the three distinct points-of-view of Camden, Jules, and Ruby. Camden knows the scheming and animosity that awaits his return to Ashby House. Jules is secretly anxious for them to live an easier life in a beautiful setting. Ruby's story is told through letters she is writing to someone in which she is honestly sharing her life's story, as well as clips from news stories.  Hawkins does an excellent job using the multiple viewpoints to propel the plot forward as well as tell the backstory.

The characters are well drawn and interesting. Camden and Jules are sympathetic, but they have their secrets along with everyone else. Everyone has their own secrets, thoughts, and schemes that could potentially change everything. The whole McTavish gang at Ashby House are despicable, entitled, and greedy. You will wonder why Camden doesn't just evict them. And there are so many little twists, questions, and secrets from the past that have accumulated, many of which are shared in the honest and sometimes humorous letters Ruby writes. The letters work with the current situation to help create the tension that rises with each page. The ending is surprising, inventive, and perfect. 4.5 rounded up

Disclosure: My complimentary review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, December 23, 2023


Mercury by Amy Jo Burns
1/2/24; 336 pages
Celadon Books

Mercury by Amy Jo Burns is a very highly recommended character driven drama that considers the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. 

The first thing seventeen-year-old Marley West sees when she and her mother move to Mercury, Pennsylvania in 1990 are the Joseph's on a rooftop so it seems she was meant to become a part of their world. The Joseph and Sons roofing company is headed by father Mick, with the oldest two sons, Baylor and Waylon. Baby Shay is much younger than the older two. Their mother, Elise, serves a home cooked meal to all of them nightly.

Marley first meets oldest brother, Bay, and is invited to dinner. Dinner at the Joseph house becomes a daily occurrence, one Marley looks forward too. Marley ends up in a relationship with Way, becomes pregnant, and the two marry, moving into a tiny apartment in the Josephs large house. Marley soon realizes that the family's finances are a mess and she begins to help Way find more roofing jobs for the family. She also craves Elise's love, but the matriarch of the family, who has her reasons, remains cold and distant - until she needs Marley's help.

This is a character driven drama and Burns does an exceptional job capturing the strengths, flaws, and secrets in her fully realized characters. These are all damaged people in some way, certain characters more than others. There is insight into each member of the family, helping to show the origin of their pain and the impetus for their differing temperaments. The care taken with each character is what helps propel Mercury to a memorable novel.

The quality of the writing is excellent in this multi-generational family drama. The action covers a decade in their lives. Mercury opens in 1999 when a gruesome discovery is made, and then jumps back in time to 1990 when Marley first met the Josephs and became part of their lives. The narrative then marches through time and the interpersonal troubles in the family that preceded the opening discovery. There is plenty of drama and secrets in the plot to hold your attention throughout, although after the opening discovery the pace does slow down for a stretch before picking up again.  4.5 rounded up

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

True North

True North by Andrew J. Graff
1/16/24; 304 pages

True North by Andrew J. Graff is a very highly recommended intelligent domestic drama following challenges in a marriage and a community.

It is 1993 and Sam and Swami Brecht, along with their three children, arrive in Thunderwater, Wisconsin, to begin running Woodchuck Rafting Company. They met as whitewater rafting guides when in college, and Sam hopes this will be a fresh start for their troubled marriage. Their arrival starts with an accident that disables their twenty-six-foot Winnebago camper, requiring it to be towed to the campground where they are staying, which immediately threatens them financially. He knows funding is going to be cut and his teaching job is likely over. He has plans to stay in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Swami thinks this will just be for the summer. 

When the two see the rundown Woodchuck Rafting, sold to them by Sam’s uncle Chip, it becomes clear that making this a profitable business and bringing new life to their marriage is going to be an uphill struggle. Additional complications include the experienced but eccentric guides, a new, flashy rival rafting company, a mining company wanting to buy up the land, and one of the most rainy summers on record.

The quality of the writing is exceptional in True North. It is the story of a troubled marriage during a stressful summer, but it is much more than that and things are not as cut and dried as they seem. Emotions will run high as you read, as high as the rising water. This is a novel about family, whitewater rafting, and a love of nature versus the money a mining company could provide. This summer challenges all of the characters in ways that will require a reckoning for them even as the community is facing evaluating their own choices.

The characters are all fully-realized, unique individuals. Sam and Swami have depth and complicated thoughts and emotions that are buried under the surface. Every character in this novel is memorable.

True North is a literary character-driven domestic drama that will grab your attention and hold it throughout. The multiple struggles going on that multiple characters are facing and the imploding of Sam and Swami's marriage are equally compelling in this heartfelt novel. Adding to the drama are the adventures experienced in the narrative.

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

The Roadmap of Loss

The Roadmap of Loss by Liam Murphy
1/3/24; 315 pages
Echo Publishing

The Roadmap of Loss by Liam Murphy is highly recommended literary fiction which explores loss, past hurts, and a search for answers.

It is 1997 in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Ward is struggling, drinking too much and torturing himself trying to deal with the death of his mother. His father, Dylan, abandoned them when Mark was five. His mother told him Dylan went to the USA and died in a car accident there. Mark remembers his parents arguing and drinking, so his memories of his father are not happy ones. He feels guilty about his father leaving and now his mother dying.

When cleaning out his mother's house Mark is shocked to find a box full of letters written by Dylan to his mother. Many of the letters were written after his supposed death as he traveled around America. In the letters Dylan honestly discusses his life, love, fears, and dreams. They portray a man quite different from the one Mark thought he knew.  Dylan loved his wife and son. Mark decides to leave and go the the USA as his father did and begins a journey of his own while slowly reading the letters.

The Roadmap of Loss is a well-written classic road trip novel. Seemingly Mark aimlessly travels around the USA, but he is also in many ways retracing the journey his father took. As he journeys through a foreign country in a wreck-of-a-car, he is drinking too much and meeting a wide variety of people along the way. He may be searching for answers, but he is really facing his own loneliness, disbelief, and failings while on what appears to be the road to his own self destruction - unless he can find the way to forgiveness and peace he is desperately seeking.

Mark is definitely portrayed as a fully realized, believable character. Even while he is making poor choices and bad decisions, readers will be rooting for him to find peace and some sense of how he can move on and make a life for himself. This is a good choice for those who like road-trip novels involving flawed characters seeking closure.

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

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Anna O.

Anna O. by Matthew Blake
1/2/24; 432 pages

Anna O. by Matthew Blake is a very highly recommended, unique, well-written literary psychological thriller. If you love Hitchcock movies and thoughtful, intelligent even-paced mysteries, this will be a perfect choice for your next book.

Dr. Benedict (Ben) Prince is a forensic psychologist who is also an expert in sleep-related crimes. He has written articles and a book that have brought him to the attention of the public, especially regarding the case of Anna O.  Anna Ogilvy stabbed her two best friends to death in her sleep when she was twenty-five. Since that night four years ago she has been in a deep sleep. This sleep, diagnosed as resignation syndrome, is a condition where a person enters an involuntary extended deep sleep as a way to avoid trauma. Ben recently wrote an article that suggested ways to address this condition, perhaps even cure it.

Ben works at the Abbey Sleep Clinic. When his boss Dr. Virginia Bloom summons him to a secret meeting with a man from the Ministry of Justice, he learns that Anna O. is going to be moved into the clinic. They want him to wake her up so she can be charged with murder. However, there are more secrets involved in this case that make success anything but a simple, guaranteed outcome.

Anna O. is a excellent, electrifying, exceptional, layered, and very unique novel. It is a very, very good complex psychological thriller. Anna O. is also much more literary, intricate, and thoughtful than the majority of psychological thrillers out there. Additionally, it does not follow the formula almost every other psychological thriller follows. The pre-publication notes on Anna O. really raised expectations to a pinnacle of excellence, which did a bit of a disservice to this intelligent, suspenseful, well-written novel that should be targeting literary readers who will appreciate and enjoy the basic mystery aspects while relishing all the other references made and layers it offers.

The narrative is told through several point-of-view, mainly Ben's, and Anna's journal entries. There are plenty of references to Hitchcock movies that help to add a thoughtful depth and an atmospheric tension. Readers can also expect references to many many literary works. Characters are portrayed as full realized, realistic complicated individuals. Readers are privy to private thoughts There are clues interspersed in the plot along with plenty of misdirection. Anna O. is definitely an engrossing literary psychological thriller written to be read carefully rather than racing through the pages. 

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Two Dead Wives

Two Dead Wives by Adele Parks
12/26/23; 400 pages
MIRA Books

Two Dead Wives by Adele Parks is a highly recommended mystery.

Set during the covid lockdowns in London, DCI Clements and partner Tanner is investigating the case of missing bigamist Kylie Gillingham. She went by Leigh in her marriage to Mark Fletcher and was the mother to the couple’s two sons, Oli and Seb. In her marriage to wealthy Dutch businessman Daan Janssen, she went by the name Kai. Both husbands are suspects, although more attention is on Daan as a case could be made for his guilt. A body hasn't been found so the investigation is ongoing.

During the same time Stacie Jones is recovering from a brain tumor at her father’s house by the sea. She has severe memory loss and few memories from her life. She does have brief flashes of memories of two different men, but has no current context to understand what she is recalling. Her father is a bit of a Luddite, so she has no access to the internet and no cell phone. She does find her environment peaceful and healing even while she wants to remember more.

After what feels like a rather slow start, things begin to pick up later in the narrative. The flow of the novel would have benefited with some editing and tightening up. The lockdown is actually well used in the plot as characters look forward to Freedom Saturday so it didn't immediately elicit my ire while reading, which is a plus. It is pretty elemental to figure out Stacie's connection to the rest of the mystery, so the really compelling part of the story doesn't begin until later in the novel.

The main characters are all portrayed as multifaceted individuals and easily to distinguish from each other. They are all in a precarious situation and are dealing with varying levels of uncertainty, mourning the loss of something, and trying to figure things out and move on.

This is a sequel to the previous novel titled Woman Last Seen, alternately titled Both of You. Two Dead Wives was originally published 8/17/23 first with the title You're the One and then Just Between Us. It appears part of the mystery may be readers having to figure out the title and if they have already read the novel. Personally, I'm not a fan of changing the original title of a novel, especially multiple times for different markets.

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

Monday, December 11, 2023

The Weekend Retreat

The Weekend Retreat by Tara Laskowski
12/26/23; 352 pages
Graydon House

The Weekend Retreat by Tara Laskowski is a highly recommended mystery where a family gathering quickly deteriorates.

The Van Ness family traditionally gathers together at their Finger Lakes winery estate to celebrate the birthdays of Richard and Harper. It is their 35th birthday this year so they are there along with their spouses, Elle and Lucas, as well as younger brother Zach and his girlfriend Lauren. Richard is an attorney, Harper runs a failing online cosmetics company while Lucas had a successful tech company. Elle plans the weekend as she feels their mother, who recently passed away, would have. The siblings all take her for granted. Zach has been just their playboy younger brother and he's brought girlfriends to the estate before.

Readers know from the opening news story that one person, possibly two have died. This is a locked-room mystery where all the players are trapped on the estate and a big storm is coming. None of the characters are particularly likeable and several are actively self-centered and disagreeable. They are all carrying resentments and jealousies from the past. None of these people like each other and they all have secrets.

The narrative is told through the point-of-view of different of family members and one unnamed party guest. All the infighting, secrets, and attitudes between family members keeps the action interesting as does the creepy setting. The setting includes secret rooms and basement tunnels in the mansion, gifts from an unknown person, an approaching storm, and a vineyard at night which all work together to increase the apprehension. Those who carefully read the novel will know who the unnamed guest is so the real mystery is what ultimately happens. 3.5 rounded up

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Graydon House via Edelweiss.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Vacation House

The Vacation House by Jane Shemilt
12/26/23; 288 pages
William Morrow

The Vacation House by Jane Shemilt is a very highly recommended novel of psychological suspense set in two time periods and in two countries.

In 2003 a wealthy English family arrives at the vacation house they own in Paxos, Greece. Sophie is the thirteen-year-old daughter of the family who are caretakers and servants for the owners. The owners show up with their nineteen-year-old daughter, Julia, and then their various invited guests arrive. Julia has been very kind to Sophie in the past but ignores her this time. When Sophie is at the beach early one morning with her four-year-old brother Nico, two of the teenage boys who are guests show up and this first encounter eventually leads to a horrific assault.

In London in 2023, Julia is playing the role of the perfect wife. Even though she is deeply unhappy and full of anxiety, her marriage to James Grenville, headmaster of an exclusive English boarding school, means she and her daughter, Lottie, have financial security. James is controlling and expects Julia to play her role to perfection. When Julia meets Laurel, a therapist, she begins talking to her and experiences positive benefits. It also leads her to find out the truth of what happened in 2003.

Sophie and Julia are believable, fully realized characters who will garner your complete empathy. There are heartbreaking scenes that are very difficult to read.

The carefully-crafted descriptive writing brings every scene to life. The narrative alternates between these two timelines and points-of-view, gradually building up tension and suspense. Most readers are going to predict where the plot is going in both timelines, but this foresight only increases the tension. The atmosphere in both timelines is foreboding as you know neither situation is going to turn out well. The pace of second half of the novel really takes off and your apprehension will sky-rocket with each new revelation.

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

Saturday, December 9, 2023

The Vacation

The Vacation by John Marrs
12/19/23; 464 pages
Hanover Square Press

The Vacation by John Marrs is a highly recommended psychological thriller. This is the third re-release of The Vacation. It was originally titled Welcome to Wherever You Are.

At a beach-front hostel in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, eight strangers all have secrets and are running away from something. Tommy was traveling with a friend and ended up at the hostel. He works at the reception desk. Savannah is a pole dancer who is always looking over her shoulder. Nicole and Eric are friends and work colleagues from the UK who have traveled all of Route 66  and are looking to find something. Matty and Declan are two best friends from Ireland who appear to be just looking for a good time. Ruth is a quiet Australian woman who has come to Los Angeles to meet her favorite movie star. Jake is an adventurer who has been traveling the world. Seemingly always around, Peyk, is a handyman at the hostel who may be the only one who sees people and events as they really are.

The writing is excellent and Marrs keeps the pace moving quickly with short chapters. The backgrounds and secrets in the stories of the characters are carefully and slowly revealed in the narrative, and they are not predictable. The cast of characters may be large, but they are clearly portrayed as individuals with unique personalities, interests, and secrets, so it is easy to keep track of who is who. The characters are interesting and all very different. Some portrayals are over-the-top caricatures, especially Savannah's father, as are some of the big twists, but everything works together for an entertaining novel.

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

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Deadly Cove

Deadly Cove by Brendan DuBois
12/12/23; 300 pages
Severn River Publishing
Lewis Cole #7

Deadly Cove by Brendan DuBois is the very highly recommended seventh mystery in the Lewis Cole series. Originally published on 7/5/2011, Deadly Cove is part of a re-release of the outstanding series by Severn River Publishing. I'm quite enjoying this exceptional series and look forward to the next installment.

Magazine columnist and ex-Department of Defense research analyst Lewis Cole has a new editor at Shoreline, who requires him to submit articles to justify his salary. Cole is covering an anti-nuclear protest when a shot kills local peace activist Bronson Toles. His friend, Paula Quinn, was next to Toles and the experience is devastating to her. Toles was a countercultural hero who runs the Stone Chapel, a pioneering music venue. Cole begins to investigate his background and that of Curt Chesak, coordinator for the Nuclear Freedom Front. This puts Cole and his friend, Detective Sargent Diane Woods, in harms way.

This is an absolutely excellent addition to the series. Although Deadly Cove can be read as a stand-alone, I would recommend starting earlier in the series so you can meet the characters and have some additional background information on them. Cole is back, protecting those closest to him. Additionally, DuBois provides every possible position concerning nuclear plants in the narrative and is honest enough to acknowledge that solving the mystery doesn't involve the power plant.

The writing continues to be accomplished while Cole is placed in all manner of precarious situations. His mind is sharp and his instinct are great. He needs theses skills to survive the violence and soul-searching involved in this investigation. He continues to be a sympathetic character and one that readers will root for.

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

The Lost Tomb

The Lost Tomb: And Other Real-Life Stories of Bones, Burials, and Murder by Douglas Preston
12/5/23; 320 pages
Grand Central Publishing

The Lost Tomb: And Other Real-Life Stories of Bones, Burials, and Murder by Douglas Preston is a very highly recommended collection of thirteen nonfiction articles Preston has written over the years. 

Preston is, indeed, the best-selling fiction writing partner with Lincoln Child of the Aloysius Pendergast series, but he is also a well respected nonfiction writer. David Grann writes the forward to these thirteen fascinating, remarkable features, many of which I remember reading in the original publications. Each selection is followed by updated information. It is wonderful to have all these articles together in one place along with the updates. The Lost Tomb is compelling reading and not to be missed.

Contents include:
Uncommon Murders: Buried Treasure (a personal search for a friend and a treasure); The Monster of Florence (in search of a serial killer in Italy)
Unexplained Deaths: The Skeletons at the Lake (hundreds of skeletons found at a lake high in the Himalayas); The Skiers at Dead Mountain (the death of a group of skiers in the Ural Mountains); The Skeleton on the Riverbank (who was Kennewick man?)
Unsolved Mysteries: The Mystery of Oak Island (the center of treasure hunting for over 200 years); The Mystery of Sandia Cave (Frank Hibben and the discovery of the 20,000 year old Sandia Man); The Mystery of Hell Creek (extraordinary record in North Dakota of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs)
Curious Crimes: The Clovis Point Con (how did the ancient Clovis mammoth hunters create their weapons?); Trial by Fury (The Amanda Knox case and ultimate acquittal)
Old Bones: Skeletons in the Closet (museums storage of skeletons that Native Americans want the right to bury); Cannibals of the Canyon (a terrible truth about a prehistoric civilization in the American Southwest); The Lost Tomb (the discovery of the sepulchre containing the many sons of Ramesses the Great)

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

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Break the Glass

Break the Glass by Olivia Swindler
12/5/23; 299 pages
Lake Union Publishing

Break the Glass by Olivia Swindler is a highly recommended novel about four women and a small town rocked by a college athletics scandal.

When Sal Higgins is fired from his job as athletic director at Renton University after a news article accuses him of bribery and money laundering, chaos erupts across the campus. The plot focuses on four different women who are inextricably tied in some way to the scandal or the athletic department. They are now all concerned about their careers as an investigation begins.
Nora is now the interim athletic director, a position she has worked toward for years. She is also the wife of the English department’s dean, so she is being closely scrutinized. Lauren, the wife of Sal, is shocked and disgraced. Sal blames her for not cleaning up his mess and leaves. Anne's first day as a student intern in the athletics department is the day Sal is fired. Needless to say, her start in the department is one of pure chaos. Finally, Alexis is an English professor who is panicking because she taught many of the student athletes and is seeing the assistant football coach. Now she is being called in for an interview when an NCAA investigation begins.

Break the Glass is a fast moving, well-written exploration of the investigation. Anyone who has ever lived in a college town will quickly understand the emotions swirling around this scandal. Chapters alternate between the different points-of-view of the four women. This is a plot-driven novel, so extensive character development is lacking, but there is certainly enough to garner sympathy and understanding for the characters and their situations. There is enough action and intrigued to hold the interest of most readers, including those who aren't huge sports fans. 3.5 rounded up.

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

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Above the Fire

Above the Fire by Michael O'Donnell
12/5/23; 256 pages
Blackstone Publishing

Above the Fire by Michael O'Donnell is a highly recommended novel about a father and son relationship in a dystopian situation.

Doug, a middle-aged widower, and Tim, his seven-year-old son, are on a late season backpacking hike through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The trip is to introduce Tim to hiking outdoors an activity his father and mother used to enjoy. The trip is going well for father and son when something happens in the world. All communication is lost and there are fires reported in the towns below. They later learn at the Mt. Washington ranger station some limited news: a massive cyber attack on infrastructure that has resulted in violence breaking out, looting, and perhaps war. Doug decides it would be safer for them to wait things out through the winter at Madison Spring hut.

Above the Fire is an introspective, reserved, and thoughtful dystopian that moves beyond the rumored chaos hitting the world off the mountain. The writing is very good in this debut novel. It is a quick, compelling read that establishes a hopeful tone during a difficult and stressful situation.

The relationship between father and son and their survival is the essential focus of the novel. Both Doug and Tim are portrayed as realistic characters. Doug is especially fully realized in his role as a father protecting and caring for his son while battling nature as the unknown hits the USA. He and his son bond together and experience some healing during their time together on the mountain.

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

Perfect Little Lives

Perfect Little Lives by Amber and Danielle Brown
12/5/23; 368 pages
Graydon House

Perfect Little Lives by Amber and Danielle Brown is a so-so dark romance and light mystery novel.

The description is of a daughter, Simone, working to exonerate her father who was wrongly convicted for her mother's murder. Simone is 23 years old, just managing to get by, and an unlikable character. Her relationship with her boyfriend Reggie is dysfunctional and an investigative journalist wants to write about her mother's murder. Then she runs into an old neighbor, Hunter, and learns new information that might end up exonerating her father.

I pushed through Perfect Little Lives but was ready to toss it out after the first few pages. This was not a good choice for me at all. I would give it one star except it will appeal to some romance readers and I managed to finish it. If you like suspense and mystery novels, seriously look elsewhere. This is more a whining, toxic, crude, dysfunctional relationship problems kind of novel with some social commentary and a predictable mystery. Additionally, it is geared to young, new adult audience.

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